Jonah Parzen-Johnson – Imagine Giving Up
(We Jazz Records. CD Review by Dick Hovenga*)
Jazz saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson, originally from Chicago and now based in Brooklyn, is a strikingly distinctive musician. He constantly finds new ways to improvise and is always setting himself new challenges. On his previous albums, he worked a lot with synthesisers and discovered new musical paths with them. Always completely self-reliant, he sets off alone to explore and investigate sounds, something he does both in the studio and on stage. Anyone who has seen him live will know how impressively he can make these things work.
On his new album, Imagine Giving Up, he has taken explorations of using just the baritone sax further. All six compositions use fascinating electronic sounds based entirely on samples from his own saxophone playing. This has enabled him to produce a complete band sound from just his baritone sax.
His lovely melodic lines and improvisations are in constant contact with a particularly atmospheric intensity, both stimulating the senses and intriguing the mind. And the way he dispatches the melancholic sound of his baritone sax over the electronics is quite beautiful. He unfurls the electronic sounds as if they are a warm blanket, and then sends out sax phrases that can be jagged or at cross-purposes, and are always surprising and unpredictable.
He is a musician who conveys an unmistakable and unmatched sense of pleasure in his playing. It is as if his starting point is to think about where one is in the world, how to deal with that single-handedly, and from there to use positive energy to enrich the lives of others. And, in doing so, he has made a truly fascinating album.
*This is Sebastian’s English version of Dick Hovenga’s review, originally published in Dutch at Written in MusicYouTube album teaserBandcamp – Imagine Giving Up is available on vinyl, CD and as a Download