Rick Parker Collective
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Rick Parker Collective

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
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""Reclaiming Odds" Interview by Jon Murph"

Rick Parker knew the odds had been stacked against him when he arrived in New York seven years ago, trombone in hand, to attend New York University to get a Master's degree in music.

"Being a trombone player, there are so few realistic gigs," Parker said. "As a result, tremendous trombonists like Conrad Herwig and Robin Eubanks got all the gigs. I had to create my own opportunities."

Parker's undergraduate degree in economics from Georgetown University lent him an understanding of how such a marketplace works. None of this prevented him from investing in his band, the Rick Parker Collective, which features his original music. The group includes trumpeter Maurice Brown, Saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Xavier Perez, pianist Sam Barsh, bassist Gavin Fallow and drummer Kyle Struve. He had gained other insights into the inner workings of leading a band from his years in Washington, D.C. where he played in trumpeter Thad Wilson's big band. "In addition to playing in the band, I helped organize the music and book gigs," Parker said.

His sense of musical economy shined through the compositions on his 2004 debut, New York Gravity (Fresh Sound/New Talent) as well as on his new effort, Finding Space (WJF) Although the 30-year-old argues that the recent disc is a continuation of the same musical trajectory mapped out with the first one, Finding Space boasts more memorable compositions as they reconcile '60s post-bop with nods to hip-hop, alternative sould and electronica.

While the trombonist claims Art Blakey and Andrew Hill as two of his main influences in terms of his group concept, he describes his own writing process as intuitive.

"I try to hear things in real time as opposed to in a particular time signature," he said. "That's why a lot of my melodies come out that way. I might hear a pulse then I might hear a certain melody. I'll write down the melody then figure out how the bar lines might fall on it. If I hear the tempo, I try to get that down. Then sometimes I think of pushing and pulling the rhythms to create intensity."

Alongside the compositions, Parker hones a seductive, burnished tone that's animated by conversational improvisations. He studied with Herwig, who encouraged him to release his first disc, as well as Frank Lacy. Althought he claimed that Lacy more than any other trombonist informs his playing, he admits that it took him some time to get next to Lacy's idiosyncratic style.

"Frank would play a lot of sound effects," Parker said. "Or he'd spin around on stage. I didn't realize that he has a physics degree. He was dealing with how soundwaves move - the Doppler Effect stuff."

Parker also cites Lacy as another significant influence in terms of composing. "Frank talked about writing too much and making things too dense. Even if there's a full big chord, there's space in it."

- John Murph, Downbeat Magazine, October, 2007 - Downbeat Magazine, October, 2007


"Finding Space CD Review by Troy Collins"

New York-based trombonist Rick Parker follows up his 2004 debut New York Gravity (Fresh Sound New Talent) with Finding Space, a winning combination of lyrical writing, intricate arrangements and spirited improvisation. Winner of the 2005 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, Parker has proven his mettle as an up-and-coming writer, and it is his composing and arranging skills that make the greatest impression on his sophomore album.

Parker's writing is clever but not impenetrable, honeyed and sumptuous rather than discordant and thorny. Building layers of impressionistic washes with his augmented quintet, Parker brings a modern sensibility to the classic late 1960s Blue Note sound. Reminiscent of the ground-breaking early work of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and to an extent, Andrew Hill and Grachan Moncur III, Parker infuses his writing with contemporary rhythms while allowing his side-men room to express themselves.

As a soloist Parker is surefooted and lyrical, possessing a stout tone, but is not quite as adventurous as his comrades. Primary front-line accomplice, saxophonist Xavier Perez tears it up on tenor, rushing from chromatic runs into frenzied altissimo territory at a moment's notice. Special guests alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and trumpeter Maurice Brown both make standout appearances. Brown wigs out in Don Cherry mode on the opening cut, splaying brassy whinnies and broad expressionistic strokes.

Parker's expert arrangements maximize the sound of his group, creating the sonic illusion of a band twice its size. The rhythm section of pianist Sam Barsh, bassist Gavin Fallow and drummer Kyle Struve navigates syncopated rhythms and unusual time signatures with ease. From lithe and supple to boisterous and invigorating, Parker's tunes flow gracefully from one mood to the next.

Finding Space contains subtle twists and turns along the way. Shifting rhythmic patterns and rich harmonic voicings dominate this aural landscape. Supported by a versatile and enthusiastic group, Parker shows great potential. This collective is one to watch.

