Gil Parris "Blue Thumb"

CD review by Roger-Z

I would recognize Gil Parris's guitar playing anywhere. That instantly identifiable sound elevates him to the elite realm of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Wes Montgomery, and John McLaughlin. Gil blends distortion, single notes, bends, double stops, and pedal tones with a jazz sensibility. The panoramic sweep of his music must have inspired Blood, Sweat, and Tears to hire him as it's lead guitarist. I've witnessed Gil playing everything from loud blues rock to straight jazz standards.

The new album on Okra-Tone Records, "Blue Thumb," focuses on Gil's more "traditional" jazz side. It features Harvie S on bass, Terry Silverlight on drums, Phil Magallanes on keyboards, Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Bob Malach on tenor sax, David Mann on Soprano sax, and David Charles on percussion. On this CD, Gil salutes such jazz greats as Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Weather Report, and Herbie Hancock.

  1. "Blue Thumb," the title track, features Wes Montgomery-style octave and chord bits over a smooth rhumba beat. The tune surprisingly breaks into a serious McCoy Tyner/John Coltrane type exploration.
  2. "Tears Of Goodbye", a mid-tempo jazz tune, offers a great exchange of licks between Gil and tenor player Eric Alexander. Gil's solo switches back and forth between jazz and rock, bursting out with some classic open string pull-offs.
  3. "New Beginning" reminds me of Miles from the "In A Silent Way" period (check out the bass line). It features hot, distorted guitar and fine modal keyboards.
  4. "There Was A Time," a gorgeous ballad with a fascinating drum part, sounds reminsicent of Weather Report. A chorus effect on the guitar paints a shimmering, pastel-like background. Haunting soprano sax by David Mann.
  5. "An Ardent Man" also appeared on Gil's previous major label release. This looser version allows Gil to stretch out and features inspired tenor sax by Bob Malach.
  6. "Soul Father" throws a nod to 1960s jazz/r&b ("Real Compared To What"). A burning Gil really "blueses" it up. Great standup bass solo.
  7. "Curved Corner" bursts out of the gate with a blistering Eric Alexander sax solo, then suddenly morphs into a sexy r&b torch song that crosses "Town Without Pity" and "Love Won't Let Me Wait." Awesome "chicken picking" by Gil.
This record burnishes Gil Parris's already great reputation. Special kudos go to keyboardist Phil Magallanes for bringing a tasteful modal touch to the project, and to Gil for continuing his musical exploration.

2003 Roger-Z