When Jonah Parzen-Johnson released his first full-length album, Michiana (Primary Records, 2012), the Brooklyn-based artist seemed to give priority status to the electronics through which he filtered his baritone saxophone compositions. Even more so, Parzen-Johnson's 2015 follow up, Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow (also on Primary), was dominated by ambient drones. Parzen-Johnson has continued to develop his approach and on Imagine Giving Up we hear more complex applications for both the baritone and the synthesizer and a more human face on his fairly technical music.
Parzen-Johnson has developed such a sophisticated array of sounds that pieces such as the opening "Find the Feeling" could pass for a not-quite-standard saxophone trio. "Focus, Re-focus" captures the raw emotion that has been a mainstay in Parzen-Johnson's work, but is here screened through a backdrop of dense accompanying layers. For more than the first half of "The Smile When You Fall" we hear Parzen-Johnson's unadulterated baritone and it is as opulent as anything he has recorded to date. Throughout Imagine Giving Up the artist displays his persistence in blending electronic effects, extended technique and melodic sensibility with no one element tripping up the other.
Parzen-Johnson can manipulate the listener and the music; setting one adrift in their imagination and abruptly snapping them back to attention. He is to the baritone saxophone what Pauline Oliveros was to the accordion and defies labels like free improvisation, avant-garde or experimental. Closer to reality, he is a musical illusionist; the source of his sound never taken for granted. Imagine Giving Up is an uncommon and pleasantly idiosyncratic album, different even for a resolute surveyor of Parzen-Johnson's nature.
Finding the Feeling; Focus Re-Focus; Everything is Everything Else; Up; The Smile When You Fall; Stand Still.
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