Jeff Parker ETA IVtet

Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy

Eremite Records MTE-76/77 x2LP


Jay Bellerose drums & percussion
Anna Butterss bass
Josh Johnson alto saxophone & pedals
Jeff Parker electric guitar & pedals 

Track Listing:

MTE-76 Side 'A'
2019-07-08 I
MTE-76 Side 'B'
2019-07-08 II
MTE-77 Side 'C'
MTE-77 Side 'D'

recorded Los Angeles, ETA
producers Jeff Parker & Michael Ehlers
engineer Bryce Gonzales
photographs Robbie Jeffers

bandcamp lossless download

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Mondays at Enfield Tennis Academy, x2 LPs of long-form, lyrical, groove-based free improv by acclaimed guitarist & composer Jeff Parker's ETA IVtet is at last here. Recorded live at ETA (referencing David Foster Wallace), a bar in LA’s Highland Park neighborhood with just enough space in the back for Parker, drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, & alto saxophonist Josh Johnson to convene in extraordinarily depthful & exploratory music making. Gleaned for the stoniest side-length cuts from 10+ hours of vivid two-track recordings made between 2019 & 2021 by Bryce Gonzales, Mondays at Enfield Tennis Academy is a darkly glowing séance of an album, brimming over with the hypnotic, the melodic, & patience & grace in its own beautiful strangeness. Room-tone, electric fields, environment, ceiling echo, live recording, Mondays, Los Angeles. Jeff Parker's first double album & first live album, Mondays at Enfield Tennis Academy belongs in the lineage of such canonical live double albums recorded on the West Coast as Lee Morgan’s Live at the Lighthouse, Miles Davis' In Person Friday & Saturday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco & Black Beauty, & John Coltrane's Live in Seattle

While the IVtet sometimes plays standards &, including on this recording, original compositions, it is as previously stated largely a free improv group —just not in the genre meaning of the term. The music is more free composition than free improvisation, more blending than discordant. It’s tensile, yet spacious & relaxed. Clearly all four musicians have spent significant time in the planetary system known as jazz, but relationships to other musics, across many scenes & eras —dub & Dilla, primary source psychedelia, ambient & drone— suffuse the proceedings. Listening to playbacks Parker remarked, humorously & not, “we sound like the Byrds” (to certain ears, the Clarence White-era Byrds, who really stretched it). 

A fundamental of all great ensembles, whether basketball teams or bands, is the ability of each member to move fluidly & fluently in & out of lead & supportive roles. Building on the communicative pathways they’ve established in Parker’s -The New Breed- project, Parker & Johnson maintain a constant dialogue of lead & support. Their sampled & looped phrases move continuously thru the music, layered & alive, adding depth & texture & pattern, evoking birds in formation, sea creatures drifting below the photic zone. Or, the two musicians simulate those processes by entwining their terse, clear-lined playing in real-time. The stop/start flow of Bellerose, too, simulates the sampler, recalling drum parts in Parker’s beat-driven projects. Mostly Bellerose's animated phraseologies deliver the inimitable instantaneous feel of live creative drumming. The range of tonal colors he conjures from his extremely vintage battery of drums & shakers —as distinctive a sonic signature as we have in contemporary acoustic drumming— bring almost folkloric qualities to the aesthetic currency of the IVtet's language. A wonderful revelation in this band is the playing of Anna Butterss. The strength, judiciousness & humility with which she navigates the bass position both ground & lift upward the egalitarian group sound. As the IVtet's grooves flow & clip, loop & repeat, the ensemble elements reconfigure, a terrarium of musical cultivation growing under controlled variables, a tight experiment of harmony & intuition, deep focus & freedom. 

For all its varied sonic personality, Mondays at Enfield Tennis Academy scans immediately & unmistakably as music coming from Jeff Parker‘s unique sound world. Generous in spirit, trenchant & disciplined in execution, Parker’s music has an earned respect for itself & for its place in history that transmutes through the musical event into the listener. Many moods & shapes of heart & mind will find utility & hope in a music that combines the autonomy & the community we collectively long to see take hold in our world, in substance & in staying power. 