Track listing: McKibbin; Nervous Energy; Lost in the Woodshed; Three Steps From Village A; Gavin's Prelude; Roots; Finding Space; Euro Ring.

Personnel: Rick Parker: trombone; Xavier Perez: tenor and soprano saxophones; Sam Barsh: piano, Nord Electro; Gavin Fallow: bass; Kyle Struve: drums. Special Guests: Maurice Brown: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jaleel Shaw: trumpet.

- By Troy Collins

Published: June 04, 2007 - All About Jazz


"Finding Space CD Review by Dan McClenaghan"

You gotta love a good album cover, even if a photo of a big goofy-looking dog has nothing to do with the music. But why not—Matt Jorgensen did it with Hope (Origin Records, '04), and there was some first-rate modern-leaning stuff on that disc. The same goes for the Rick Parker Collective's Finding Space.

Parker is a young—not yet thirty years old—New York-based trombonist with some serious chops; but it's his bandleading and composing skills that stand out most. He was a winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award for '04/'05, and those skills shine on Finding Space, an all-original set.

His tunes all tell stories that change pace and switch narrators and twist and turn, rise and fall, change gears and generally keep the listener off balance, sliding from the pastoral to the prickly within the same song, avoiding the predictable at every step. Lots of surprises, lots of fabulously inspired soloing all around, from saxophonist Xavier Perez, keyboardist Sam Barsh and the leader, along with special guests Maurice Brown (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Jaleel Shaw (alto sax).

That said, the group is a “collective.” Sometimes there is a classical feel, a cerebral sound coming from the collective gut. The atmosphere reminds me of Grachan Moncur III's sound, mixed in with some Andrew Hill—fluid and ever-shifting momentum and abstract beauty that keeps the mainstream in sight.

This is just Parker's second set as a leader—his first was New York Gravity (Fresh Sound New Talent, '04). On Finding Space he proves himself a major talent on the rise.

Track listing: McKibbin; Nervous Energy; Lost in the Woodshed; Three Steps From Village A; Gavin's Prelude; Roots; Finding Space; Euro Ring.

Personnel: Rick Parker: trombone; Xavier Perez: saxophones; Sam Barsh: piano, nord electro; Gavin Fallow: bass; Kyle Struve: drums. Special Guests: Maurice Brown: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jaleel Shaw: trumpet.

- By Dan McClenaghan

Published: January 09, 2007 - All About Jazz


"Finding Space CD Review by Glen Astarita"

New York City-based trombonist/composer Rick Parker possesses the goods to make a difference within the global jazz community. Featuring rising-star trumpeter Maurice Brown lending his wares on select tracks, the core quintet combines elements of West Coast cool with a hard-edged, progressive-jazz gait. Parker�s compositions are designed with ascending choruses and complex horn charts, where pitch and dynamics play an important role.

The collective kicks it into high-gear on numerous occasions during these works that often boast memorable themes and radiant contrasts. Parker�s little big band approach yields a parade of cleverly articulated notions throughout! Besides the soloists� climactically-driven exchanges, Parker�s arrangements generally contain a soft spot. During �Lost In The Woodshed,� bassist Gavin Fallow steps out and executes softly-woven arco lines atop pianist Sam Barsh�s gentle ostinato motif. On �There Steps From Village A,� Barsh provides a swirling undercurrent under breezy sax choruses and bustling rhythms which are subsequently morphed into a brisk Latin pulse. Here, Parker�s robust phrasings generate a contrapuntal musical terrain as the band soars skyward.

The title track is a multi-part bop-centric work consisting of peppy grooves intertwined with the soloists intricately exercised unison choruses, punchy rhythms, and bluesy passages amid Parker�s fluid solo. Ultimately, the leader stands out among his peers with this tour de force effort that accentuates his acute jazz vernacular and distinct compositional style. You won�t find any filler material or aimless directives. More importantly, the trombonist�s vision seizes the mind�s eye, as the cerebral aspects are nicely balanced within a highly entertaining perspective.

- By Glen Astarita - JazzReview.com


""Jazzman Keeps It Carefree" Interview by Shaun Brady"

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based trombonist Rick Parker insists that all of his music is born of personal experiences, so one might assume that the eponymous three-part suite that anchors his second album, "Finding Space," is about the composer discovering his way in the world or something similarly emotional.

Turns out Parker is far more literal-minded than that.

