Personnel: Jeff Parker (electric guitar, electric piano, Wurlitzer organ, Mellotron, synthesizer, midi, drum programming); Ruby Parker (vocals); Paul Bryan (electric guitar, bass guitar); Josh Johnson (flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, electric piano, Wurlitzer organ, Mellotron); Jamire Williams (drums).
Audio Mixer: Paul Bryan .
Recording information: Santa Monica, CA (02/2015-12/2015).
Editor: Paul Bryan .
The New Breed is Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker's first solo album since 2004's The Relatives. It's also his first solo work since relocating from Chicago to Los Angeles, a city with a highly productive music scene blending jazz, hip-hop, soul, and electronic music, as represented by labels such as Brainfeeder and Alpha Pup and weekly club events such as Low End Theory. Parker has experimented with samples, loops, and hip-hop production for a while, but he hadn't really explored these techniques in his own music before. On The New Breed, Parker builds improvisations around wobbly loops sourced from scratchy old vinyl records, nodding to underground hip-hop producers such as J Dilla but never trying to replicate their style. The album is still clearly focused around Parker's guitar playing, which is free and spontaneous yet tightly controlled, experimental without being challenging, and easy to listen to without coming close to sounding like "smooth jazz." Most of the drums are live, and while they're fluid and never stick to one beat pattern, there are certainly moments when they seem influenced by hip-hop or neo-soul rhythms. "Here Comes Ezra" is built atop a ticking drum-machine beat, but even with a tighter rhythmic structure, it still feels loose and comfortable, especially when it breaks free at the very end with live drums and additional instruments. "Jrifted" seems appropriately free-spirited, not "free jazz" but floating along with a tranquil rhythm and ending with a brief bit of beat science. "Get Dressed" is built around a gritty drum loop and handclaps, and features cheerful conversation in the background. The album's artwork is adorned with family photos, and Parker's daughter Ruby sings on the final song, "Cliche," so the album seems highly personal. The New Breed is a warm, inviting album of reflection and inspiration that finds Parker easily adapting new techniques to his signature style. ~ Paul Simpson