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Friday, January 7, 2022

Jeff Parker - Forfolks (International Anthem, 2021) ****

By Martin Schray

Most post-rock and alternative music fans know Jeff Parker as one of the members of the seminal band Tortoise and thus as one of the most important representatives of the Chicago experimental music scene. But Parker has always had a great love for jazz and improvised music, which is why he could also be heard on Chad Taylor's and Rob Mazurek's Chicago Underground projects, as well as with the Exploding Star Orchestra or with Dave Rempis, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Jeremy Cunningham (on Stringers & Struts).

Most notably, Parker has become a member of the hard-hitting International Anthem family, and has released two highly acclaimed, captivating albums as a bandleader, The New Breed and Suite For Max Brown. On them his penchant for jazz is accelerated by funky drums and an exciting sense of juxtapositions - hip-hop, R’n’B and prog-rock, for example. You could have literally been witnessing him breaking away from his post-rock roots and expressing a dedicated version of his various musical interests. He now brings the momentum of these recent albums to Forfolks, his second captivating LP for solo guitar, which again takes him in a very different direction. In these eight subtle pieces, Parker focuses entirely on reduction and transcendence. His music comes across like classical guitar jazz, but is at the same time a mixture of ambient techno and minimal music.

Indeed, the basic idea of Forfolks is simple: Parker creates guitar loops from tiny snippets of his shimmering tone, records them, plays back to them and stretches single notes into long drones that are reminiscent of La Monte Young’s extremely long-lasting, excessive repetitive sequences and tape loops. The impression of a guitar orchestra is created, consisting of Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall playing compositions of Aphex Twin and Tim Hecker. The result can last 80 seconds, as on the opener “Off Om“, or nearly eleven minutes, as on “Excess Success“, the album’s central piece.

Although a certain mysticism runs through all the pieces on the album, Parker manages to convince with this contemplative selection of four specially composed pieces as well as interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty“ and the standard “My Ideal“. In addition, “Four Folks“ is a piece that Parker wrote and recorded back in 1995; and the recording of “La Jetée“ also dates back to 1997. However, the total of eight songs interlock perfectly in their compilation. Thus, the temporal distance of the recordings is hardly noticeable when listening to them. Instead, Parker has succeeded in creating a soulful work of art.

"It's something very special to hear Jeff play solo," writes Chicago musician and longtime Parker colleague Matthew Lux in his cover text for Forfolks. Agreed. So listen closely in order not to miss any of the delicate nuances.

Forfolks is available on vinyl, as a CD and a download. You can buy it here:

Check out the wonderful “Suffolk“ video: 


Gary Chapin said...

Him: "You got your minimalism in my improv!"
Her: "You got your improv in my minimalism!"
Both: "Two great tastes that taste great together!"

Good review. I'm checking it out at this moment and really enjoying.

This was particularly on point: "The impression of a guitar orchestra is created, consisting of Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall playing compositions of Aphex Twin and Tim Hecker."

Martin Schray said...

Thank you, Gary, much appreciated.

Captain Hate said...

I saw Tortoise play way back when and whatever they did didn't work for me. Imagine my surprise at what Parker did on Stringers and Struts and now this. More please.