Parker, Jeff: Suite for Max LP

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Though he invited in collaborators for this project, Jeff Parker is very much a solo artist on Suite for Max Brown. He constructs a digital bed of beats and samples; lays down tracks of his own on guitar, keyboards, bass, percussion, and occasionally voice; then invites musician friends to play and improvise over his melodies.

But unlike a traditional jazz session, Parker doesn't assemble a full band in the studio for a day or two of live takes. His accompanists are often working alone with Parker, reacting to what Parker has provided them, and then Parker uses those individual parts to layer and assemble into his final tracks. The process may be relatively solitary and cerebral, but the results feel like in-the-moment jams – warm-hearted, human, alive. Suite for Max Brown brims with personality, boasting the rhythmic flow of hip hop and the soulful swing of jazz.

Fellow travelers here include pianist-saxophonist Josh Johnson; bassist Paul Bryan, who co-produced and mixed the album with Parker; piccolo trumpet player Rob Mazurek, his frequent duo partner; trumpeter Nate Walcott, a veteran of Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes; drummers Jamire Williams, Makaya McCraven, and Parker's Berklee School of Music classmate Jay Bellerose; cellist Katinka Klejin of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and even his seventeen-year-old daughter Ruby Parker, a student at the Chicago High School of the Arts, who contributes vocals to opening track, "Build a Nest."

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