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The Relatives

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Album Review

In many ways, The Relatives shares similarities with Jeff Parker's first release as a leader, Like-Coping. Parker still favors a clean tone, thoughtful note choices over flash at every turn, and a cooperative aesthetic with his bandmates (Parker had his hand in writing only three of eight tracks). The main differences are the addition of Sam Barsheshet on Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer, and a more "song-oriented" approach that casts Parker's playing in a new light. There's less of a bebop flavor, although his playing is just as harmonically rich, and these songs are much more likely to stick in your head than the slightly more abstract songs on Like-Coping. And the only time they even approach the intensity of the two collective improvisations from Like-Coping is on the intro to the final tune. They even cover Marvin Gaye! "Istanbul" is Chad Taylor's only contribution, a pretty tune with some acoustic guitar and excellent brushwork from Taylor. "Mannerisms" (which bears some resemblance to "Spanish Key" by Miles Davis) picks up the pace with an insistent groove and some great Rhodes work from Barsheshet. Parker's soloing is unhurried and very melodic, with just enough twists and turns to keep things constantly interesting. This approach becomes really evident on "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You," where Parker's note choices add a considerable knottiness to the Marvin Gaye tune. His take on "The Relative" (originally written for Isotope 217) has a great polyrhythmic groove and a cool phased treatment over the top, and bassist Chris Lopes adds some tasty flute to his tune "Beanstalk." "Rang" is the only track to disrupt the easygoing vibe with a slightly ominous intro before settling into a more gentle groove, even as Chad Taylor whips up an Elvin Jones-style quiet storm behind them. These guys are not just great players, they're great listeners, and The Relatives perfectly balances the gentle and tuneful with the added spark of the band's collective improvisational skills. The sound is more approachable than his other albums, but no less interesting. This is a real winner.


Born: United States

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

b. USA. Parker began playing guitar at an early age, and extended his studies from 1985 at the Berklee College Of Music. He also studied with George Garzone, playing totally improvised music. Subsequently, he gigged with Antonio Hart and others before moving to Chicago in 1991. At the time, this was considered to be an unusual step because many of his contemporaries were making New York their home base. Although he has indicated that he never intended staying there, that it was a way station on...
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The Relatives, Jeff Parker
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