Known for adding restless and unexpected 6-string sounds to Tortoise, Isotope 217, and Chicago Underground Orchestra, Jeff Parker plays jazz like someone raised on dub, hip hop, and experimental music. On The Relatives, Parker’s woody tone is refreshingly unprocessed, and his stark, angular lines provide a welcome alternative to the carefully manicured guitar timbres that too often characterize fusion, faux world music, and smooth jazz. The album’s tunes have elaborate melodic and harmonic structures—this isn’t free jazz—but Parker and his three bandmates are never tied to a click track or a rigid arrangement. Collectively improvised around spirited changes and riffs, the music is loose and fluid, yet tinged with a brooding, slightly manic energy. Like espresso or bittersweet chocolate, Parker’s playing is bold and uncompromising, yet ultimately satisfying. Engineered by John McEntire (Tortoise, the Sea and Cake, Stereolab, Trans Am) at the fabled Soma Electronic Music Studios, The Relatives has an open, dynamic sound. Thrill Jockey. —Andy Ellis
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