Friday, July 3, 2009



Jazz in Chicago was at one time a life blood, a force of unrepentant innovation and creative spirit. Louis Armstrong cut Chicagoan’s domes in half with blazing solos, Miles Davis plugged the nickel with post bop madness, and Maurice White slapped the tubs in the Ramsey Louis Trio before going on to form Earth Wind and Fire. Chicago is a town of improvisation. One has to improvise in a city so diverse, yet so culturally segregated. In 2009, there is a new breed of young lions firmly placing Chicago jazz on the map.

Jeff Parker, a Berkley School of Music graduate, and one time record store clerk, has been slugging through the Chicago jazz and improvised music scene for well over a decade. The guitarist has worked as a sideman in countless jazz groups, and in the late 90s he helped introduced a generation of indie-rockers to jazz via his tenure in the super-group Tortoise. Parker is a guitarist of incredible tone, skill and feel. He sites A Tribe Called Quest, Charlie Parker, Harold Land, Sun-Ra, Sonny Clark, and Hank Williams as some of his favorite artists. Parker’s guitar playing is not filled with the pompous solos, or smooth jazz goo found in many jazz guitarist’s play books. To watch Jeff Parker solo is to watch a process of organic self discovery. Each note is new, exciting, frightening and unexpected. Parker remains one of the least virtuosic virtuosos in Chicago jazz. Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records has released a handful of Parker's recordings, including The Relatives and Like Coping. When not playing jazz or improvising, Parker often experiments with beat making and instrumental hip hop. His beats are playful, jazzy and childlike in their funkiness. There is a definite nod to modern beat masters like Madlib and J-Dilla in his unique instrumental pastiche.

Parker continues to perform with artists such as Scott Amendola, Charlie Hunter, Chad Taylor, Rob Mazurek, and Tortoise. Those unfamiliar with Parker's playing will have the opportunity to see him at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, where he will join Tortoise for a rare live performance. Parker and Tortoise perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 17 at 8pm.

For information on Jeff Parker and his music, visit

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