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Jonah Parzen-Johnson: I Try To Remember Where I Come From

Karl Ackermann By

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Chicago native and Brooklyn resident Jonah Parzen-Johnson has strong links to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), having studied with that organization's Mwata Bowden. Parzen-Johnson—a co-leader of the Afro-beat ensemble, Zongo Junction—plays the baritone saxophone and analog synthesizers in each of his lofi solo outings, to date. His new album I Try To Remember Where I Come From furthers Parzen-Johnson's exploration of his genre-defying music.

A creator of experimental music in a different vein, Parzen-Johnson had released two previous albums—both on the Primary Records label—that were solo efforts, each utilizing the saxophone and synthesizers, recorded live and without overdubs. Michiana (2012) and Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow (2015) both display Parzen-Johnson's skill at telling stories through the voices of his instruments and making the foot pedal technicalities of the synthesizer/saxophone connection, a non-intrusive conduit.

Each of the eight compositions on I Try To Remember Where I Come From are originals penned by Parzen-Johnson. His inventive use of the synthesizer allows him the flexibility to accompany his sax in a wide variety of settings. On the opening piece, "Cabin Pressure," he blends blues and funk with the baritone supplying the former in deep, resonant lines. "These Shoulders, Those Shoulders" has a Celtic feel to it—a stylist touch that is similar to "Stay There, I'll Come to You" (from the previous album), where the synthesizer approximated bagpipes. "Guns Make Us Murderers" and "I Have Questions" create a folky atmosphere of Americana; the electronics not so much mimicking any one dynamic, but blending with the baritone's sound in a pastoral drone.

What Parzen-Johnson accomplishes with synthesizer and saxophone can be conceptually compared to some of Nate Wooley's work with trumpet and electronics though Parzen-Johnson has a stronger focus on melody. He has a higher cause as well; in his liner notes, he points to his wish to give voice to those who have experienced ..."physical and mental silencing...." The move to the Clean Feed label should bring Parzen-Johnson more recognition for the unique music and the equally unique artist.

Track Listing: Cabin Pressure; These Shoulders, Those Shoulders; Guns Make Us Murderers; Too Many Dreams; What Do I Do With Sorry; I Have Questions; I Try To Remember Where I Come From.

Personnel: Jonah Parzen-Johnson: baritone saxophone, analog synthesizers.

Title: I Try To Remember Where I Come From | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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