Jeff Parker is a composer/guitar player from Chicago. The man really needs no introduction, but just in case, he is involved with many on-going musical projects which span so many genres as to reveal the lame nature of the word “genre.” He’s a member of the band Tortoise, and Cushicle Trio (with Jason Ajemian and Nori Tanaka), leads a great trio with Chris Lopes and Chad Taylor (with albums on Thrill Jockey and Delmark), frequent collaborator with trumpeter Rob Mazurek (in Exploding Star Orchestra and Chicago Underground Quartet), and part of Ken Vandermark’s Powerhouse Sound along with several other projects that are on going and amazing.
Recently, Cushicle released an online exclusive album on Ropeadope Digital and Parker played in an improvised project organized by saxophonist Paul Riola called Bottesini, and they have a new album. Check these out:
1: What got you into creative/improvised music making, and what keeps you there?
I was improvising on the guitar from the minute I picked up my sister’s guitar when I was 8 years old, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Curiosity is basically what keeps me going with it, and also is what keeps me inspired about it. Improvisation is one more way for musicians to communicate with one another, and for me, the more that I communicate with other people, the more that I learn about myself. Of course, I have many other musical interests besides improvisation and so-called “creative music”. It seems the farther that I travel down my own personal musical path, the more useless and insignificant the terminologies become.
2: Breakthrough album(s) and Why?
I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Marvin Gaye for the past few months. Mostly because I’ve been thinking about making a new record, and all Marvin Gaye‘s records after What’s Goin’ On and continuing through the rest of his life, are works of art…absolute masterworks of the recorded idiom. Aside from that, there are a lot of records that I love, but only a few have affected me enough to make me rethink everything that I was doing. Here are a few that come to mind:
Charlie Parker has been a tremendous inspiration to me, ever since I discovered his music when I was a teenager. My favorite records by him are Now’s The Time and The Savoy Sessions. Also: A Certain Ratio – Sextet, Miles Davis – Live-Evil, J Dilla – Donuts, Derek Bailey – Music And Dance, Sonny Rollins – The Bridge, A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory, Paul Bley – Turning Point, King Tubby – Meets Rockers Uptown, John Coltrane – A Love Supreme, Chico Hamilton – El Chico, Earth, Wind & Fire – Last Days and Time.
3: How do other art disciplines affect your work?
I recently saw a dance performance where the performers had to recite some dialogue (while they were dancing). Initially, it was difficult to decide where to focus my attention, as there were several different things happening simultaneously, but after a while, I realized that the composer/choreographer had constructed a beautiful layered/collage effect…once I decided to try and focus on the whole piece, as opposed to individual parts of it. It actually brought to mind John Coltrane’s music, particularly the way that his quartet music sounds to me. Layers.
4: Favorite Film(s)?
Do The Right Thing, All Kubrick films that were completed while he was still alive, Godfather 1 & 2, Ghost Dog, Pulp Fiction, Miyazaki films (Totoro, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, etc.), Most Robert Altman Films, Luis Bunuel films, Night Of The Hunter, Cool Hand Luke, The Brother From Another Planet, The Shawshank Redemption, Friday, Bullitt, Rockers, Ronin, Raging Bull, Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song, Hud, Nosferatu, La Jetee’, 70’s Black Cinema, The French Connection, Film Noir.
5: Favorite Film Score(s)?
Ghost Dog. Hud. Vertigo. Cat People. The Shining. Bullitt. Dead Man. Paris,Texas. Tom & Jerry cartoons. The Spook Who Sat By The Door. The Thief Who Came To Dinner. Trouble Man. Fantastic Planet. The Halloweens. Superfly.
6: Favorite Fiction Reading?
Vonnegut, Camus, Kafka, Alice Walker, Hesse, Mark Twain, the newspaper, Robert Creeley poems.
7: Favorite Non-Fiction Reading?
