Tortoise’s Jeff Parker & The New Breed Deliver Intoxicating ‘Suite for Max Brown’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Parker release Suite for Max Brown, dedicated to Parker’s mother, following up his acclaimed 2016 The New Breed. The album was produced by Parker alongside Paul Bryan, who also plays bass; additional featured are Josh Johnson (known for work with Kiefer, Leon Bridges) on alto sax, Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes, M. Ward) on trumpet, and Jamire Williams (Moses Sumney, Solange) on drums.  All were aboard for his previous effort except Walcott.

Parker is primarily a guitarist with a clean tone and heady use of delay, best known for his work in the experimental Chicago rock band Tortoise. While most of the music favors deep-in-the-pocket hip hop grooves, Parker is equally at home covering classic jazz. His rendering of Coltrane’s “After the Rain” captures well the spiritual vibe of the original while he adds a beat motif to Joe Henderson’s “Narcissus,” calling it “Gnarciss.” Parker doesn’t try to be flashy; putting the emphasis on grooves and layers. In addition to electric guitar, Parker is credited playing Wurlitzer electric piano, Mellotron, Korg synthesizer and assorted samplers, along with drum programming. Even with Johnson and Walcott having their moments, solos are eschewed (you will hear some, i.e. his guitar in “3 for L”) for a grander, comprehensive sound which ultimately comes off smooth and inventively textured.

  Those new to Parker may associate him as a multi-instrumental member of Tortoise or as the guitarist on Makaya McCraven’s In The Moment and a central figure of the Chicago jazz and experimental music scene. Parker has been prolific over the last 20+ years while merely producing five albums as a leader (just two since 2005, including 2016’s duo recording with Rob Mazurek on Rogue Art). Prior to the projects mentioned in the first paragraph,  Parker built his reputation as a sideman with a distinctive guitar sound. Over the course of the In The Moment sessions in 2013 and 2014, Parker was slowly transitioning from Chicago to a new home in Los Angeles. It was when finally settled that he found an opportunity to re-open some home recordings and beat projects that had been dormant on his hard drive for years. Parker had long been in silent study of vinyl sampling and beat conduction, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that new residence in a city aflame with experimental R&B, jazz and electronic fusers (i.e. L.A., e.g. Brainfeeder, Leaving Records, Low End Theory) spurred him to dig back into the practice and produce with more purpose.

Suite for Max Brown is a continuation of this singular sound heard on New Breed. It’s the kind of thoughtful, creative music that meanders and weaves its way through several moods and tempos. Just as you’re bathed in the serenity of pieces like “After the Rain” and “Del Rio” you’re buoyed with the bristling intensity of those like “Build a Nest” and “Go Away.” Dive into this totally immersive sonic tapestry.




Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide