What happens when someone grows up in the shadow of New York City playing rock and funk music with a brother who introduces him to Mingus, Monk, and Ornette Coleman and a father who insists he listen to Mozart operas and Mahler symphonies? For Mike Parker it was extremely inspiring as a young bassist, but having a deep love for so many different styles of music posed a serious problem as he began to compose; 'What kind of music do I want to create?'.
After spending his university years working on the jazz scene with the area's top musicians, playing in the school orchestra, writing string quartets, and arranging Beatle's music (all while studying Psychology) finally there was an answer; create something that uniquely reflects all your inspirations. Critics have recognized the results, describing Parker's music as 'an ingenious synthesis of all musical genres
' and a 'mix of post bop, indie rock, avant-garde and some inclinations for modern classical'
, noting 'Parker's mature and imaginative compositions and skillful arrangements
', and saying his group's 'musical erudition is heard in the freedom with which they move between funk, bebop and free jazz atonal counterpoints
And so the MP Theory project began in 2011 when Parker, then 23, recorded his first album 'Prelude
' in New York shortly before leaving for Europe. The quintet featured 3 horns, Parker's brother Keith on drums, and conspicuously no piano or chordal instrument. This instrumentation gave the band the ability to create a diversity of textures and colors while maintaining a harmonically and sonically open sound reminiscent of early Avant-Garde jazz groups and 'Mike Parker's Unified Theory' was the name chosen to reflect their leader's musical ambitions.
After traveling around Europe extensively, Parker settled in Krakow, Poland where he reformed the group with Slawek Pezda (tenor sax), Bartek Prucnal (alto sax), Cyprian Baszynski (trumpet), and Dawid Fortuna (drums), 4 of Poland's greatest young jazz talents. The group toured Central Europe in 2013 before recording 'Embrace the Wild
', which was then released in 2014 to critical acclaim
. Critics and audience-members alike have noted not only the wide-ranging musical inspirations heard in the music, but also the intensity and energy given to each composition's performance.
Parker's focus is currently on the trio incarnation of the project, dubbed 'Trio Theory', in which he is joined by long-time collaborator Slawek Pezda on tenor sax and Kurt Elling Quartet veteran Frank Parker on drums. The trio began in November '14 by completing a marathon tour of 27 concerts in 27 nights. Since then, they have played over 100 concerts across 6 countries including the Krokus Jazz Festival (PL), Jazzinec Festival (CZ), MediaWave Festival (HU), Jazzire Festival (RS), and Targu Mures International Jazz Festival (RO). In April '16 they released 'Alive Out There
', a live album recorded on their Fall '15 tour.