Richard X Bennett/Matt Parker Quartet
Friends and collaborators Richard X Bennett and Matt Parker heighten
their creative relationship with the 2023 release of their jazz-roots album Parker Plays X on BYNK Records. The record finds pianist-composer Bennett and saxophonist Parker co-leading a session for the first time as they along with bassist Adam Armstrong and drummer Julian Edmond explore a dozen Bennett compositions that range from modern groove to avant-garde freakouts to classic jump blues, among other styles.
"It's a unique experience to take on someone else's sensibility so intensely. I tried internalizing Richard's melodies and took it from there." — Matt Parker
Both musicians embrace this kind of wide variety, though Bennett is inclined toward music with a groove while Parker prefers free jazz’s boundless experimentation. It was at that confluence of form and freedom that the two came together. “A lot of free players can play wild without actually playing the song,” the pianist recalls of their first meeting. “It was obvious in sixty seconds that Matt had it.”
It’s not just the saxophonist who takes on someone else’s sensibility. The most atonal and challenging pieces on Parker Plays X are not spontaneous free improvisations but premeditated compositions, with Bennett harnessing some of Parker’s “wild” side to his own ends. The explosive Countertransference is actually a three-part suite; the frenetic No Cigarettes No Coffee No Weed No Sleep is inspired by Parker’s impassioned speech during a late-night phone call to Bennett.
Indisputably, however, Parker also adapts himself to Bennett’s more groove-centered aesthetic. His sonic torrents add momentum to the already rollicking gospel-inspired Belly First; his boozy, coarse tenor line gives Semi Vintage a dose of appropriately retro swagger; and his melodic soprano improvisation drives home the high-octane 3/4 of Bus 61.
The remarkable contributions of Armstrong and Edmond are not to be dismissed. The rhythm players bring crucial shape and dimension to tunes like Style V Substance and the cathartic ballad Two Years Later. Even so, it’s the piano-and-tenor duet closer, Sagebrush that makes manifest the two-man chemistry at the heart of Parker Plays X.
"Fun, quick and catchy melodies" Jazz Weekly
"rambunctious, rude and downright catchy all at once... the music reflects the compression of wild, youthful energy within a small New York apartment.
... they find the sweet spot between jazz and R&B instrumentals. Most acts who aim for that fusion settle for a dumbed-down version of each ingredient, but Bennett and Parker avoid that by aiming for an ambitious form of each. They create ear-grabbing themes but never settle for simple repetition. Instead their variations keep evolving and generating new surprises." Paste Magazine
"While Bennett and Parker push the boundaries and are often unpredictable, there are enough motifs underlying the music to make it accessible. The passion and the pace of the album are wonderful. Although at times it threatens to careen out of control, it never gets there, remaining on the edge, which proves to be their comfort zone." makingascene.org
"a dynamic production of music that seems to know no creative bounds." theJazzPage.com
"Once again Richard X Bennett has written material which challenges and provokes, but isn't without wit and humour. He's a story-teller." Elsewhere.com New Zealand