"I wrote 'Finding Space' when I was living in Manhattan in this really tiny studio," he explained over the phone from Shanghai, China, where his fiancée has been studying. "I felt like I was bouncing off the walls all the time, so that's where the melody came from."

Whatever its origins, Parker's intricately arranged pieces cull an impressively large sound from a small group: His core unit is a quintet comprising saxophonist Xavier Perez, pianist Sam Barsh, drummer Kyle Struve and bassist Gavin Fallow (who will be replaced at Thursday's show by Dan Loomis), augmented on the CD at times by a trumpet and second saxophone.

Parker calls his group a Collective because he strives to maintain a cooperative feel, the sense of a cohesive unit rather than five soloists.

"I've chosen people for my band who understand my concept and who are really able to fulfill the concepts that I'm writing," he said.

"So when I'm writing something, it's basically writing for these guys, because I know that they're already connected with what I'm trying to do."

Connected a little too closely in the case of that title track: Parker shared an apartment with Barsh and Struve for more than a year upon his arrival in Manhattan in 2001, which surely brings the idea of limited space close to home.

Parker was born in New York and grew up in Greenwich, Conn.

He picked up the trombone in sixth grade simply because it was a requirement to learn an instrument. He chose that one because the trombonists sat in the front row of the band at the college basketball games that Parker would watch with his father.

When he got to high school, one of the other trombonists turned him on to the music of jazz legend J.J. Johnson. Blown away, Parker immediately bought a Johnson CD - the only CD, at that time, that he owned.

"I really didn't listen to much music before listening to jazz," Parker said, "and I started listening to only that CD, for three months at least, before getting John Coltrane's 'Blue Train.' After that I was playing a lot."

Bitten by the jazz bug but not yet decided on it as a career, Parker majored in economics at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., his father's alma mater.

Almost immediately, however, he joined the big band of trumpeter Thad Wilson, which enjoyed a regular Monday night gig at a local club.

That stint with Wilson remains a huge influence on Parker's large-scale compositions.

"Thad became my mentor," Parker said. "He didn't have a car, so I would drive him home after gigs and we'd discuss music. He would encourage me to write for the big band and critique some of the stuff I was writing."

Not yet 30, Parker leads not only his Collective but also an electronic improvising group called Ambient Assault.

He's rapidly developing into a major voice, which he credits at least in part to the fact that he came to music so casually.

"I just really enjoyed doing it," he said. "It was never the focus; it was always the thing on the side. As a result, that joy was always there . . . .

"So when I got to actually go to music school, it was like being at summer camp. A lot of the other people who were taking these music-theory classes were burnt out a little bit on it, but for me it's always been something really fresh and exciting." *

By SHAUN BRADY

Rick Parker Collective, Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St., 9 p.m. Thursday, $8, 215-568-3131, www.chrisjazzcafe.com.

Posted on Fri, Jul. 6, 2007

- Philadelphia Daily News


"Concert Preview by David R. Adler"

The trombone is an underdog among jazz instruments, but in the hands of venturesome players like Rick Parker, it’s sleek and modernistic. Parker, almost 30, is quite a composer as well, and his Collective is one of New York’s more ambitious quintets. The 2004 debut New York Gravity has an edgy rhythmic thrust and smart orchestration. Finding Space is a worthy follow-up, darker and more lyrical with blazing solos by Philly’s own Jaleel Shaw on alto sax. (David R. Adler) - Philadelphia Weekly


"New York Gravity CD Review by Peter Aaron"

Trombonist/composer/leader Rick Parker and his band are the best-kept secret in New York right now. But in light of this fine debut and a steadily growing live demand, the secret's not likely to be kept much longer.

At 25, Parker is already a tested vet, sharing his horn talents with Frank Ku-umba Lacy's colossal Vibe Tribe, the Charli Persip Superband, and his own trio, in addition to the sextet featured here. A Connecticut-born Yankee, Parker started out playing in ska bands before meeting up with his mentor, esteemed DC-area trumpeter/flugelhornist/composer Thad Wilson.

Ironically, it was session guest Wilson, the only player here who has not succumbed to Gotham's residential lure, who penned the title piece. Opening the album and boldly establishing the group's hard bop M.O., “New York Gravity” is a disorienting ride through Midtown's chaotic, claustrophobic streetscape. With its Monkish, angular arrangement, it also boasts an excellent downward-spiraling break from drummer Kyle Struve.

