Gil Parris "Jam This"
CD review by Roger-Z
The marriage between jazz and funk has traditionally foundered on the shoals of incompatibility. Now, Gil Parris has built a relationship based on solid rock. Jam This consists of Gil Parris (guitar), Peter Levin (vocals, Hammond B3), Kip Sophos (bass), and Brian Delaney (drums). You can pick up the CD on Gil's web site at http://www.gilparris.com for $14 + $3 shipping and handling, or at your local music store.
Featuring Gil's road band, this record comes closest to capturing his live sound. Bassist Kip Sophos's fingerprints dot the record. He and drummer Brian Delaney create a pocket as wide as the Grand Canyon. Peter Levin's soulful Hammond B3 bridges the gap. That said, the record remains focused on Gil's compositions and guitar playing. "Yes" guitarist Steve Howe recently heard Gil play for the first time at a guitar convention and became a fan on the spot.
Getting the "perfect" sound always dogs guitarists. Rhythm-wise, funk players use an instrument set up with heavy strings and a super clean sound -- Steve Cropper and his legendary telecaster (Stax Volt). But lead guitarists favor a different setup. While Steve Cropper played clean, rhythm guitar on Albert King's albums, Albert wailed away with a very fat, distorted sound, sometimes bending notes as much as two whole tones. On the other hand, jazz guitarists favor a mellow, bassy, acoustic sound with little sustain or note bending.
So how do you marry these disparate concepts? Gil leans toward the Steve Cropper/Albert King solution. Gil will lay down a clean, funky, rhythm track (sometimes with wah-wah pedal or tremelo) and then dirty up the lead sound. "Duck Walk" features a beautiful tremelo rhythm guitar and a bass doubling the intro melody. "Gotta Light," written by keyboardist Levin, glories in pure wah-wah funk. "Back to New Orleans", written by Levin and Parris and sung by Levin, celebrates Dr. John and other crescent city musicians with whome Parris worked in the 1980s. "Sex Machine (Brown meets Beck)" marries the rhythm of James Brown with the liquid guitar tone of Jeff Beck. Jeff loves to hit one note at maximum volume and sustain, and then toy with it. Gil uses less sustain and more dissonant notes, but still kicks ass.
"Sugarman" and "Captain Herby" show off the jazz side of Gil. The first tune honors Stanley Turrentine and features guest saxophonist David Mann. The second tune, a tribute to Herbie Hancock, showcases classic Fender Rhodes piano. On these cuts, Gil favors a more traditional, clean, jazz-guitar tone.
The last tune, "Ain't No Sunshine," stands by itself. This bonus track, taken from Gil's unrelased blues CD titled "Live At The Next Door," features different personnel and a decidedly more rock feel. Gil cranks his guitar full throttle and makes it sing just like an overloaded Strat should.
Overall, Gil's best album yet and the closest to seeing him live.