Tag Archives: Jeff Parker

Artist of the Week: On “Universal Beings,” Makaya McCraven Broadens His Jazz Appeal

AOTW-MakayaMcCraven-1244The history of Chicago jazz can be divided into two eras: before and after the establishment of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Founded in 1965 by artists Muhal Richard Abrams, Jodie Christian, Steve McCall, and Phil Cohran, the collective quickly set an identity for Chicago’s most ambitious musicians, fostering a home for multi-instrumentalists Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

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Dos Santos Create a Fascinating Blend of Cabaret, Cumbia, Jazz, and Latinx Punk

Dos Santos

Photos by Andrea Falcone

International Anthem has established itself as Chicago’s premiere jazz label by highlighting the threads that tie jazz together: the experimentalism, the roots, and the soul. Trumpeter Jaimie Branch hones in on the avant-garde and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Parker peppers his art with alternative funk. Producer Ben LaMar Gay infuses his music with experimental cues from rock ‘n’ roll, neo-classical composers, and electronic texturalists.

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Ben LaMar Gay’s Debut Album Mixes Free Jazz, Bossa Nova, and Electro-Bounce

Ben LaMar Gay

Photos by Maren Celest

Ben LaMar Gay is about to release his debut solo album. It’s also an album of his greatest hits. Until this point, the Chicago-born composer had treated the process of making music as an exercise in improvement: Rather than making songs to be released, he made them to analyze and study. The ones he enjoyed were sent to family members, and Gay’s nieces and a nephew became his biggest fans. After seven “records” in seven years, International Anthem—the Chicago-based jazz-leaning label—in conjunction with Gay, has culled the greatest from these personal exercises and turned them into Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun, an album that remains surprisingly cohesive despite featuring material from over the course of nearly a decade.

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Eremite Records Celebrates Free Jazz’s Past and Present

Marshall Allen, Alan Silva, Kidd Jordan, Hamid Drake, William Parker

Marshall Allen, Alan Silva, Kidd Jordan, Hamid Drake, and William Parker.

Free jazz went through something of a renaissance starting around 1995. In 1997, Charles Gayle and the David S. Ware Quartet shared lead review space in an issue of Rolling Stone. Ware was signed to Columbia Jazz for two albums, and a fistful of independent labels, including AUM Fidelity, Boxholder, High Two, No More, Riti and Thirsty Ear, among others, began recording other artists on the New York and New England scenes. Some of these labels faded after a few years (RIP No More and Boxholder), while others have continued to the present day; AUM Fidelity is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Eremite, founded during this ’90s renaissance, is newly energized these days, releasing multiple albums by bassist Joshua Abrams and his Natural Information Society over the past few years, slowly making its prodigious back catalog available on Bandcamp.

Eremite founder Michael Ehlers grew up in rural Minnesota. His father was a fan of mainstream jazz like Louis Armstrong, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. “While in grad school in NYC, 1961, he heard John Coltrane and said it was ‘too out there’ for him,” Ehlers recalls. The younger Ehlers lived in the Northeast from the late ’80s to the mid-2000s, “continuing to learn about jazz by hanging out with older collectors and aficionados, working in record stores, and auditing Archie Shepp’s UMASS Amherst class Revolutionary Concepts In African American Music.” He began presenting concerts in Western Massachusetts in 1995, and formed Eremite the following year; its first release was Tri-P-Let, by the Jemeel Moondoc Trio.

Jemeel Moon Doc

Moondoc, a veteran of the 1970s loft jazz scene, hadn’t recorded in almost a dozen years when he and Ehlers connected. “It blew my mind in the worst way that such a brilliantly idiosyncratic musician hadn’t been recorded for that long a time. Getting Moondoc back on record was one of the very first things I wanted to do with Eremite,” he says. Moondoc would ultimately make seven albums for the label, ranging from duos with bassist William Parker, released as New World Pygmies, Volumes 1 and 2, to the 10-member Jus Grew Orchestra. One of the best is Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys, a quintet session featuring trumpeter Nathan Breedlove, vibraphonist Khan Jamal, bassist John Voigt and drummer Codaryl Moffett recorded live at the 2000 Vision Festival.

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The Best Albums of 2016: #40 – 21


Collage by Valentina Montagna.

If there’s one thing we learned since we launched Bandcamp Daily this past June, it’s that the world of Bandcamp is enormous—encompassing everything from emo in China to cumbia punk in Tucson, Arizona to just about everything in between. So narrowing our Best Albums of the Year down to 100 choices was a daunting task. This week, we’ll be sharing our picks, 20 at a time, until we arrive at the top spot on Friday.

More “Best of 2016”:
The Best Albums of 2016: #100 – 81
The Best Albums of 2016: #80 – 61
The Best Albums of 2016: #60 – 41
The Best Albums of 2016: #20-1

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Album of the Day: Jeff Parker, “The New Breed”


Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Parker has been a towering figure at the nexus of jazz, post-rock and experimental music in Chicago for the last two decades. He’s an anchor in iconic post-rock outfit Tortoise, a member of the long-running jazz institution Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and when it comes to collaborations, the downloadable five-page CV he’s posted on his website only scratches the surface. His role as sideman for both neo-soul veteran Meshell Ndegeocello and indie mainstays Yo La Tengo shows his reach extends beyond genre classifications and geographical boundaries.

Parker left Chicago for L.A. a few years ago, but his latest album as a bandleader, The New Breed, has its roots in his old home. The New Breed grew out of beat and sample-based projects Parker started years before relocating. He then enlisted drummer Jamire Williams, saxophonist Josh Johnson and bassist Paul Bryan to flesh out those old concepts. The collaborations cause The New Breed to blossom; Johnson’s snaggletooth sax melody pumps blood into the lackadaisical, wobbly-legged passages on opener “Executive Life,” and Williams’ sauntering drumming calmly steers closer “Cliche,” which also features easygoing vocals from Parker’s daughter, Ruby. Parker holds everything together, adjusting his lithe guitar playing to match the mood of each song and infusing The New Breed with tender, hearthside warmth.

—Leor Galil