It’s hard not to get sucked into Jeff Parker’s playing — marked by silken string runs and nimble phrasing. He lights up any recording he’s in involved in, from collaborations with Joshua Abrams and Steve Gunn to stints with Chicago Underground Quartet and a recent run through exploratory visions with Psychic Temple. To run down his full resume would take up the bulk of the review. If you’ve heard Jeff on an album, chances are his guitar is elevating everything around him with a smoothness that’s hard to grasp. For his latest outing, Parker took up residency in Highland Park bar The Enfield Tennis Academy, returning there a few times over 2019 and 2021 with a quartet featuring drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, & alto saxophonist Josh Johnson. With 10+ hours of tape in hand, he and engineer Bryce Gonzales cut the trove down to the four sides of improv that grace Mondays.
The sets feel both immediately reminiscent of Parker’s solo works, but also demarcated from their more conceptual cocoons of late. The IVtet appears at ease among the clatter of dishes, winding their woes around moments that cut through the brush of jazz with touches of dub ground down in the beat, adding slightly spaced electrics that seep in from time to time. The record often holds as a conversation between Johnson’s sax and Parker’s strings, but the rhythm section’s anchor is more than just meter here. The immediacy of the sets make’s the record an unassailable document of the quartet’s prowess and malleability as it evolves over the years. Mondays is the kind of record that can hit the table a ton of times before fully being absorbed — a live document that’s more of a living beast than a script set in stone. Eremite nods to Lee Morgan’s Live at the Lighthouse, Miles Davis’ In Person Friday & Saturday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco & Black Beauty, & John Coltrane’s Live in Seattle. While those seem like high claims to make, Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy seems poised to join those ranks quite rightly.
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