And so begins Parker’s fantastic new live double album, “Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy”, its title referring to the bar in Highland Park in Cocktail Los Angeles, where on certain Monday nights in 2019 and 2021, it was mentioned that the name of the bar is a nod the setting of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Hunger”, but not too distracting. The most important word in the list is “Moon”. In addition to explaining the coolness of the crowd, it also represents this music’s sense of composition, renewal, foresight and getting-to-work.
And although these fluid, flexible, striated improvisations almost never work, Parker it is it works here. As a longtime member of the Chicago post-rock band The Turtles, the 55-year-old guitarist has long been known for how to create indelible melodies like laying across a block, placing the defining characteristics of a song intentionally without strain. With this hand — drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, saxophonist Josh Johnson, ETA IVtet named after all — Parker’s playing feels like he always has clear, clear, clean lines in mind to lead the rhythms. His “work” isn’t about sweat, tension or pressure so much as calm keeping, problem solving and measured collective progress. Which work of speech sounds more heroic to you these days?
There’s plenty of games in this music, too, though, and it comes to the fore whenever Parker or Johnson copy their games, sending the melody back and forth until the repetition starts to kill the clock. In an interview at Amoeba Records in San Francisco this year, Parker explained his affection for The Elements, a fusion group from the ’80s who “go into this kind of repetitive space … that kind of can’t get enough.” Can’t something be enough that is never consumed? It sounds like a lot. Of course, Parker’s work is also available to us. Repetition has nothing to do with redundancy. Immensity can be what gives us life.
Which brings us back to Highland Park, where this initially defined music unfolds in a space bounded by a few bounds of time. It is more important than time or time. This bar might have a street address, but it’s still on a planet that’s constantly being thrown around the universe. As for those Monday nights, they became endlessly entertaining with the creation of these charts, repeated inside the house rehearsals. That is, the incomprehensibility of space-time can feel minimal and the Monday night can last forever. Plink-plink-plink. You just heard that jazz really happened somewhere, and it still happens.