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Jason Parker Quartet - Five Leaves Left


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The late British singer-songwriter Nick Drake is having something of a resurgence in jazz recently, kicked off by pianist Brad Mehldau's cover of “River Man" and now extending to this well executed album by trumpeter Jason Parker. Performing with Parker on this album are Josh Rawlings on piano, Evan Flory-Barnes on bass, D'Vonne Lewis on drums and special guests Michele Khazak on vocals and Cynthia Mullis on tenor saxophone and flute. Five Leaves is a solid if slightly melancholy disc, and vocals are well done, along with the touches of saxophone and flute, giving the proceedings an Astral Weeks air to it.

The ensemble play is consistently excellent, and although Parker is clearly the leader, he doesn't overplay, keeping his solos concise and allowing the band to interpret the songs in their own way. Michele Khazak's haunting and slightly world-weary vocals are a key to the album's success, especially on the early tracks, “Time Has Told Me" and “River Man." The latter is really the centerpiece, with the languorous vocals weaving in and out of the music which is developed into a fine improvisation.

The instrumental tracks toward the end of the album are very tight and show how applicable Drake's work is to the jazz setting. Five Leaves Left took a while to get into, but when it clicked for me, the music hit hard with the realization that I was listening to great songs being well interpreted by excellent playing. I need to investigate Nick Drake, whom I was unfamiliar with accept as a fringe figure in the Joe Boyd book.

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