On the personal tip, this was always my favorite gig to hit, a lifeline of the eremite records Santa Barbara years. Mondays southbound on the 101, driving away from tasks & screens & illness, an hour later ordering a double tequila neat at the bar with the band three feet away, knowing i was in good hands, knowing it would be back around on another Monday. To encounter life at scales beyond the human body is the collective dance of music & the beholding of its beauty, together. —Michael Ehlers & Zac Brenner 

Pressed on premium audiophile-quality 120 gram vinyl at RTI from Kevin Gray / Cohearent Audio lacquers. Mastered by Joe Lizzi, Triple Point Records, Queens, NY. First eremite edition of 1799 copies. First 400 direct order LPs come with eremite’s signature retro-audiophile inner-sleeves, hand screen-printed by Alan Sherry, Siwa Studios, northern New Mexico. CD edition & EU x2LP edition available thru our EU partner, Aguirre records, Belgium.

pitchfork 8.4 review "best new music"
washington post #5 album 2022 all genres
the wire 2022 rewind #18 album all genres
wilco recommends 2022
brooklyn vegan "10 great jazz albums from 2022"
NPR "the story of jazz in 2022"
NPR Music 2022 Staff Picks
john mulvey's "MOJO editor's favourite albums of 2022" #4
aquarium drunkard 2022 year in review
pitchfork #1 overlooked album that deserves to be heard 2023 jeremy larson
hhvmag die 50 besten alben des jahres 2022
concrete islands 2022 albums of the year #1
riot material best jazz record of 2022

It’s been a great 12 months or so for fans of guitarist Jeff Parker. His masterful solo LP Forfolks landed late last year; he contributed to the amazing Psychic Temple Plays Planet Caravan; he added his distinctive sound to Makaya McCraven’s awesome In These Times and Daniel Villareal’s equally awesome Panamá 77; he produced and played on Anteloper’s radical Pink Dolphins; he teamed up with bassist Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits for the adventurous East Side Romp trio session on the Rogue Art label. Parker has had quite a year, to say the least — but he may have saved the best for last.
Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy, released by Eremite Records last month, offers up four side-long pieces recorded live in Los Angeles over the past few years. Here, we get to eavesdrop on Parker, bassist Anna Buttterss, drummer Jay Bellerose and saxophonist Josh Johnson in full freedom flight. It’s an uncommonly intimate live recording — the players seem to be extremely at ease in this small club setting.The quartet isn’t really going for cosmic moments of ecstatic communion (though those moments do occasionally occur). Instead, they’re content to let these flowing, spontaneous compositions blossom at their own pace, unwinding and then somehow re-spooling, again and again into infinity.
There’s a meditative and unhurried vibe a la Natural Information Society here. But there’s also a sense of quiet playfulness, as Parker leads the group into sections that sometimes feel like they might repeat endlessly, before they fragment into new and beautiful grooves, untold melodies, strange landscapes. This double LP gives listeners an entire universe to explore — one that seems to grow vaster and more dazzling the more you spin it.

Tyler Wilcox,

Jeff Parker’s latest is a double album recorded live at the Los Angeles venue referenced in the title in the spring and summer of 2019 and the spring of 2021. In the context of the guitarist’s body of work, this quartet, with Jay Bellerose on percussion, Anna Butterss on bass, and Josh Johnson on sax, extends his minimalist approach. Both Johnson and Parker make extensive use of pedals that expand the sound, taking the place often filled by keyboards. The continuity of mood and tone in this trance-inducing set is remarkable, with, for example, nothing to distinguish the pre- and mid-pandemic dates.
The side-long tracks, averaging over 20 minutes each, are named only for the dates on which they were recorded and thus lack any point of reference beyond the music itself, which occupies a space somewhere between jazz and ambient similar to that explored by Parker with and alongside groups such as the Natural Information Society and tracing back to his time with Tortoise. The sound has a live feel but no audience noise. Apparently entirely improvisational, the music is nevertheless purposeful,evolving without reliance on crescendos or quick shifts in tempo or instrumentation.
A colleague at Dusted described this recording as “a groover not a smoover,” which gets to the heart of the matter: all four players remain committed to the collective project rather than relying on one another to support their soloing. To be sure, there are some fine solos, such as the elliptical guitar figure beginning around 2:45 on “2019-07-08 II,” the sax at around 11:00 on “2019-07-08 I,”and the back-to-back guitar and sax workouts in the first half of “2019-05-19” that develop organically with the support of the rhythm section. These and other moments, including the stately opening of “2019-05-19” after what sounds like glitchy organ and the emergence of a guitar (?) line that sounds like a Bitchin’ Bajas synth in synch with the drums around 13:00 on “2019-07-08 II” help shape the listening experience into a kind of journey.
Simultaneously soothing, playful, and thought-provoking, Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy is an outstanding recording with the potential to appeal even to those for whom Parker’s work with Tortoise or in other settings hasn’t resonated. The liner notes rightly compare the set to such landmark live recordings as Lee Morgan’s Live at the Lighthouse in which a band, rather than running through well-known pieces, uses the setting to make a fresh statement.

