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Jeff Parker | Like-Coping (Delmark)
Despite an impressive Chicago-scenester CV - that includes guitar-playing stints with both post-rock luminaries (Tortoise, Isotope 217, Chicago Underground Quartet) and free-jazz purists (Fred Anderson, New Horizons Ensemble) alike - it seems Jeff Parker still took some persuasion when the idea of a solo album was mooted. As the extensive sleeve-notes to 'Like-Coping' attest, the continuously collaborating Parker doesn't really believe in the concept of solo records; "I have always felt that music-making is a communal gesture." Which explains his decision to nail down the entirety of this solo debut with two integral guest-players, as he elaborates; "I figured the most logical route for me to take was to call up some good friends (who happened to be great musicians), put our heads together, and see what we could come up with." These "good friends" happened to be none other than percussionist extraordinaire Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/Quartet/Orchestra) and redoubtable double-bassist Chris Lopes (Chicago Underground Orchestra). Together with Parker they fashion 'Like-Coping' as a thoroughly fresh and modern jazz record with three traditionalist-baiting twists - tunes, hooks and melodies.
Admittedly, there are two lapses into unwanted freeform noise jams - specifically Holiday For A Despot and Omega Sci Fi - but for the most part Parker keeps his trio's sights locked-on warm, balmy mood-pieces. From the mellow midnight meditations of Miriam and Onyx to the sprightly shuffling of Plain Song and Pinecone, the impeccable three-way playing is irresistible and inviting. Parker stays true to his collaborative ethos too, allowing his two rhythm-kings off the leash where they can serve the songs better than he can. An approach that proves particularly effective on the album's otherworldly finale - Roundabout - wherein Taylor and Lopes colour proceedings by overdubbing lilting classical guitars and pastoral flutes. Democracy aside though, at the core 'Like-Coping' is still a showcase for Parker's swooning and mellifluous electric guitar work. Which means the likes of Watusi and Days Fly By (With Ruby) give Parker plenty of space to spread-out some loose-booted jazz-funk fusion licks, with the same delicious phrasing he used on Tortoise's 'TNT'. Refreshingly unpretentious, reassuringly laid-back and full of dazzling and dreamy performances, this is one solo side-project that positively begs for a sequel.
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003