October 1996 – album reviews – Eddie Parker Group’s ‘Everything You Do to Me’ (“while the warmth of Parker’s compositional personality remains consistent, here the group is cat-stepping through traps”)

4 Oct

Eddie Parker Group: 'Everything You Do to Me'

Eddie Parker Group: ‘Everything You Do to Me’

When they’re performing, flute players always look as if they’ve got a small, mysterious smile on their lips. Perhaps it just comes with the technique, but it’s an expression which seems to sit more appropriately on the faces of certain flautists than on others.

On the face of Eddie Parker, for instance: one of Django Bates‘ circle of contemporary British jazzers, and therefore an affable, witty maverick able to call on the services of a whole gang of other affable, witty mavericks. He’s spent time with Bates in the gloriously rowdy Loose Tubes (where he first made his mark as a writer) and in Delightful Precipice, contributing to a wealth of exuberant, contortionistic musical moments. Outside of the Loose Tubes alumni circle he’s blown away hardened New York jazz execs as the secret weapon on Bheki Mseleku’s ‘Celebration’, and has notched up work with Jazz Umbrella and with John Stevens’ Freebop along the way.

His 1994 solo debut, ‘Transformations of the Lamp’, brought his effervescent writing skills and bandleader’s warmth to the fore in a group partnering him with a couple of animated yet unsung heroes of the British new jazz crowd (journeyman pianist Pete Saberton and Perfect Houseplants drummer Mike Pickering) and two of his fellow Loose Tubes (saxophonist Julian Nicholas and double bassist Steve Watts). This follow-up – adding guitarist John Parricelli, a third ex-Tube – takes the celebratory warmth and involvement of Parker’s music even further.

If there’s one image that an Eddie Parker tune (usually blending Latin-American liveliness and township jazz celebration with a gently mischievous, cheeky British disrespectfulness) tends to bring to mind, it’s a picture of the Thames Valley suffused by bright Brazilian light and carnival energy. As perfectly illustrated on Mystery in Three: an opening of swimming, dreamy ringing melting with a airborne swish into Saberton’s animated, bunny-hopping piano and Parricelli’s sliding Larry Carlton guitar swells, while Parker and Nicholas trade off sprightly, interlocking, chatty dialogues of flute and soprano sax.

But with Parker’s background, you can’t expect even music this breezy to stay altogether straight, and part of the group’s skill is to mix up the virtuoso complexity of the tunes with a reckless, teasing sense of ridiculous good humour. Wonky Chorino – an animated, loose limbed Brazilian frolic, ambling back and forth like a seven legged donkey loose in the town square – lurches teasingly towards parody while always, laughingly, pulling itself back on the lifeline of its own breezy wit. It’s paired with Twerp, a bouncing bop disguised as light elevator funk continually landing on the wrong foot: sunny, carefree, fool on the hill flute leads, an alto sax nattering cheerfully to itself, and Parricelli’s soft interjections on wah-wah guitar. Lovably bewildered, like one of those endearingly clumsy guys who survive life by means of their unconscious, innocent charm.

But beyond this bubbling vivacity there’s a new quality to Parker’s work. Much of his previous writing seems to have rushed along with a crowded yet joyful clarity, but half of ‘Everything You Do to Me’ slips off sideways into a much less sturdy, unstable region fraught with deadfalls, pits, tricky space. While the warmth of Parker’s compositional personality remains consistent, here the group is cat-stepping through traps, delighting in their own agility, yet disorientated by the vanishing of landmarks.

Brocken Spectre emerges from a spiky snaggled mass of intersecting bebop melody ettes; mountaineering via long, leaping polyangular flute runs, taking the lead over staggered piano and ride cymbal and Parricelli’s distractedly comping guitar. It’s named after a high-altitude illusion, and sounds like it, with the music breaking down into instrumental doppelganging piano ornaments, crash cymbal swells, eerie flickery unisons of flute, tenor sax and guitar; a battle between abstract spikiness and propulsive swing. A tumble of sax leads to a crash, and then silence. Finally, a bass flute breathing fractured, forgetful waltz patterns, lilting back and forward in mirror images over spurts of confused piano.

It gets odder. Variable Geometry is a perilous quicksand of shifting rhythms, accents and tempos, Parker’s flute cautiously peeping out into a landscape of terse guitar blares and edgy piano. Mike Pickering (an excellent yet strangely self effacing presence throughout the album) works and manipulates the band with subtly sadistic tricks of timing and rogue beats as the band flit between free jazz games of chicken and acerbic electric keyboard workouts (like a cut-up Headhunters or Stevie Wonder in one of his occasional bouts of synth rage).

Auster, named after the Greek god of the south west wind, moves like fresh green leaves in a swirl of gently disturbed, randomised air. A free time feel, a cryptic ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ bass clarinet; Frisell-style yawns of guitar, disconnected piano; Parker drawing out high, shut eye musings over the top. Gradually it gets more involved and intense, finally clenching down to Derek Bailey guitar clicks and high tom skitters.

At last the flirtation with confusion becomes a full-blown affair on Delirium, which you can trace as you listen to it. The initial dazed Wayne Shorter pronouncements of Nicholas’ sax, sitting at the centre of the music, while flutes and arpeggiated guitar reel dizzily around it. The entry of the piano, displacing the drums: Parricelli’s guitar working away with the disorientated determination of John McLaughlin staggering away from a whirling carousel. The tripping melody establishing itself on the wind instruments as piano and guitar take up the reeling duties. A few moments of unified group arpeggios. Then a halt, then delirium transforming into vision as Parker gently soars lark like over Saberton’s floridly romantic piano, eventually joined by Nicholas’ sober tenor, resting from its delirium. A return to the melody, this time led by a forthright, exuberantly overdriven Parricelli. Finally a triumphant and conclusive unified chord, as the haze clears and resolution’s achieved.

After these journeys through chaotic freedom there’s a return to security, solidity, and faith, handled with as much sensitivity and control as all of Parker’s previous brinkmanship. Everything You Do to Me’s title track is a soft, wondering expression of utter love; a John Coltrane ballad refracted through Django Bates at his most delicate, up there with A Remark You Made as a modern classic. The sleepy, post-coital embrace of Parricelli’s guitar and the tender, barely-there burr of Nicholas’ tenor mingle with Parker’s gently lyrical piano lines, like a feathery caress of the fingertips along the back of a sleeping lover.

Music that embraces you, yes… but look out for that small enigmatic smile on its lips.

Eddie Parker Group: ‘Everything You Do to Me’
Future Music Records, FMR CD29 E0496 (7 86497 18202 2)
CD-only album
Released:
1st October 1996
Get it from: (2020 update) CD best obtained second-hand.
Eddie Parker online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Last FM YouTube Vimeo Google Play Amazon Music
 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Post-Punk Monk

Searching for divinity in records from '78-'85 or so…

Get In Her Ears

Promoting and Supporting Women in Music

The Music Aficionado

Quality articles about the golden age of music

ATTN:Magazine

Not from concentrate.

Xposed Club

improvised/experimental/music

I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

A jumped-up pantry boy

To say the least, oh truly disappointed

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Organized sounds. If you like.

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Pop Lifer

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

FormerConformer

Striving for Difference

%d bloggers like this: