Seattle based drummer/ composer Phil Parisot has straddled several 20th century musical traditions in his career as a sideman, and member of the eclectic big band, Big Neighborhood. His understanding of funk, Afro-Cuban, rock and symphonic music has influenced his approach as a composer, and more so as a drummer on numerous projects in recent memory. His most recent work on the OA2 label, Lingo reflects that all embracing understanding, as a well conceived, expertly performed album that swings unabashedly, and offers no regret in doing so.
Make no mistake, there is no jazz identity crisis here. While this album identifies with different rhythmic qualities stemming from the aforementioned forms, Lingo is a jazz album that swings hard, blossoms with fragrant melodic stretches, and tugs emotionally from romantic impulses.
Utilizing his current quartet throughout the effort provides a cohesive compositional canvas for Parisot's inventive and insightful prose. Stylistically, Parisot never seems to run out of inspired thought as a composer, or original rhythmic conception as a drummer. Pianist Dan Kramlich is a remarkable stylist, in harmonic and rhythmic support of his mates, and his uncompromising, hard swinging solos. He forms, along with front line bassist Michael Glynn, and Parisot, a rhythm section that can flat out swing, and yet retreat to traverse a romantic terrain, with the beneficiary being tenor and soprano saxophonist, Steve Treseler.
The album's opening salvo, "Collage," is a rework of a big band composition penned by Parisot for David White and Big Neighborhood. The deep tenor tone of Treseler carries this tune which should get serious attention from radio formats across the country. It is a reflection of this entire project, featuring Kramlich's elegant soloing, and Parisot's commitment to polymetric adventurism supported by the underlying foundational tonality of Glynn. Glynn, is a man about town in Seattle, with great visibility in the city's clubs and concert halls, and is fast attaining status as a go to player for sessions and live performance. This is remarkable in itself, as Seattle is home base (pun intended) for a plethora of top bassists, including Jeff Johnson, Chuck Deardorf, Evan Flory-Barnes, and Phil Sparks.
Parisot, as a drummer, seems to bring something new and original to every piece, and is very much the leader and driving force of this quartet not only as a composer and bandleader, but in his constant vision of innovation as a percussionist. His two part soliloquy, "The Drum set is an Orchestra," clearly alludes to this premise, putting on display his full array of texture and color in a polyrhythmic statement of multi cultural symbolism that is both joyous and retrospective.
Parisot's romantically entwined ballad, "Simple Serenade," showcases saxophonist Treseler in what appears to be his strong suit: glorious interpretation of the ballad form. A noted educator, Treseler is not seen enough on the Seattle scene in performance, and this piece demonstrates clearly what we are missing. His strong presence in terms of tonality, and his thoughtful, poetic nuance as an interpreter of the ballad form is undeniable. There are times when I sense his playing as being somewhat scholarly in nature, though technically brilliant. One might attribute this to where he applies his musical aptitude, as an educator, losing a bit of life experience savvy only attainable on the bandstand. This writer certainly hopes this quartet can continue to gig and tour, and allow this gem of a player to shine ever brighter.
Parisot's "Staircase" is an eleven bar bebop style interpretation of the blues that is loosely based on John Coltrane's "Locomotion," and Rick Margitza's "Ferris Wheel." It's bebop irreverence and counterpoint sounds as if it is floating on the thick New York City air, drifting out of the clubs along 52nd St. cerca 1945. Kramlich's solo lags just a microsecond behind the harmony, creating a tension and release effect that just flat out swings hard with unrelenting energy and deft touch. His joyous sweeping solos, and Parisot's vision of fearless polyrhythmic innovation are the foundational qualities of this recording, supported beautifully by the perfect time and intonation of the always solid Mr. Glynn.
Parisot describes his composition, " Apotheosis Jones," as a respectful tribute to the great Elvin Jones. "The symmetrical nature of the composition highlights the quartet's ability to burn at any volume level," he says, and indeed the mood and tempo of this piece allows the listener to fully appreciate the intricate and original style of this leader who in effect conducts this quartet firmly from behind the drum kit.
In closing, the word that comes to mind after multiple listens to this OA2 release, is "more." The album does not come off as a session gig, but a deep conversation between four friends that ultimately occurs time, and time again. With any notion of good fortune, this will lead to further adventure both in the studio and on the bandstand.