Shaping the Invisible
Releasing worldwide on September 29th, 2023, Shaping The Invisible, the sophomore bandleader album from Toronto-based pianist Teri Parker, is the culmination of years of playing, composing, and artistic growth, a fusion between heritage and innovation that places Parker squarely in the lineage of ground-breaking musicians such as Aaron Parks, Joshua Redman, Aaron Goldberg, and Fred Hersch. The album was recorded live off the floor in the classic jazz tradition, with no click, and minimal post-production edits; what listeners hear is the crackling, improvisatory energy of jazz musicians at the top of their game, confidently making breathtaking music together exactly as they would in a live performance.
The album first started to coalesce during a period of writing that Parker undertook as part of a Toronto Arts Council grant, which allowed her to lock herself up in a room for hours a day, listening to music from a wide range of artists, studying compositional methods, and writing every day. During this months-long process, Parker would typically start a composition at the piano, letting ideas develop organically before committing them to the page; eventually she assembled the body of work that would become Shaping The Invisible. Following a string of performances with her band at The Rex, one of Canada’s premier jazz clubs, she decided that it was time to hit the studio.
Shaping The Invisible was recorded at Toronto’s fabled Revolution Recording, a studio with which Parker is intimately familiar, having co-produced Deniz’ most recent album there. The album was engineered and mixed by David Hermiston, with whom Parker shares a fruitful history (Hermiston mixed Parker’s debut bandleader album, In The Past, as well as other projects she’s been involved with). Working at Revolution, says Parker, was an easy choice; not only does the studio have a few excellent pianos (the Yamaha C-7 was used for this album), but it also has exquisite acoustics, spacious, well-lit rooms, and an enviable collection of world-class microphones.
As much as the album stems from Parker’s individual vision, it is also a celebration of the unique collaborative spirit of the top-shelf band that Parker has assembled. Joining Parker are some of Canada’s most accomplished and daring improvisers: Luis Deniz, on alto and soprano saxophones; Mark Godfrey, on bass; Ernesto Cervini, on drums; and special guest Andrew McAnsh, on trumpet.
The album begins with “Becoming,” a through-composed piece named for Michelle Obama’s memoir, which features a dreamy opening that gives way to an insistent straight-eighths groove. “Humph,” inspired in part by Dewey Redman, sees the band playing joyfully and openly, with exceptional brushwork from Cervini. “K.T.T” features soaring solos from McAnsh and Deniz, before “Desolate Places,” a tender duet between Parker’s piano and Deniz’s soprano saxophone. “Segment” sees Parker taking a classic bebop tune and boldly rearranging it, with masterful solos from Deniz and Parker, and “Paw Prints” showcases Parker’s skills for imaginative rhythmic comping and for highly communicative soloing. “Retrograde,” a cover of the British producer/singer James Blake’s well-known song, is given a thoughtful, backbeat-driven treatment, before the album’s final track, the original Monk-style blues “Strolling,” in which the band stretches out with inspired, electric synergy.