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Before & After: Jeff Parker

A genre-crossing experimentalist with the soul of a bebopper

Guitarist Jeff Parker

“I always describe myself as a frustrated bebop guitar player. That’s kind of where my heart is. One day I’ll make a bebop record, I think,” Jeff Parker says. This comment might come as a surprise to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the guitarist’s vast output, especially his work as a longtime member of the genre-melding experimental-rock group Tortoise.

Reared on his dad’s Art Blakey and Lee Morgan albums, Parker likes hearing jazz cross-pollinated with other musical styles. A Tribe Called Quest’s landmark 1991 album, The Low End Theory, with guest Ron Carter, was a particular revelation. “It let me know that the music could [exist] in a different context,” he says. “I like jazz too, but I liked when you could hear it expanding. That’s kind of what led me into experimental music.” Last year, Parker released his own vision of such a hybrid with The New Breed (International Anthem).

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