Saturday, December 28, 2013


There have been very few seamless collaborations between Chicago’s various "scenes" and ever fewer successful crossovers, however guitarist Jeff Parker bucks this trend entirely. Through primarily a jazz guitarist (Parker has released solo albums on Delmark, Atavistic, and, most recently, Thrill Jockey), he also licks his chops in Tortoise, and has been a session guitarist on some of the finest albums to emerge from Chicago in the past ten years. His sound is unmistakable, spastic, and unpredictable, yet at the same time precise and refined. While the media of the present hasn’t quite figured out how to pigeonhole him just yet, history will certainly reflect that he is one of the more noteworthy guitarists of his generation. His latest album, The Relatives, a jazz record featuring collaborations with a number of his local associates, is now out on Thrill Jockey.

Jeff Parker Guitar

1. Which was the first record you bought with your own money?
Brass Construction III by Brass Construction. I bought it with a $5 bill I got for Christmas when I was nine years old, and I remember the experience of going up to the cashier and paying for it myself. The first records I actually owned were two 45s that I had when I was around five or six: "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce, and "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace. I remember being obsessed with the violent imagery in those songs, they scared the hell out of me! Not sure how I got those records, but they were mine, for sure. 

2. Which was the last record you bought with your own money?
It Gets Better With Time by Scene Creamers.

3. What was the first solo you learned from a record — and can you still play it? 
"Fight the Good Fight" by Rik Emmett from Triumph, because someone in my junior high bet me five bucks that I couldn’t do it. No, I can’t play it anymore, I don’t even remember how it goes!

4. Which recording of your own (or as a sideman) are you most proud of, and why?
I would have to say Playground by Rob Mazurek and Chicago Underground Orchestra. That was the first record where we really started to take control of the record-making process. We designed that record on most every level, from the way it was engineered, down to the packaging design. It’s also quite reflective of a certain period in my development. We were playing on that record as if we felt we had something to prove, and it comes through, I think. 

5. What’s the difference between playing live and playing in a studio? 
Playing live, it’s about the moment, or channeling the energy of everything that’s happening around me. I have a lot of different experiences in the studio. A lot of the groups I’m involved with have taken advantage of the technology involved with hard-disc recording, so we tend to use the studio as a compositional tool, creating arrangements through editing, and such. With regard to improvising in the studio environment, I think that if the vibe is good (good setup, no headphones, relaxed atmosphere, good gear, etc.) there’s not much of a difference — at least for me. 

6. What’s the difference between a good gig and a bad gig?
A good gig is usually at night, sometime between 9pm and 3am. You’re playing the changes well, the band is swinging, audience digs it. No static getting paid at the end of the night and the next day you get to sleep in. A bad gig — don’t know if I even wanna go there.


7. What’s the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar?
I think that depends on the person. I’ve played great guitars that weren’t setup to my liking, and then heard other cats play the same guitars and sound incredible on them (this is usually what happens when I sit in on a gig and use someone else’s guitar). I’ve also heard a lot of people sound incredible on crappy guitars.

8. You play electric and acoustic. Do you approach the two differently?
I actually don’t really play acoustic guitar, don’t even own one. It’s a different instrument, entirely.

Ben Goldberg's Orphic Machine "Care" from Black Parrot Productions on Vimeo.

9. Do you sound more like yourself on acoustic or electric?
I feel more like myself on electric guitar, but probably sound like myself on either.

Photo by Lenny Gonzalez

10. Do you sound like yourself on other people’s guitars?
I would like to think so, but I also think that other people sound like me when they play my guitar. Go figure.

New from Scott Amendola Trio - The Lift from lenny gonzalez on Vimeo.

11. Which living artist (music, or other arts) would you like to collaborate with?
Madlib or DJ Premier. It’s a toss-up

12. What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with?
Jay Dee, Alice Coltrane, Charles Stephney, Charlie Parker, John Gilmore, Billie Holiday, Gil Evans, Steve Lacy, Paul C., Don Cherry...way more than that...

13. What’s your latest project about? 

I’ve been spending the last couple years learning about sampling, and making a lot of beats with samples. I thought I would give it a shot, since I’ve been a huge hip-hop fan most of my life. I’ve also been studying the medium of recorded sound, and learning a little about audio engineering. Somehow, I would like to fuse all of this stuff — improvising, composing, arranging and making beats.

Jeff Parker - guitar

Selected Discography

VEGA, Jeff Parker, Bernard Santacruz, Michael Zerang - Vega ‎ 

Marge 2002

Yasuhiro Otani / Jeff Parker - Envy

Asian Improv Records 2002

Jeff Parker with Chris Lopes and Chad Taylor - Like-coping

Delmark 2003

Jeff ParkerKevin DrummMichael Zerang - Out Trios Volume Two 

Atavistic 2003

Jeff Parker and Scott Fields - Song Songs Song 

Delmark Records 2004

The Relatives

Thrill Jockey 2005

Peabody and Sherman Featuring 47.5 & Jeff Parker - Live In Brooklyn 032710 ‎ (Cass, Album, Ltd, C60)

Further Records 2010