On “Experiment in Mist-ery” and “Thank You,” bassist Matt Grason and pianist Andrew Haskell ably conjure the moody, rain-swept backdrop of the classic Coltrane Quartet's most introspective moments; “M.C. Filmmaker” boasts Haskell's welcome, novel use of Fender Rhodes, recalling The Doors' “Riders on the Storm” or any number of '70s R&B chillers--no bad thing at all. The band's secret weapon is Charis Ioannou, on soprano and tenor saxes and bass clarinet. Tracks like the explosive “The New Path” and the appropriately sinister “10/31 at Dusk” feature Parker's lusty smears and patented skewed horn charts, but also give Ioannu ample ceiling height with which to blow his (and our) brains out.

At times dissonant but overflowing with the smoky noir of early Lounge Lizards, New York Gravity is a winning fist effort, one that pulls of the tricky task of being both fresh and familiar. Fans of modern as well as slightly bent straight-ahead sounds will devour it, eagerly awaiting Parker's next outing.

- By Peter Aaron
- All About Jazz


"New York Gravity CD Review by Roman St. James"

“New York Gravity”, the debut album from the Rick Parker Collective is by far one of the best jazz albums I’ve heard in quite some time. And I listen to an enormous amount of jazz, so that’s saying something. When I listen to this CD, it immediately conjures thoughts of Miles Davis’ mid-60s super group with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Davis’ group was a quartet and this version of the Rick Parker Collective is a sextet, but they’re more alike than the are different. One of the things that made the Davis quartet so great, besides their superb musicianship, was their ability to play so well as an ensemble and yet still retain their individual voices. The Parker Collective has that same high degree of musicianship, that same one-mindedness as a group and that same strong sense of individuality.

The Rick Parker Collective consists of Rick Parker on trombone, Charis Ioannou on tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet, Andrew Haskell on piano and Fender Rhodes, Matt Grason on double-bass, Kyle Struve on drums and special guest Thad Wilson on trumpet and flugelhorn. This recording features all original compositions, most of them contributed by Parker, with one each by Wilson, Grason and Ioannou. The group really shows what a triple threat they are here, with not only great playing, but great writing and great arrangements, as well. The Parker Collective is one of the tightest groups around, and it’s a good thing too, because the arrangements here are extremely intricate and complex, and in the hands of a lesser group the seams would surely show. But they run through them with Swiss-clock precision, making it sound easy.

The album opens with the title track, “New York Gravity” (Wilson’s one composition), a Latin-influenced groove, that manages to sound both classic and modern at the same time. It features short, impressive solos and an ending that kind of dissolves in an unusual but most satisfying way. Parker says he conceived “Experiment in Mist-ery” while walking one evening in a rainfall so light that “the drops seemed to be suspended in the air.” That’s exactly the feel that this track imparts – light, airy, cleansing. “M.C. Filmaker” is a laid-back, in-the-pocket track that serves as a great vehicle for Parker and Haskell’s solos. The beautiful ballad “Thank You” (a Grason composition) really reflects the group’s ability to perform as a unit even when playing with great sensitivity. “On The Move” opens with a slow, solo piano intro before they pick up the tempo and move on to the interesting yet quirky head. Dig the beautiful way they slow the tempo down mid-song after the trumpet solo, with trombone and bass clarinet playing counterpoint to each other before going back into the head and the outro.

“Transitation,” a Parker original that borrows a bit from Herbie Hancock’s “Eye Of The Hurricane”, is my favorite track on the album. Ioannou’s tenor work on this song is truly inspired. “The New Path” gives Parker and Ioannou a little more room to spread out and show off their excellent improvisational skills. “The Exit” begins as a ballad and ends as a nice midtempo number and really shows how well the horns blend together. On “Going Out”, an original by the saxophonist, we get treated to the elegance of Ioannou’s soulful soprano sound and a short but impressive drum solo from Struve. The album closes with “10/31 At Dusk”, an enticing tune with a slightly “Caravan”-like Middle-Eastern flavor.

The Rick Parker Collective is the best-of-the-best of the new, hot young jazz groups on the scene today. This is one of those groups that begs to be seen live. I hope to one day get the opportunity. In the meantime, I’m eagerly looking forward to their next release.

- By Roman St. James - JazzReview.com


"Sliding Up by Mark Holston"

One of the most unwieldy instruments associated with jazz, the slide trombone is, perhaps, also the idiom's most expressive solo voice. From guttural growls to silky glissandi and the ability to instantly capture any pitch imaginable, tombones have been making their mark on music since the primitive, fullel-belled sackbut debuted in church music ensembles more than six centuries ago.