Jim Marks,


Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy is Jeff Parker's second album to appear in two months. The first, Eastside Romp, was a studio-recorded 2016 trio outing from 2016 on Rogue Art. This set was captured live, during the guitarist's residency at a Los Angeles bar whose name is a reference in David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest. Parker's quartet includes bassist Anna Butterss, drummer Jay Bellerose, and saxophonist Josh Johnson. Parker is almost ubiquitous; he has amassed hundreds of credits playing with everyone from Tortoise to Makaya McCravenin addition to his own albums.
This Eremite date includes four long, melodic, groove-based improvisations, titled for the dates they were recorded, between July 2019 and April 2021. They are drawn from more than ten hours of tape and reflect a seamless character in this band's creative process. Constantly evolving, albeit minimally, this is music with no beginning and no end. It could have been sequenced in any way.
The first two sides were captured on July 8, 2019; they total more than 45 minutes. Slow fingerpicking and a delay-pedaled, droning alto introduce it. Butterss and Bellerose enter with restraint working the two-note vamp. Johnson's delay pedals double his horn's sound as Bellerose adorns it with muted tom-toms, kick drum, and crash cymbal. The drone eventually opens up and the band starts to breathe, undulating and falling back individually and together. A bit over six minutes in, the vamp shifts. Parker begins soloing as the rhythm sections locks in. Rather than ratchet the dynamic, they remain loose, circular, and engaging without increasing the force. The second track begins with the rhythm section before Johnson adds a breezy melody and Parker underscores it with circular arpeggios. The groove pattern emerges as each player explores its nuances in varying tempos. Thirteen minutes in, the rhythm section gets deep and dubwise as Johnson begins circular breathing, using pedals to distort the saxophone's sound. Parker breaks it up with a measured solo with pedals coloring his lines. This third track was recorded in May 2019. Its sense of drift is initiated by a slow, hypnotic beat from Bellerose. Butterss' droning pattern outlines Johnson's minimal theme. These elements frame Parker's winding, intricate solo before sax and drums recenter it, transforming its flow; it distantly recalls the early music of Jon Hassell. The final section/side recorded in April 2021 is funkier, more fragmental, stranger. Scalar sax patterns meet a slowly cascading downbeat, a punchy, minimal bassline, and Parker's fingerpicked vamp. Johnson begins extrapolating a repetitive melody, soloing in the breaches. Parker employs an oscillating wah-wah pedal, effecting a textured ambient middle over skeletal rhythmic accompaniment. When Bellerose picks up the pace, Butterss, Parker, and Johnson join him, establishing a spacy, ethereal funk. Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy stands apart in Parker's catalog, it fits his oeuvre aesthetically, but sounds like none of it. This is deeply intuitive, subtly detailed, endlessly grooving, holistic jazz-trance music that was improvised at at an extremely high level.

