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Nicki and Lisa Parrott: The Awabakal Suite

Elliott Simon By

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The Parrott sisters have pooled their individual talents to release a CD that presents a 360 degree look-see at two of New York City's most exciting jazz musicians. Under the watchful eye of producer Rufus Reid, Nicki and Lisa take the listener on an eclectic jazz journey influenced by Australian folk as well as classical Western and Indian music. Although the creative re-working of standards like Monk's "Evidence" are intriguing, it is the self-penned compositions that make this CD a must-have.

Awabakal Suite is titled after an extinct Australian Aboriginal tribe from Lake Macquari, New South Wales. Nicki and Lisa, who were raised near this lake, elected to record the CD on January 26th, Australia Day. Commemorating the initial English landing, many Australians, including Nicki and Lisa, prefer to refer to this date as "Invasion Day". It has become a day of mourning for the subjugation of Aboriginal peoples. The suite blends Eastern and Western influenced changes in a manner reminiscent of Pharaoh Sanders' Upper and Lower Egypt. Didgeridoo sounds evoke images of native Australians and a marching snare signals British occupation as Lisa plays mournful sax. It is a piece that also weaves childhood themes with historical and political images ending with the catchy "Bound for South Australia", an Australian sea shanty often sung by Australian children.

Prior to this release, the sisters had gone in different directions. Lisa, known for her playing with big band "Diva", the PLK trio and for a smoky Ben Websteresque sax on two Derek Bronston Quartet releases has become a versatile contemporary player with a recognizable light touch who can also "honk" with the best. Nicki appears weekly with Les Paul and is one of New York City's most sought after bassists. She combines Skitch Henderson, Johnny Frigo and Johnny Varro session work with permanent spots in "David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness", "Mikveh", and the "Ron Jackson Duo". For their first collaboration, these two diverse musicians have put together a tight band prominently featuring Kevin Hays (piano) and Dion Parson (drums) that is able to adeptly switch styles while maintaining a solid rhythm.

Nicki's "Come and Get It" and Lisa's "Amblin" showcase Lisa's sax playing in a tight jazz combo setting, with some fine solo trading. Nicki never sacrifices this underlying rhythm for ego tripping solos. Of special mention is the arrangement of Schuman's Concerto in A Minor opus 129 for Cello and Orchestra. Kevin Hays treads that dangerous line of classical/jazz piano without sacrificing the inherent feel of the piece as Nicki plays the cello line exquisitely on bass. The listener's mind floats through heartrending images in the elegant Nicki Parrott composition "Second Chances" only to be jolted to the ceiling by "Six Nettes" that features some of Lisa's best manic playing and honks. Nicki keeps up and anticipates every move as bass and sax drive each other to the point of no return only to be brought back by Nicki's solid line to close out the album.

Up to this point, Nicki and Lisa Parrott were two musicians who happened to be sisters. With The Awabakal Suite they have hearkened back to common roots from their diverse individual perspectives to produce a collective self-portrait. The Awabakal Suite is available at parrottmusic.com


Track Listing: Come and Get It, Amblin', The Awabakal Suite, Evidence, Concerto in A minor opus 129 for Cello and Orchestra, One for Eric, Jitterbug Waltz, Second Chances, Six Nettes, Bound for South Australia (edited version)

Personnel: Nicki Parott (double bass), Lisa Parrott (alto and baritone saxophone), Kevin Hays (piano), Dion Parson (drums), Cafe De Silva (percussion)

Title: The Awabakal Suite | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: parrottmusic


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