A Third Ear for “Suite for Max Brown”

Jeff Parker & The New Breed, Suite for Max Brown (Nonesuch)


  • Jeff Parker: guitar, drums, vocals, electronics, samplers
  • Ruby Parker: vocals
  • Paul Bryan: bass guitar, vocals
  • Josh Johnson: electric piano, alto sax
  • Jamire Williams: drums
  • Katinka Kleijn: cello
  • Rob Mazurek: piccolo trumpet
  • Makaya McCraven: drums, sampler
  • Jay Bellerose: drums, percussion
  • Nate Walcott: trumpet


  1. Build a Nest
  2. C’mon Now
  3. Fusion Swirl
  4. Metamorphoses
  5. Gnarciss
  6. Lydian, Etc
  7. Del Rio
  8. 3 for L
  9. Go Away
  10. Max Brown


Stylistically, Jeff Parker is not an easy guitarist to peg. While his semi-hollow body notes and chords — angular and open-ended — make one immediately think of jazz, his sound also meshes beautifully in soul, funk, and post-rock contexts, the latter of which best illustrated by the depth he brought to Tortoise upon joining them.

Chances are, Parker would tell everyone to stuff the labels, because he is his own player. And he would be correct. His latest album, Suite for Max Brown, is a fine case in point.

Critics often spend a great deal of time attempting to define the music they’re hearing. Lucky for us, Parker has spared us the trouble, as the album is described perfectly on the band wrapped around the LP’s cover. “Graduated studies of sampling, cycles, and soulful jazz harmonics mix Monkian miniatures into a fusion-swirled dedication.”

That sums it up nicely.

The album is every bit as eclectic and destined to surprise fans and newcomers alike. Parker’s playing is a study of economy in motion. Every note has meaning. Nothing is wasted. Sometimes he relies on his use of other instruments or players to carry the day, the very antithesis of the “egocentric” solo musician.

Max Brown is Parker’s third solo album, with each record more sophisticated than the last. This album is beautifully layered, blending organic and electronic sounds to form a rich soundscape. It is full of stylistic left turns, but none so violent they confuse or alienate the listener.

Parker does a great job getting his musical point across whether alone (“Fusion Swirl”) or as part a quartet, sextet, or trio (“After the Rain,” “Gnarciss,” and “Go Away,” respectively). “Max Brown” sums the rest of the album up nicely, a warm and tasteful mashup of nearly all that came before it. The album leaves us feeling musically satisfied, but not stuffed.

Whether you choose to explore this album and work your way back, or start with The Relatives and go forward, there is no wrong way to enter the musical world of Jeff Parker. Regardless of where you come in, you’ll be glad you showed up.


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My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

Would you like to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

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