Jazz musician biographies, Jazz and music history, music criticism, books on mathematics, gear manuals, Chomsky books and essays, album liner notes, the news online, Wax Poetics magazine, R. Buckminster Fuller books.
8: Favorite Guilty Pleasure Music?
Steely Dan, Madonna, 80’s metal (Van Halen, Judas Priest, etc.), Poison by Bell Biv Devoe.
9: Favorite Under Rated Musician(s)?
John Gilmore, Sonny Clark, David T. Walker, D. Boon, Paul Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Pepper Adams, Tina Brooks, Mulgrew Miller, Edward Wilkerson Jr., Gabor Szabo, Billy Bean, Black Thought, Count Bass D, Erick Sermon and EPMD in general, Organized Konfusion, Eddie Jefferson, James Moody, Otis Finch, Big John Patton, Robert Quine, Tom Verlaine, Ed Bickert, Lord Finesse, J-Live, Ice Cube, Madlib, The (Jazz) Crusaders, Ernie Henry, Fred Anderson, Douglas Ewart, Booker Little, Sonny Dallas, Geri Allen, Q-Tip as producer, The Scientist, Roy Thomas Baker, Barry Adams, Frank Rosolino, Hank Jones, David Matthews, Dr. Patrick Gleeson, Patrice Rushen, Robert Wyatt, Carlos Alomar, James Gadson, Al Stinson, Tony Thompson, Byron Miller, James Mason, Steve Nelson, Bucky Pope, Bill Dolan, Nicholas Payton, Kevin Hayes, George Fludas, Bobby Broom, Dwayne Burno, Lewis Nash, Elmo Hope, Eric Claridge, Chris Brokaw, Wayne Montana, Malachi Favors, Irma Thompson, Etta James, John Dirac, Dr. No, Eddie Hazel, Catfish Collins, Blackbyrd McKnight, Eugene McDaniels, Horace Silver, James “Blood” Ulmer, Dupree Bolton, Harold Land, The Wipers, Smokey Hormel, Steve Cropper, Michael Henderson, Charles Stephney, all in-house session/studio musicians from major and independent US and Jamaican record labels from 1963-90, Marvin Gaye as a songwriter/composer, Frank Strozier, Bunky Green, Charles Davis, Buckshot from Black Moon…also James Brown, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and Stevie Wonder because all their birthdays are not national holidays (yet).
10: Recommended Artist(s)/Shout Outs?
David Boykin, Nicole Mitchell, K-Kruz, Josh Abrams, Jason Ajemian, Derek “Drop” Braxton, Jason Adaciewicz, Magnus Broo, The Eternals, Doug Scharin, The Lay All Over Its, Azita, Mary Halvorson, Oscar Noriega, Fly (Ballard, Grenadier, Turner), Diverse, Count Bass D, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Robert AA Lowe, US Maple, Bundy K Brown, Matt Bauder, Larry (Grey Reverend) Brown, Chris Lopes, Johnny Herndon, Frank Rosaly, Matana Roberts, Daniel Givens, Jake Vinsel, Mikel Avery, Joel Adams, Caroline Davis, Kevin Kizer, Geof Bradfield, Greg Ward, Tim Haldeman, Nori Tanaka, Brother Matt Lux, Kim Ambriz and Yearling, Big Tony Janda, Tone B. Nimble, “The Ladies” DJs of Danny’s Tavern, Karriem Riggins, Mankwe Ndosi, DJ Rik Shaw, Dan Trudell, Scott Burns, Pete Benson, Ted Sirota, Ken Vandermark, Justin Dillard, Corey Wilkes, Dee Alexander, Ugochi, Alan Burroughs, Chad Taylor, Rob Mazurek, Doug McCombs, John McEntire, Spectronix, Grif Rodriguez, Andy and Terrie Ex, Paul Nilsson-Love, Ingebrigt Haaker-Flaten, Mike Watt, Liam ‘Plush’ Hayes, Courtland Green, Hyland Harris, my awesome family, Whitney and her awesome family, the one and only Ruby Bradshaw Parker.