The trombone established a solo presence early in jazz, it's role evolving in the big bands, then coming to full maturation during the early bebop years in the hands of J.J. Johnson and other pioneers of the stylistically liverated, post-swing era. From time to time, the instruments's role in contemporary jazz seemed to be on life support. Few trombonists in recent decades have forged the kind of captivating image required to propel the instrument into a new popularity, as Wynton Marsallis and Kenny G did for the trumpet and saxaphone.

However, the trombone's vital presence in jazz endures. A spate of absorbing new releases by both newcomers and seasoned aces present a strong case that 'bones are back...

The Rick Parker Collective features the 'bone-blowing leader fronting a group that includes tenor and alto sax, and trumpet on Finding Space (WJF). The session has broad sweeps of orchestral writing, but overall, Parker focuses on a looser, combo-style format for his 10 originals, using harmonically tight ensemble voicings to set up solo excursions. Parker wins bonus points for taking some calculated risks and always landing on his feet. - Jazziz Magazine, September, 2007


Discography

- Finding Space by Rick Parker Collective, WJF Records, 2006

- New York Gravity by Rick Parker Collective, Fresh Sound New Talent Records, 2004.

***Finding Space was named an All About Jazz Publisher's Top CD Pick CD for 2006 alongside releases by Branford Marsalis, Dave Douglas and Chris Potter.***

***Finding Space was named a "New and Noteworthy" CD by Jazziz Magazine, September, 2007***

As a sideman:
- A Day in New York by Miki Hirose Sextet
- Intrinsic Evolution by Charli Persip and Supersound
- King by Tim Kuhl Group
- Ghosts by Tim Kuhl Group
- My Blacks Don't Match by Darren Gaines and the Key Party
- Get Together by Eric Hoffman and the Underdog, Independent, 2006
- A Work in Progress by Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra, Independent, 1999

Photos

Bio

"Rick Parker possesses the goods to make a difference within the global jazz community." (Glen Asitaria, JazzReview.com) Not yet 30 years of age, trombonist/composer Rick Parker has already begun to make a name for himself on an international level. His quintet, the Rick Parker Collective, recently released its 2nd CD, Finding Space, in September of 2006, and it was promptly named an All About Jazz Publisher's Top CD Pick CD for that year. Parker has been a guest on radio and online broadcasts such as the Musician's Show on New York City's WKCR 89.9FM and The Jazz Session a podcast interview series by Jason Crane. Most recently, Parker was featured in the "Players" section of the October, 2007 issue of Downbeat Magazine.

"Sleek and modernistic" (David Adler) aptly describes the Rick Parker Collective. The band has drawn rave reviews, being called "the best kept secret in New York right now." (All About Jazz) The group performs all original music and has graced the stage at many popular venues including: the Williamsburg Jazz Festival; Blues Alley; the Somers Point Jazz Festival; Chris's Jazz Cafe; Knitting Factory; Bar4; Cornelia Street Cafe and the Bowery Poetry Club. The ensemble's well crafted voice first sounded on the international jazz scene in 2004, with the release of their first CD, New York Gravity, on the Fresh Sound New Talent record label.

In addition to leading the Collective, Parker also co-leads an improvised electronic music group called Ambient Assault which consists of electric trombone, keyboards and two drummers. His other musical endeavors include the world renowned trombonist/composer Ku-umba Frank Lacy's 14 piece Vibe Tribe and legendary drummer Charlie Persip's big band. Parker is also the Co-Producer of the Williamsburg Jazz Festival.

A prolific composer, Parker was named a winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards for 2004/2005 and 2007/2008. In April of 2002 and 2003, he participated in the Kennedy Center's Betty Carter Jazz Ahead invitation only workshop for composers/soloists where he studied under jazz icons such as Curtis Fuller, Eric Reid and John Clayton. In March 2002 he was named runner up in the Eastern Trombone Workshop National Solo Competition.

The band usually includes some combination of the musicians below:

Saxophone: Dave Binney, Logan Richardson, Xavier Perez, Jaleel Shaw, Jon Irabagon
Trumpet: Maurice Brown or Miki Hirose
Piano: Sam Barsh, Frank LoCrasto,
Guitar: Brad Shepik, Nir Felder
Bass: Shawn Connely, Aidan Carroll
Drums: Tommy Crane, Rudy Royston, Mark Guiliana, Ziv Ravitz