Chicago native Jonah Parzen-Johnson has music degrees from NYU and Manhattan School of Music, and the tutelage of the AACM in his background, but he keeps all that at arms-length. The Brooklyn resident continues to pursue his inimitable experimental music on Helsinki 8.12.18, his fourth solo album to feature baritone saxophone and electronics. The session was recorded at Helsinki's We Jazz Festival in December 2018.
The set opens with a beautifully atmospheric "This Is How It Works," sounding like a cross between bagpipes and a harmonium. "Everything is Everything Else" has touches of Americana folk and is animated by percussive effects; it's a technique that Parzen-Johnson uses on the more abstract "It's Better If You Don't" and the probing, multi-layered "Find The Feeling." Parzen-Johnson brings an exotic Middle Eastern flavor to "You Don't Get To Finish," where the sax swirls through electronic projectiles. The audio quality on the music tracks is flawless but, unfortunately, this brief thirty-five-minute set includes intermittent speaking sections where Parzen-Johnson does not appear to have been wired for sound. These muffled distractions take away from what is otherwise, the best music Parzen-Johnson has recorded to date.
The same sense of humor and humility that historically played out in Parzen-Johnson's composition titles, comes through in the way he describes his improvisational approach. He notes, ..."I will sometimes expect more than I deserve, and sometimes compromise more than I feel like I should. I will recalibrate, doubt, become overconﬁdent, challenge, experiment, give, and be grateful." Spoken-word issues aside, this is a highly recommended album, available on cassette and as a digital download.
This Is How It Works; Everything Is Everything Else; It’s Better If You Don’t; Certain Kinds Of Questions; You Don’t Get To Finish; Trying To Explain; Find The Feeling; Keeping In Touch.
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