Thom Jurek,

The functional sleeve, and the year/month/date titles all give the impression, this album is of music as simply presented as possible. The physical object is just a statement of fact, and a means of delivery…
However, despite this rather utilitarian wrapper, Jeff Parker’s first double and live album Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy, is conversely, richly detailed and spectacular.
Culled from 10 hours of live material, and boiled down to 4 side long recordings centred around drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, alto saxophonist Josh Johnson, with Jeff Parker on guitar.
Clearly the overall structure grows out of jazz but the sense of rhythm quickly positions the whole project like an exhilarating form of extended and spacious post rock.
"2019-07-08 I" slowly weave around the gently mutating drum beat as fragments gather then peel off like some huge looping pattern. Monday 8th of July 2019, was clearly a night the whole quartet were on fire as "II" whips into more agitated versions of itself. This time everything is more detailed and elaborate, teasing towards some sort of saturation point, slowly embalming in echoes and loops of itself. Then, some 13 minutes in things become even more spine tingling, as the drum and layers of electronics lock into a completely addictive mutated funk.
The various strings of ideas and episodic nature of this opening 45 minutes is impossible not to repeat and retrace endlessly.
Side 3 covers "2019-05-19", with its bleary-eyed shuffling rhythm and woozy off-centre dynamics. "2021-04-28" tumbles around in slowly intensifying fragmented grooves for another exhilarating 20 minutes.
Overall, Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy ends up describing a space that’s somewhere between different zones. Informed by compositions and process, like a form of minimalism, but pushed into details and grids that align into a form of head nodding bliss. File under jazz, but that’s only ever part of the story.
Taken as a live document, it’s clear the players are delighting in how much ground they can cover within such a narrow palette. The patterning that underpins these improvisations keep driving forward but whilst an 85-minute stretch might seem initially daunting, it’s a beautiful and effortless listen.

