For his debut recording as a leader, bassist Matthew Parrish has put together an impressive pastiche of his lineage (Ray Brown to Christian McBride); his studies at Rutgers University (Kenny Barron and Larry Ridley); his varied experience as a sideman (Clark Terry, Sweets Edison, Wynton Marsalis); and above all, his U.S./European tour with Al Grey, from 1997 until the trombonist's death in 2000. Circle is dedicated to Grey.
Now becoming a fixture in the New York/Philly club and studio scenes (he lives in Yardley, Pa., giving him access to both), this CD should solidify Parrish's reputation for composing, arranging and playing any idiom that swings.
There are eight originals by Parrish, plus three of his arrangements: a hip-hopping makeover of "Seven Steps to Heaven," a Calypsofied version of "Go Tell It On the Mountain," where Parrish carries the melody for the gospel shouter, and a bonus cut of Duke Ellington's "Flirtibird." The title tune is a jazz-waltz filled with Parrish pedal points used as jumping off points for that wide-sweeping, triplet-laced Ray Brown sound. The obvious tribute, "This One's for Al," captures Grey's well-loved musical sense of humor.
Parrish has near-flawless intonation, and when he needs a big tone he can summon it. Ordinarily, he just blends in with pianist Vincent Bourgeyx and drummer Steve Haas, but Parrish still manages to drive them. As for tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, his horn is so galvanizing he nearly steals the thunder from Parrish.