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The Graham Album Review #1789

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Parker Abbott Trio: The Wayfinders
by George Graham

(Independent Release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/1/2014)

Over the years, there has been a number of groups whose electric instrumental music has served as something of a "gateway" for rock fans into more legitimate jazz. The 1970s fusion scene was greatly responsible for nurturing a lot of fans would would go on to be enthusiastic fans of acoustic jazz, especially after some of the fusion pioneers themselves decided to go back to acoustic music after a while.

More recently, the jam band scene has also provided opportunities for rock fans to partake in the pleasures of instrumental music. And interestingly, a couple of groups who amount to being regular jazz piano trios have been finding themselves attracting jam band fans: Medesky, Martin and Wood, and the Bad Plus, who are a trio of piano, bass and drums, played at a rock-like energy level – and no guitar.

This time, we have another crossover fusion trio with keyboards at the center. But the configuration is a bit different -- it's two keyboards and drums. They are the Parker Abbot Trio, from Toronto. Terri Parker and Simeon Abbott are the two keyboard players, with Mark Segger on drums.

This group started as a duo with Abbott and Ms. Parker doing music for two acoustic pianos, and they released an album in that configuration in 2011 called Gallery. But now they have electrified and picked up drummer/percussionist Segger to create the sound of this new album. It's an interesting hybrid of a fair amount of rock influence, minus guitar, of course, plus various retro influences, which is natural considering the vintage keyboard sounds they often use. So there are echoes of progressive rock, more straight ahead rock, and a few hints of more traditional jazz, though that is not the emphasis of this album. Parker and Abbott both play a variety of electric and acoustic keyboards with vintage electric instruments a special preference. Their compositions are fairly eclectic, with the grooves being the focus of a number of them. They are not really strong on melodies you can go around humming, but the writing has more than their share interesting musical moments, and like progressive rock, several of the tracks are in sections and evolve almost symphonically. They can also get a little atmospheric at times, so the album has a lot of facets to make it interesting and engaging.

Leading off is a piece called Nature Speaks, which sums up the group's sound. There's a kind of slightly eccentric rock beat while there is the combination of vintage electric keyboard sound with some acoustic piano. Piano is never far from the center of most the music on this album. <<>>

A piece called With Robots We Can Live Forever brings the band into progressive rock territory with rather impressive results. <<>> This is one of those tracks that has a kind of symphonic approach with the piece moving from one distinct section to another. <<>>

A track called Companions combines both a kind of familiar sound with some quirky rhythms. <<>>

One of the more interesting tracks on the album, Three Two Waltz, takes advantage of the distinctive rhythmic approach in a very nice atmospheric sonic texture. <<>>

Another rhythmic facet of the Parker Abbott trio comes out on a piece called Dance Party, with its disco rhythm and 1970s-era synthesizer sounds. <<>> To that mix, they put in a seemingly incongruous acoustic piano solo section. <<>>

The group goes even further afield with a tune called Circus Piece, a kind of halting waltz that does imply a kind of strange little circus. <<>>

The trio also gets quite atmospheric on an appropriately-named piece called Waterfalls and Unicorns. <<>> But then the group does a one-eighty and the track turns into one of the jazziest pieces on the album. <<>>

The title tune, The Wayfinders also proves rather interesting in what I suppose could called "messy jazz." <<>>

The Wayfinders, the new CD by the Canadian threesome The Parker Abbott Trio, is both distinctive and appealing. The makeup of the trio, with two keyboard players and drums is definitely unconventional, and their eclectic mix of influences often goes in unexpected directions, but what they come up with is the kind of record that is perhaps surprisingly likable. The group is not particularly flashy in their virtuosity and their compositions seem as if they grew out of jam sessions, more than elaborate orchestrations, but they come up with music that will likely appeal to both the jam band and fusion fans, and anyone who likes creative instrumental music.

Our grade for sound quality is an unqualified "A." All the instrumentation is well-recorded and the CD is notable for not being overly compressed, so there is some dynamic range, , something that is quite rare these days.

Teri Parker, Simeon Abbott and Mark Segger have made an enjoyable instrumental album that clearly grew out of the organic interaction of the musicians involved. It took some interesting twists and turns along the way, but in the end the journey was a worthwhile and fun one.

(c) Copyright 2014 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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This page last updated October 06, 2014