Jeff Parker synthesizes jazz and hip-hop with an appealingly light touch. The longtime Tortoise guitarist has a silken, clean-cut tone, yet his production takes more cues from DJ Premier than it does from a classic mid-century jazz sound. In the early ’00s, when Madlib ushered a boom-bap sensibility into the hallowed halls of the jazz label Blue Note, Parker conducted his own experiments in genre-mashing in the Chicago group Isotope 217, dragging jaunty hip-hop rhythms into the far reaches of computerized abstraction. More recently, Parker enlivened quantized beats and chopped-up samples with live instrumentation, both as leader of the New Breed and sideman to Makaya McCraven. Inverting rap’s longtime reverence for jazz, Parker has gradually codified a new language for the so-called “American art form” with a vocabulary gleaned from the United States’ next great contribution to the musical universe.
Parker’s latest, the live double LP Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy, was largely recorded in 2019, while his star as a solo artist was steeply ascending. Capturing a few intimate evenings with drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, and New Breed saxophonist Josh Johnson at ETA, a cozy Los Angeles cocktail bar, the record anticipates his 2020 opus with the New Breed, Suite for Max Brown.Yet Mondays amounts to something novel in 2022: It lays out long-form spiritual jazz, knotty melodies, and effortless solos over a slow-moving foundation as consistent as an 808. The results are as mesmerizing as a luxurious, beatific ambient record —yet at the same time, it’s clear that all of this is happening within the inherently messy confines of an improvisatory concert.
Across four side-long tracks, each spanning about 20 minutes, Parker and Johnson trade ostinatos, mesh together, split again into polyrhythmic call-and-response. Butterss commands the pocket with a photonegative of their lead lines, often freed from rhythmic responsibilities by the drums’ relentlessness. Bellerose exhibits a Neu!-like sense of consistency, just screwed down a whole bunch of BPMs. His kit sounds as dusty as an old sample, and his hypnotic rhythms evoke humanizers ofthe drum machine such as J Dilla or RZA. You could spend the album’s 84-minute runtime listening only to the beats; every shift in pattern queues a new movement in the compositions, beaming a time frame from the bottom up. Bellerose’s sensitive, reactive playing, though, is unmistakably live. We can practically see the sweat beading on his arm when he holds steady on a ride cymbal for minutes on end, or plays a shaker for a whole LP side.
He begins the understated opener “2019-07-08 I” with feather-soft brush swirls, but on the second cut, he sets Mondays’ stride, as a simple bell pattern builds into a leisurely rhythmic stroll. Thirteen minutes in, the mood breaks. Bellerose hits some heavy quarter notes on his hi-hat; Butterss leans into a fat bassline; saxophone arpeggios, probably looped, float in front of us like smoke rings lingering in the air. It’s a glorious moment, punctuated by clinking glasses and a distant “whoo!” so perfectly placed we become aware of not only the setting, but also the supple knob-turns of engineer Bryce Gonzales in post-production. Anyone who’s heard great improvisation at a bar in the company of both jazzheads and puzzled onlookers knows this dynamic —for some, the music was incidental. Others experienced a revelation.
Lodged in this familiar situation is the question of what such “ambient jazz” means to accomplish —whether it wants to occupy the center of our consciousnesses, or resign itself to the background. The record’s perpetual soloing offers an answer. Never screechy, grating, or aggressive, each performance is nonetheless highly individual. Even when the quartet settles into an extended groove, a spotlight shines on Johnson, Butterss, and Parker in turn, steadily illuminating a perpetual sense of invention. Their interplay feels almost traditional, suggesting bandstand trade-offs of yore, yet the open-ended structure of their jams keeps it unconventional.
Mondays works in layers: Its metronomic rhythms pacify, but the performers and their idiosyncratic expressions offer ample material to those interested in hearing young luminaries and seasoned vets swap ideas within a group. In 2020, Johnson dropped his first record under his own name, the excellent, daringly melodic Freedom Exercise, while Butterss’ recent debut as bandleader, Activities, is one of the most exciting, undersung jazz releases of 2022. Akin to Parker’s early experiments with Tortoise and Chicago Underground, Johnson and Butterss’ recordings both revel in electronic textures, and each features the other as a collaborator. Mondays captures them as their mature playing styles gain sea legs atop the rudder of Parker’s guitar.
The only track recorded after the pandemic began, closer “2021-04-28” sculpts the record’s loping structure, giving retrospective shape to the preceding hour of ambience. In the middle of the song, Parker’s guitar slows to a yawn; the drums pipe down. After a couple minutes of drone, Bellerose slips back into the mix alongside a precisely phrased guitar line strummed on the upper frets, punctuated by saxophone accents that exclaim with the force of an eager hype man. Beginning with a murmur, the album ends with a bracing statement, a passage so articulated that it actually feels spoken.
Mondays drifts with unhurried purpose through genres and ideas, imprinted with the passage of time.The deliberate, thumping clock of its drumbeat keeps duration in mind, and, as with so many live albums, we’re reminded of how circumstances have changed since the sessions were recorded. Truly, life is different than it was in 2019 —and not just in terms of world politics, climate change, the threat of disease, or the reality that making a living in music is harder than ever. Seemingly catalyzed by COVID-19’s deadly, isolating scourge, jazz has transformed, hybridized, and weakened tired arguments for musical stratification and fundamentalism. Even calling Mondays a “live” album is a simplification, considering how Parker and other top jazz brains have increasingly availed themselves of the studio —including, in a sparing yet dramatic way, on Mondays.
Near the end of the first track, the tape slows abruptly. The plane of the song opens to another dimension: This set, Parker seems to be saying, can be manipulated with the ease of a vinyl platter beneath a DJ’s fingers. Parker’s latest may be his first live album, but it’s also the product of a mad scientist, cackling over a mixing board. Time is dilated, curated, edited, and intercut, and the very live-ness of a concert recording turns fascinatingly, fruitfully convoluted —even when the artists responsible are four players participating in the age-old custom of jamming together in a room.

Daniel Felsenthal, Pitchfork, 8.4 "Best New Music"

