John Parricelli: Alba (2000)
Even with the internet's global reach, albums are sometimes unfairly overlooked, with John Parricelli's superb 2000 release Alba one that deserved to push this British guitarist into the international spotlight. A first-call session player who has, in the jazz sphere, worked with artists including Kenny Wheeler, Iain Ballamy and Martin Speake, Parricelli is a musical chameleon who never loses sight of his own identity. He takes the best elements of Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner through a very personal filter, resulting in a style reminiscent of all but imitative of none.
Parricelli's group, featuring saxophonist Mark Lockheart, bassist Dudley Phillips and the increasingly ubiquitous and equally shapeshifting drummer Martin Francealso known for his work with John Taylor and Chris Laurence, not to mention his own electronica-tinged Spin Marvel (Babel, 2007)is the same line-up that would surface five years later on Lockheart's own outstanding Moving Air (Basho, 2005), but with an emphasis on Parricelli's writing and playing, the approach is considerably different.
"Scrim" kicks Alba off on a bright note, with a melodic head and France's powerful groove belying the tune's 5/4 meter. Parricelli's solo winds its way through the changes like thread through a needle with a beefy, slightly overdriven tone, reverting to a warmer, cleaner tone in support of Lockheart's equally evocative solo.
Parricelli switches to nylon-string guitar for the Latin-esque "Alfredo," with Phillips' robust tone and careful note placement dovetailing with France's mix of brush and stick to create a relaxed and elegant vibe. On "The Longest Day," Parricelli mixes acoustic and electric, with heavily delayed chordal swells creating an ethereal soundscape for the Towner-like intro to a tune, again, largely driven by nylon-string guitar. Its lyrical theme is introduced by Phillips, and then doubled by Lockheart before moving into a middle section for subtly understated solos from Parricelli and Lockheart.
The emphasis returns not just to electric on the more rhythmically propulsive "Shore Song," but to a curious electronic/world beat amalgam coming from a similar space as Metheny's "Barcarole" from Offramp (ECM, 1982). Programmed beatsalongside synth-like washes and odd electronic sounds placed far back in the mixmesh with acoustic tonalities to create a song all about texture and ambience. Still, its spare theme remains eminently singable despite some unexpected harmonic shifts, with Parricelli layering an equally economical solo over and around it.
The miniature Parricelli/Lockheart duet, "Another Place," recalls Towner and Paul McCandless of Oregon, its near-classical vibe a soft respite before the guitarist kicks back into high gear on "55," another upbeat tune driven hard by France's loosely funky pulse which, along with Lockheart and Parricelli, represents some of the disc's most energetic playing.
Though Parricelli's remains an active player in the UK, he's not released an album as a leader since. It's a shame, because based on the consistently engaging Alba, he's a guitarist with a voice that deserves to be heard beyond the confines of sideman and session work.
Track Listing: Scrim; Alfredo; The Longest Day; Shore Song; Another Place; 55; Ordesa; Kinship; Alba.
Personnel: John Parricelli: guitar; Dudley Phillips: bass; Mark Lockheart: saxophones; Martin France: drums.