The latest foray from multi-instrumental maestro and ex-Tortoise member, Jeff Parker’s Suite for
Max Brown is exactly that, a collection. But, when tracks come together, Parker and co. are a
truly smooth and tight unit dedicated to the groove.
Swung out and effortlessly cool, Ruby Park sings “There are no traps doors if you believe in
fate” on the opening ‘Build a Nest’. Her instantly captivating vocals kick things off in style, setting
a soul-inflected tone to the record. Succeeded by the blistering bass and drums on ‘Fusion
Swirl’, it is clear that, as with the whole record, this is a master at work with multi-instrumental
credits for Parker on almost every track. However, giving way to droning electric keys and
ambient influences, the album pivots abruptly in Parker’s varied soundscape.
Beautiful if a little self indulgent, ‘After the Rain’, an admirable, contemporary take on Coltrane’s
original, equally sits a little funny alongside the energy then release of ‘Fusion Swirl’. While the
cymbal splashes and gentle ringing of keys capture the essence of the title, its overtly thematic,
gestural style seems out of kilter with everything so far.
However, the soulful toe-tapping rigour that opens the album returns to the fore with ‘Gnarciss’
as Parker’s prolific use of synths contributes a fresh, vibrant feel over a Joe Henderson cut and
it is from here we begin to sense the real rhythm of Suite for Max Brown. Slow but with palpable
force, tracks like ‘Del Rio’ and ‘3 for L’ chug along with artistic precision and finesse. When
focus takes over from the ethereal forays, this record comes alive as a conceptual whole.
‘Go Away’ comfortably speeds things up, with electric riffs and shuffles courtesy of Makaya
McCravenon on the kit. While a change of pace, the track still maintains the distinct identity that
forms throughout the second half of the record, as if the idea of what is really driving this suite is
now in sight. The closing track, ‘Max Brown’, signals the full realisation of all these sprouts and
shoots, the lunges and lurches. Featuring Parker’s New Breed band mates, Nate Willcott on
trumpet and Josh Johnson on alto sax soar over the back-and-forth of flashes of Jamire
Williams on drums and Paul Bryan’s composed bass line.
Suite for Max Brown is out on International Anthem, the Chicago based outfit freshly dubbed
label of the year at Worldwide FM’s Worldwide Awards. The accolade should come as no
surprise with their roster representing some recent stand-out records like the Where We Come
From compilation as well as releases from the likes of Makaya McCraven and Emma Jane-
Thackery. While at times sonically misadventurous, Parker’s contribution can stand tall and
confident amongst such names as an assured record which excels in its moments of harmony.