Parsons, Lewin, Patitucci & Monder
Combining melodic writing with deep groove and thoughtful improvision, Flip! is small group jazz at its most engaging. Co-leaders Andy Parsons and Gene Lewin are joined by collaborators John Patitucci (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea) and textural guitar master Ben Monder (Maria Schneider, Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Marc Johnson), both recognized as being among the finest instrumentalists of their generation.
01 Flip (7:18)
02 Alone in the Loveseat (7:00)
03 Tookish (7:00)
04 Lot of Our Souls (7:18)
05 Miss Conception (5:33)
06 Year Out (7:20)
07 East of the Sun (6:13)
08 Which Thousand Words (7:51)
09 Load Cycle (5:12)
10 Sintigo (8:36)
11 Room With A Friend In It (bonus) (6:00)
The history of jazz is full of partnerships. Those that are successful have in common the ability to make music that is greater than the sum of its parts. We hold ourselves up to that standard. We share a harmonic and rhythmic vision that the music must be challenging but not inaccessible; creative but rooted; embracing of diversity but focused; melodic but the groove always in evidence. With this in mind, we have been collaborating as bandleaders and sidemen for years, and it is the creative, improvisational spirit captured on this recording that has kept our partnership fresh and thriving after so much time. It is present on our first two recordings, Fundementia (SSPCD201) and A Whole Nother Story (SSPCD007). Flip! is our third release as co-leaders and it features a group and material that afford us an elastic musical cushion and ample opportunity to at times initiate, and at times react to, melodic and rhythmic impulses.
Much in this music was conceived with John and Ben in mind. No one will argue that John Patitucci is a legend. His sound and approach to the bass are unique, beautiful, and inspiring in any context, so it is no surprise that his presence in the Quartet elevates the music. He is a true collaborator, a pleasure to work with and to hear.
Ben Monder is one of a very few acknowledged young innovators on his instrument, yet he deserves far wider recognition than he has received to date. His harmonic conception and technical execution are exceeded only by his musicianship, and that is indeed a rare trait. In the Quartet, his guitar slides effortlessly between the functions of lead voice, orchestral cushion, and rhythmic anchor.
On to the music! Here are some notes on these pieces that might point you in the direction we had in mind…
"Flip" was written to commemorate a particularly ungraceful end to a particularly undistinguished mountain bike trip, during which the action of the title resulted in a very battered saxophonist. The quirky theme and development are meant to suggest an over-confident, under-experienced rider and his appropriate injuries.
"Alone in the Loveseat" is a tune we have been playing off and on for years. It is one of our favorite set-closers because it affords lots of room to relax and make things happen. The inspiration for this one is the sad story of a New York City dog who sat by herself night after night on a brand-new piece of furniture. Time passed and she plotted her revenge on her "owners." One such night, she tunneled through the furniture, destroying it. Her message was heard, measures were taken, and they lived happily ever… well, happily for a while.
"Tookish" is inspired by the Took family in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. “As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him… Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves….” The tune has a challenging harmonic structure, which John’s solo negotiates with playful grace.
The title "Lot of Our Souls" is a play on words. Enough said. It refers to no particular thing or experience, just a moment of pessimism. The track showcases Ben at his dark, sinewy finest.
"Miss Conception" is a reflective essay on childbirth. This music tries to portray feelings that seem at odds, yet are harmonious: the weighty worries of a new parent and a baby’s carefree innocence.
The light, melodic "Year Out" is constructed from a few musical fragments that aged in a dark closet under generous helpings of dust for a long time. In terms of elapsed time, this tune took years to compose. Assembling those fragments was a winter afternoon well-spent.
"East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" is the one non-original on the record, and is a tribute to Gene’s days as a member of the Princeton University Triangle Club. Triangle is single-handedly responsible for Gene’s less-than-stellar grade point average in his undergraduate years. The challenge was to take this 1938 composition, preserve its simplicity and beauty, and give it a modern feel. To that end, the melody is played fairly straight, while the bass line snakes around it. We also opted for an odd meter and a more open-sounding two-chord vamp for the solo section.
"Which Thousand Words" plays on the familiar phrase "A picture is worth…." It is an ode to the daunting world of possibility in a blank sheet of paper. It blends traditional jazz chords and some unusual key changes that keep us on our toes.
"Load Cycle" owes its name to John Irving’s amazing and hilarious novel A Son of the Circus. It is a perversely humorous act in an Indian circus that involves piling several women onto a unicycle. The soprano saxophone helps give it the character of an all-too-serious clown.
We close Flip! with the one tango piece in the Quartet’s repertoire. Each time we perform it, "Sintigo" takes on a different character. In the studio that day we played a single shadowy, brooding version, and we liked it.
Thanks for listening.
"…deserves some attention… Parsons is a convincing saxman and Monder is beginning to be noticed as one of the best younger guitarists from the Hall-Frisell lineage. Both get off well-turned solos, and their unison sound on quirky lines like the title track is delicious, but what keeps the listener coming back is the way all four musicians listen and react to each other. "
— Coda, January/February 2004
[three stars] "Parsons' tunes provide ample room for meaningful dialog and interaction among the players, who make accessible music out of challenging lines and changes."