Turn to Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy and you’re in another world. Recorded live (it’s apparently Parker’s first live record) between 2019 and 2021 at a bar in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood that’s named for the principal setting of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (and Parker’s ETA 4tet named, in turn, for the room). As producer Michael Ehlers points out in a press sheet, It is “largely a free improv group —just not in the genre meaning of the term.” Mondays… will include all the things that free improvisation leaves out, modes, melodies, key centres and regular (though often multiple) rhythms; in effect, the musicians are free to include the conventionally excluded.
It’s a kind of perfect opposite of Eastside Romp --clear tunes rarely define a piece, there’s no solo order, actually few solos, no formal beginnings or endings-- instead substituting the extended jam for the tight knit composition. It’s a two-LP set, each side an excerpt from a long collective improvisation, a kind of electronic jazz version of hypnotic minimalism with Parker and saxophonist Josh Johnson both employing loops to build up interlocking rhythmic patterns and a kind of floating, layered timelessness, while bassist Anna Butterss and drummer/ percussionist Jay Bellerose lay down pliable fundamentals.
Often and delightfully, it answers this listener’s specific auditory needs, a bright shifting soundscape that can begin in mid-phrase and eventually fade away, not beginning, not ending, like Heaven’s Muzak or the abstract decorative art of the Alhambra. It can sound at times like, fifty years on, Grant Green has added his clear lines to the kind of work that over 50 years ago filtered from Terry Riley to musicians from jazz, rock and minimalism. Though the tunes are described as excerpts, we often have what seem to be beginnings, the faint sound of background conversation and noise ceding to the music in the first few seconds, but the “beginnings” sound tentative, like proposals or suggestions. The most explicit tune here is the slow, loping line passed back and forth between Parker and Johnson that initiates Side C, 2019-05-19, the earliest recording here.
The music is a constant that doesn’t mind omitting its beginnings and ends, but it’s also, in the same way, an organism, a kind of music that many of us are always inside and that is always inside us. All kinds of music stimulate us in all kinds of ways, but for this listener, Jeff Parker’s ETA Quartet happily raises a fundamental question: what is comfort music, what are its components, and could there be a universal comfort music? Or is comfort music a universal element in what we may listen for in sound? Modality, rhythmic and melodic figures/motifs, drone, compound relationships and, too, a shifting mosaic that cannot be encapsulated? The thing is, any music we seek out is, in our seeking, a comfort, whether it’s a need for structures so complex that we might lose ourselves in mapping them, or music so random, we are freed of all specificity, but something that may have healing properties.
This is not just bar music, but music for a bar named for art that further echoes in the band’s abbreviated name. Socialization is enshrined here. There’s another crucial fiction, too, maybe closer, The Scope, the bar in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 with its “strictly electronic music policy”. Consider, too, the social roots reverberating in the distant musical ancestry, that Riley session with John Cale, Church of Anthrax, among many … or the healing music of the Gnawa … or the Master Musicians of Jajouka with Ornette Coleman on Dancing in Your Head. And that which is most “natural” to us in the early decades of the 21st century? … Jamming, looping, drones… So perhaps an ideal musical state might be a regular Monday night session with guitar, saxophone, loops, bass and drums … the guitarist and saxophonist using loops, expanding the palette and multiplying the reach of time, repeating oneself with the possibility of mutation or constancy. In some long ago, perfect insight into a burgeoning age of filming and recording, Jay Gatsby remarked, “Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!”
We might even repeat the present or the future.
2-LP set available from Eremite Records; CD edition & EU x2LP edition available thru Aguirre records, Belgium.

Stuart Broomer,

Jeff Parker’s recent ensemble recordings,The New Breed and Suite For Max Brown, are family affairs. Each is named after one of his parents, both feature singing by his daughter Ruby. Their jazz informed tunes and sample based rhythms apply the creative methods he’s employed with Rob Mazurek and Tortoise to material that you could play for multiple generations at a backyard barbecue.
But Parker’s also a practicing jazz musician. In recent years, he’s kept up his chops by holding down a Monday night gig at ETA, a cocktail joint in a northeastern suburb of Los Angeles. Most of the musicians on Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy (the title links the bar with a fictional location from David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest) have appeared on the aforementioned LPs, and its music is rooted in the same cultural and stylistic loam.
But the feel and methodology are quite different. For if the studio records are compiled from years of beatmaking and studio polish, this live counterpart is all about striking up a groove and riding it for as long as possible. Instead of digestible tunes, it comprises four side-long jams drawn from three nights in 2019 and 2021, all unified by a spacy, cranium bobbing vibe. You don’t sustain that kind of feel simply by laying down a groove; you have to simultaneously keep it going and vary it, so that head nodding conveys appreciative engagement, not induced somnolence. Each musician adopts a groove-plus approach, adding tunes, subtracting beats, and spinning tension building, counterintuitive phrases off the common path, but never tripping it up.
There’s a hint of dub in Anna Butterss’s mutations and subtractions, and bottomless depth in Jay Bellerose’s unhurried syncopations. Parker’s guitar and Josh Johnson’s alto saxophone fearlessly court wooziness by slipping wobble-pitched samples in and out of the mix; there’s a passage during “2021-04-28” where they sound like they’re channeling the synth voices of late 1980s Robert Wyatt. But Parker also looses some fine, exploratory solos, confident that whatever he does, the bottom’s not going to drop out. Don’t wait up, kid, dad and his crew are coming home late tonight.

