Award winning pianist from midwest, living in Southern California
Midwest born graduate of the Drake University instrumental music program, inductee in the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Best Jazz of North County (PURL band, 1984), keyboardist Robert Parker has richly varied musical background, covering everything from Concert Band(bass horn), Orchestra (violin and double bass),Jazz, Country, Rock, R & B and Fusion bands, leading to present day as a respected keyboardist. Earning a career and name in the Midwestern Country music scene as a session player and arranger, he has the distinction of having arranged and produced a Billboard Records charting Country Single (Don’t Say No To Me Tonight)in 1979. Around that same period he also opened for Grover Washington, Pheobe Snow, the Sons of Champlin as a composer and keyboardist for the Midwest Express/Dartanyan bands. In 1980, breaking new ground by joining the weekly Ozark Opry television show, known as a preferred session player and sweetening arranger (strings/horns/vocals), he gained a wider circle of notoriety for his well respected piano skills in the genre of Country Music. In the studio he used well tuned ears to record and mix bluegrass all the way to the U.S. Air Force Band. After leaving the Midwest, in the 80’s he joined the jazz fusion band PURL, (Best Jazz of North Country in 1984). IN 86, he moved to Los Angeles, forming the group Jackson Blue and released Life’s Beat (View Park Records). Performance dates include a Hubert Laws concert with Symphonic Orchestra (Santa Cruz, CA). Recent favorite projects include a series of recordings for Wolf Marshall in connection with his Guitar Signature Licks series for Hal Leonard Music. He has a large palate of instrumental experiences to pull from during any performance, having played, violin, double bass, bass horn and flute during his professional career spanning 4 decades. In 2010, Mr. Parker, who was also inducted into the Iowa/Midwest Music Heritage Hall of Fame and currently resides in the San Diego area.
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2016-06-29
There is much debate these days on ownership of this genre. I just love the sound of the word Jazz. I love listening in on
those moments of unplanned brilliance. If I'm playing with other players, I love the mutual trust and support.
For myself, the core of Jazz is not what WAS played, but in the NOW moment of chance-centric music being played, and the
reactions to those experiencing it. That shared moment of creation and consumption. But is it still jazz without the
interaction of a living audience (The tree in the forest)? Is it still Jazz if there is no chance involved (thorough-composed)?
Is it only Jazz when improvisation is firmly grounded in the musical dialect grounded in Blues and further developed in a
certain couple of decades? Or because J.S. Bach improvised heavily, was he a Jazz Musician?
My advice to new listeners is to have an open mind and navigate past what makes you feel good, give anything new a
couple of listens so you can also expand your appreciation for improvisation. Don't look for perfection in solo's, listen for
inspiration. You will hear easy/smooth Jazz players utilizing the fruits of the musicians who honestly put it all out there (the
good, bad and ugly). Once you understand that, the canned playback of the originator's brilliant creative moments will be
less appealing and you'll find yourself mining for the original creators to hear the birth of the words used in this language.
I was first exposed to jazz...on late night radio and first heard Jimmy Smith on his Hammond in the next door neighbors
driveway at the age around 12 or 13.
Being a player, I have met my share of well known musicians over the years and each one provided a bit of illumination or
Some of my favorite shows included seeing the original Return to Forever ensemble, Bill Evans (a special moment when I
spontaneously laughed during a funny musical quote, he looked up directly at me - I really want to believe that, and smiled
- never met him close up, but that was better), Ramsey Lewis Trio - Ramsey brought me back to piano from the Hammond,
Billy Childs with String Quartet, Peter Sprague with String Quartet and Vocals the last two composers and performers are
some the finest of our times.
The first jazz record I bought was probably a hybrid R & B, like Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Ramsey Singles and Albums
(wade in the water), Jimmy Smith and eventually Miles - Kind of Blue (which is still in tight rotation in my head years after
the Album, yes vinyl was stolen)