— DownBeat, January 2004
"Flip! holds an uncanny resemblance to another project of near identical instrumentation — the recent ScoLoHoFo date on Blue Note…. …The title track unfolds as an up tempo cooker that revolves on a circular thematic riff. …technically accomplished solos from Parsons, Monder, and Lewin. The Tolkien-inspired "Tookish" injects some welcome harmonic complexity through a modal architecture and Monder's shimmering fretwork… Patitucci spends the first half sculpting agile counterpoint to Parsons' winding tenor lines before stretching out for a knuckle-flexing solo flanked by Monder's flanging accents and Lewin's pattering brushes. As it stands, it's an exemplary representation of four first-string jazzmen having a friendly and self-congratulatory time in the studio."
— Cadence, September 2003
[3 headphones] "The Parsons/Lewin project is very contemporary in concept. Lewin seems to have a jazz-rock fusion approach and the drums work well with the tenor. All the tracks are originals (all have quirky titles and odd inspiration) except "East of the Sun," which is a good place to get into what they're doing. It's been reharmonised and re-grooved and sounds very now. [Parsons] plays boldly and with confidence… Patitucci is excellent throughout. "Alone In The Loveseat," "Lot of Our Souls," "Load Cycle" (which has Parsons sologing sensitively on soprano) are possibly the pick of the originals. A grower. Worth investigating."
— Jazzwise, July 2003
"…At no point does the improvisational interplay cease, as Lewin and Patitucci lay down the swing and Parsons and Monder dance on top. Despite the constant motion, however, this is no technical blowout. Parsons keeps the melodies sweet and flowing. …Throughout all the players just revel in the pleasure of playing straight-up, no-bullshit jazz. If you need a traditional jazz fix, you'll flip over Flip!"
— High Bias , July 2003
"On Flip!, coleaders Andy Parsons (saxophones) and Gene Lewin (drums), along with John Patitucci (bass) and Ben Monder (guitar), try to map out a terrain between the fast, smooth undulations of groove and the jagged peaks and valleys of traditional bop improvisation. The middle ground they find is a laid-back groove full of spaces in which to exercise their homonically florid and emotionally cool invention."
— JazzTimes, July/August, 2003
"The writing is as much the star as the band — thoughtful, clever, but still grooving… Massive solos, incredible drums, transcendent composition."
— Drum Magazine, June/July, 2003
Grade 9/10: "This is a welcome treat. Filled with delicious little nooks and shrewd jams, Flip! is a superior work of coherent modern jazz. Any fan of the genre will appreciate its nectarous rhythms and humid tapestry of sound."
— Boston Herald, May 16, 2003
[four stars] "Parsons displays a decidedly lyrical side in this quartet outing, but also loves to wander into modal territory with twists and turns that surprise, but do not startle on this highly listenable, smooth flowing but unfailingly interesting CD… the interplay offers refreshing rewards."
— Montreal Gazette, April 24, 2003
"Saxophonist Andy Parsons, drummer Gene Lewin, bassist John Patitucci and guitarist Ben Monder groove out on Flip!."
— The Boston Globe, April 18, 2003
[three stars] "…the four enjoy a strong rapport through the album. Parsons is coming from a post-bop perspective as a soloist/composer, and the comparisons include Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, and Michael Brecker (among others). Flip! is a respectable outing that Parsons and his colleagues can be proud of."
— All Music Guide, April 2003
"…the quartet keeps both feet in jazz terra firma but aspire to make fans of non-jazz music (read: rock) take notice… In fact Parsons has that Lovano tenor sound from twenty years ago. Maybe it’s the presence of Monder, but his saxophone work flows with a grooving ease. The title track sounds almost like an organ trio, warming you to this outing… Lewin['s]… gift lies in his frenzied dynamo attack of cymbals and skins. Think Tony Williams sits in with Weather Report… A spin of this disc is quite a delight...."
— All About Jazz, April 2003
"What makes Flip! a winner is its intricate solo performances and solid approach to entertaining a jazz listening audience. This group combines the best of straight-ahead/classic jazz with world music themes, and an understandable free jazz touch that gives it a unique flavor… Every artist on this CD is topnotch, and John Patitucci is memorable with his bass performances. Flip! is enjoyable and should appeal to a wide range of the jazz listening audience. Good, solid performances highlight this memorable collection of jazz songs. Flip! is fun and enjoyable listening."
— JazzReview.com, April 2003
"Saxophonist Andy Parsons and drummer Gene Lewin have a formed a duo that, with the assistance of some high-level musical guests, has now produced three quality recordings. On Flip!, Parsons and Lewin are joined by bassist John Patitucci and guitarist Ben Monder, two leading lights of the present jazz scene… the compositions are by Parsons, and each is a gem. Parsons… is a rare figure among younger jazz players, being equally gifted as an improviser and a composer. His finely crafted, often catchy tunes bring out the best in all the participants…."
— Barnes & Noble, April 2003