Jeff Parker - Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy Music Album Reviews

Jeff Parker - Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy Music Album Reviews
Recorded across a few intimate evenings at a cozy L.A. cocktail bar, these four side-long tracks of bass, drums, sax, and guitar dissolve revelatory improvisation into mesmerizing ambient atmospheres.

Jeff Parker synthesizes jazz and hip-hop with an appealingly light touch. The longtime Tortoise guitarist has a silken, clean-cut tone, yet his production takes more cues from DJ Premier than it does from a classic mid-century jazz sound. In the early ’00s, when Madlib ushered a boom-bap sensibility into the hallowed halls of the jazz label Blue Note, Parker conducted his own experiments in genre-mashing in the Chicago group Isotope 217, dragging jaunty hip-hop rhythms into the far reaches of computerized abstraction. More recently, Parker enlivened quantized beats and chopped-up samples with live instrumentation, both as leader of the New Breed and sideman to Makaya McCraven. Inverting rap’s longtime reverence for jazz, Parker has gradually codified a new language for the so-called “American art form” with a vocabulary gleaned from the United States’ next great contribution to the musical universe.

Parker’s latest, the live double LP Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy, was largely recorded in 2019, while his star as a solo artist was steeply ascending. Capturing a few intimate evenings with drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, and New Breed saxophonist Josh Johnson at ETA, a cozy Los Angeles cocktail bar, the record anticipates his 2020 opus with the New Breed, Suite for Max Brown. Yet Mondays amounts to something novel in 2022: It lays out long-form spiritual jazz, knotty melodies, and effortless solos over a slow-moving foundation as consistent as an 808. The results are as mesmerizing as a luxurious, beatific ambient record—yet at the same time, it’s clear that all of this is happening within the inherently messy confines of an improvisatory concert.

Across four side-long tracks, each spanning about 20 minutes, Parker and Johnson trade ostinatos, mesh together, split again into polyrhythmic call-and-response. Butterss commands the pocket with a photonegative of their lead lines, often freed from rhythmic responsibilities by the drums’ relentlessness. Bellerose exhibits a Neu!-like sense of consistency, just screwed down a whole bunch of BPMs. His kit sounds as dusty as an old sample, and his hypnotic rhythms evoke humanizers of the drum machine such as J Dilla or RZA. You could spend the album’s 84-minute runtime listening only to the beats; every shift in pattern queues a new movement in the compositions, beaming a timeframe from the bottom up. Bellerose’s sensitive, reactive playing, though, is unmistakably live. We can practically see the sweat beading on his arm when he holds steady on a ride cymbal for minutes on end, or plays a shaker for a whole LP side.

He begins the understated opener “2019-07-08 I” with feather-soft brush swirls, but on the second cut, he sets Mondays’ stride, as a simple bell pattern builds into a leisurely rhythmic stroll. Thirteen minutes in, the mood breaks. Bellerose hits some heavy quarter notes on his hi-hat; Butterss leans into a fat bassline; saxophone arpeggios, probably looped, float in front of us like smoke rings lingering in the air. It’s a glorious moment, punctuated by clinking glasses and a distant “whoo!” so perfectly placed we become aware of not only the setting, but also the supple knob-turns of engineer Bryce Gonzales in post-production. Anyone who’s heard great improvisation at a bar in the company of both jazzheads and puzzled onlookers knows this dynamic—for some, the music was incidental. Others experienced a revelation.

Lodged in this familiar situation is the question of what such “ambient jazz” means to accomplish—whether it wants to occupy the center of our consciousnesses, or resign itself to the background. The record’s perpetual soloing offers an answer. Never screechy, grating, or aggressive, each performance is nonetheless highly individual. Even when the quartet settles into an extended groove, a spotlight shines on Johnson, Butterss, and Parker in turn, steadily illuminating a perpetual sense of invention. Their interplay feels almost traditional, suggesting bandstand trade-offs of yore, yet the open-ended structure of their jams keeps it unconventional.

Mondays works in layers: Its metronomic rhythms pacify, but the performers and their idiosyncratic expressions offer ample material to those interested in hearing young luminaries and seasoned vets swap ideas within a group. In 2020, Johnson dropped his first record under his own name, the excellent, daringly melodic Freedom Exercise, while Butterss’ recent debut as bandleader, Activities, is one of the most exciting, undersung jazz releases of 2022. Akin to Parker’s early experiments with Tortoise and Chicago Underground, Johnson and Butterss’ recordings both revel in electronic textures, and each features the other as a collaborator. Mondays captures them as their mature playing styles gain sea legs atop the rudder of Parker’s guitar.

The only track recorded after the pandemic began, closer “2021-04-28” sculpts the record’s loping structure, giving retrospective shape to the preceding hour of ambience. In the middle of the song, Parker’s guitar slows to a yawn; the drums pipe down. After a couple minutes of drone, Bellerose slips back into the mix alongside a precisely phrased guitar line strummed on the upper frets, punctuated by saxophone accents that exclaim with the force of an eager hype man. Beginning with a murmur, the album ends with a bracing statement, a passage so articulated that it actually feels spoken.

Mondays drifts with unhurried purpose through genres and ideas, imprinted with the passage of time. The deliberate, thumping clock of its drumbeat keeps duration in mind, and, as with so many live albums, we’re reminded of how circumstances have changed since the sessions were recorded. Truly, life is different than it was in 2019—and not just in terms of world politics, climate change, the threat of disease, or the reality that making a living in music is harder than ever. Seemingly catalyzed by COVID-19’s deadly, isolating scourge, jazz has transformed, hybridized, and weakened tired arguments for musical stratification and fundamentalism. Even calling Mondays a “live” album is a simplification, considering how Parker and other top jazz brains have increasingly availed themselves of the studio—including, in a sparing yet dramatic way, on Mondays.

Near the end of the first track, the tape slows abruptly. The plane of the song opens to another dimension: This set, Parker seems to be saying, can be manipulated with the ease of a vinyl platter beneath a DJ’s fingers. Parker’s latest may be his first live album, but it’s also the product of a mad scientist, cackling over a mixing board. Time is dilated, curated, edited, and intercut, and the very live-ness of a concert recording turns fascinatingly, fruitfully convoluted—even when the artists responsible are four players participating in the age-old custom of jamming together in a room.
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Jeff Parker - Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy Music Album Reviews Jeff Parker - Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 19, 2022 Rating: 5


Post a Comment