Bill Meyer, The Wire

Depending on one’s musical preferences, the name Jeff Parker is likely to elicit a disparate set of associations. Post-rock and indie fans will recognise him as the guitarist for Chicago group Tortoise, with whom he has been playing since their seminal 1998 release TNT. Free jazz and free improv heads will first think of his long-standing series of works with Rob Mazurek, Nate McBride, Akira Sakata, and other luminaries of the creative music scene. Meanwhile, his recent outings as leader of the New Breed ensemble and as a sideman to Makaya McCraven immersed him in the new Chicago sound – jazz inflected with samples and hip-hop tropes, spearheaded by the International Anthem label. Regardless of form, the voice of Parker’s guitar is unmistakable, full of melodic figures swirling in wobbly, hypnotic patterns.
Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy simultaneously fits none and all of these categories. The album features a selection of material that Parker and his quartet performed across several evenings and years at the ETA club in Los Angeles. Despite the improvised nature of the music, Mondays lands closest to the hip-hop, funk, and soul tendencies of 2016’s The New Breed or 2020’s Suite For Max Brown. At least in part, that’s thanks to his collaborators. Josh Johnson (alto saxophone, effects) and Jay Bellerose (drums) have both played with the New Breed in the past, while Anna Butterss (bass) shared the stage with Parker as part of McCraven’s group. In contrast to the usual free improvisation idiom and its tendency to meander between abstract figures and skronking freak-outs, the four pieces here --each of them around twenty minutes long –- are locked into steady, slowly shifting rhythms that give the music a funky, cosy feeling.
‘2019-07-08 I’ opens with the soft noise of glasses clinking and patrons chatting that feels designedly placed instead of coincidental, setting the mood for what’s to come. As the ambience wanes, the quartet start building the first of their many grooves. The opening few minutes are subtle and patient. We hear Bellerose gently brushing syncopations on his snares, Butterss plucking oblong bass lines, while Johnson and Parker establish a dialogue through gossamer guitar and saxophone licks. Soon enough, what was once a shy beat becomes motorik and begins its determined roll. Thick bass reverberations and drum fills flicker, fade, and reappear, leaving ample space for several exquisite solo spots from all four players. These extend into delicate melodies and feathery abstractions on ‘2019-07-08 II’, before ending up surrounded by tambourine-underlined funk. And in the midst of it all, Parker hits a ripping lead evocative ofJohn Scofield’s style.
‘2019-05-19’ takes us back in time to find the group in a mellow mood. Shuffling rhythms, timid ambient textures, sustained tones, and harmonised saxophone phrases bring to life a bright American urban pastoral reminiscent of the works of Ernest Hood and inspire Parker to launch into a crunchy solo, his guitar roaring in the vein of John McLaughlin with The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Here, like elsewhere, solo showcases and collective grooves intertwine and flow naturally into each other. Without any distracting seams between the sections, the music becomes a gripping jam that never fails to keep attention.
Finally, ‘2021-04-28’ transports us to a post-pandemic world. Whether fuelled by a growing hunger to play live or having become more comfortable in a group setting, the quartet sound utterly energised as they open in medias res, rolling along a joyous dub riddim. As if getting caught in a moment of lamentation, the music dissipates into a minimalist version of itself. It becomes all subtle pulses, echoing saxophone yelps, and yearning bass bows, only to then ramp back up to that initial swinging plateau, complete with scraping guitar expressions. A lovely ending to a lovely, warm album.

