New York-based trombonist Rick Parker follows up his 2004 debut New York Gravity (Fresh Sound New Talent) with Finding Space, a winning combination of lyrical writing, intricate arrangements and spirited improvisation. Winner of the 2005 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, Parker has proven his mettle as an up-and-coming writer, and it is his composing and arranging skills that make the greatest impression on his sophomore album.
Parker's writing is clever but not impenetrable, honeyed and sumptuous rather than discordant and thorny. Building layers of impressionistic washes with his augmented quintet, Parker brings a modern sensibility to the classic late 1960s Blue Note sound. Reminiscent of the ground-breaking early work of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and to an extent, Andrew Hill and Grachan Moncur III, Parker infuses his writing with contemporary rhythms while allowing his side-men room to express themselves.
As a soloist Parker is surefooted and lyrical, possessing a stout tone, but is not quite as adventurous as his comrades. Primary front-line accomplice, saxophonist Xavier Perez tears it up on tenor, rushing from chromatic runs into frenzied altissimo territory at a moment's notice. Special guests alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and trumpeter Maurice Brown both make standout appearances. Brown wigs out in Don Cherry mode on the opening cut, splaying brassy whinnies and broad expressionistic strokes.
Parker's expert arrangements maximize the sound of his group, creating the sonic illusion of a band twice its size. The rhythm section of pianist Sam Barsh, bassist Gavin Fallow and drummer Kyle Struve navigates syncopated rhythms and unusual time signatures with ease. From lithe and supple to boisterous and invigorating, Parker's tunes flow gracefully from one mood to the next.
Finding Space contains subtle twists and turns along the way. Shifting rhythmic patterns and rich harmonic voicings dominate this aural landscape. Supported by a versatile and enthusiastic group, Parker shows great potential. This collective is one to watch.
Track Listing: McKibbin; Nervous Energy; Lost in the Woodshed; Three Steps From Village A; Gavin's Prelude; Roots; Finding Space; Euro Ring.
Personnel: Rick Parker: trombone; Xavier Perez: tenor and soprano saxophones; Sam Barsh: piano, Nord Electro; Gavin Fallow: bass; Kyle Struve: drums. Special Guests: Maurice Brown: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jaleel Shaw: trumpet.