Antonio Poscic, 

The whole thing starts with Jeff Parker combing an elliptical three-note pattern out of his electric guitar strings until the adjacent blah-blahs eventually blink out, which happens quickly because it’s a Monday night and the looky-loos are all home watching Netflix. But inside this room, Parker’s audience is clearly made up of the nightlife’s most committed citizens, and once their conversations go quiet, assorted glasses and bottles continue to plink from behind the bar, sending some kind of Morse-coded announcement about verisimilitude:The jazz you are about to hear really happened somewhere.
So begins Parker’s fantastic new live double-album, Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy its title referring to the Los Angeles cocktail bar in Highland Park where it was recorded on certain Monday nights in 2019 and 2021. As for the bar’s name, it’s a nod to the setting of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” but don’t get too distracted by that. The most important word in the album title is “Monday.” In addition to explaining the crowd’s attentive cool, it also signals this music’s sense of composure, renewal, foresight and getting-back-to-workness.
And although these fluid, flexible, groove-minded improvisations almost never feel labored, Parker is at work here. As a longtime member of the Chicago post-rock band Tortoise, the 55-year-old guitarist has long known how to create indelible melodies as if stumbling across them, posting a song’s defining features as the result of concentration without strain. With this band — drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, saxophonist Josh Johnson, altogether dubbed the ETA IVtet— Parker’s playing feels as clarifying as ever, drawing bright, clean lines over thoughtfully propulsive rhythms. His “work” isn’t about sweat, struggle or urgency so much as calm-keeping, problem-solving and measured collective progress. Which working style sounds more heroic to you these days?
There is plenty of play in this music, too, though, and it comes somersaulting to the fore whenever Parker or Johnson initiate their copycat games, sending melody lines back and forth until the repetition starts to blot out the clock. In an interview at San Francisco’s Amoeba Records this year, Parker explained his affection for Elements, a jazz fusion group from the ’80s who “get into this kind of repetitive space … that I kind of can’t get enough of.” Not being able to get enough of something that never runs out? Sounds like a pretty good deal. Of course, it’s available to us in Parker’s work, too. Repetition doesn’t have to be a redundancy that wears us down. It can be endlessness that enlivens us.
Which takes us back to Highland Park, where this music originally unfolded in a precise parcel of space across a few finite swatches of time.What’s funny is how neither space nor time are truly fixed. This bar might have a street address, but it’s still stuck on a planet being perpetually flung around an expanding universe. As for those Monday nights, they became endlessly replayable with the creation of these recordings, housing repetitions inside repetitions. In other words, the incomprehensibility of space-time can feel small and Monday night can last forever. Plink-plink-plink. The jazz you just heard really happened somewhere, and it’s happening still.

Chris Richards, The Washington Post

During his days in Chicago, Parker was involved with several long-running residencies, none more enduring and enjoyable than a weekly improv set he did with bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Nori Tanaka at a Wicker Park restaurant/bar called Rodan, where the trio created extended and expansive groove-oriented improvisations. There’s a more subdued but complementary feel to the recurring sessions he’s led at ETA, a low-key LA bar, with bassist Anna Butterss, drummer Jay Bellerose, and saxophonist Josh Johnson, a key member of the New Breed.

Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy collects four long pieces – each over 20 minutes – cut during the spring and summer of 2019. Spare composed themes surface here and there, particularly some Terry Riley-esque interplay between Parker and Johnson, and the quartet had nailed down the format by the time these recordings were made. Butterss and Bellerose form a fantastic rhythm section, unspooling endless ostinatos perpetually ruptured by accents and displacements. They almost feel like a looped rhythm track on a hip-hop record, but they constantly add spontaneous choices. In particular, Bellerose masterfully plays head-nodding grooves that are sometimes and suddenly ruptured by a break that seems to signal a rhythmic shift, only to lock back into the old feel. In some ways they remind me of what the bassist and producer Petter Eldh does with his bass and an MPC, but this is a two-way dialogue that feels like it lasts forever.

This is definitely jammy stuff designed for spaced-out contemplation. The group takes its time, settling into these deeply natural patterns, building momentum and quietly referencing a world of music within this reserved setting. Parker and Johnson alternate between weaving elaborate improvisations and providing harmonic and coloristic beds, using an array of effects pedals to stretch, smear, and spread their sound. It’s like witnessing live sound sculpting. Though its impetus may be in post-bop tradition, the methodology is absolutely contemporary and informed by sampling and digital production. But it’s all handmade. The music revels in its sense of space, luxuriating in its measured pace to build something that eschews the sort of bite-sized, ultra-edited ethos that has impeded jazz in the TikTok era. Parker and company have created a place where I could easily imagine spending every Monday evening.

Peter Margasak, We Jazz Revelation Magazine