Friday, December 17, 2010

Peter Parcek Solves The Mathematics of Love

Peter Parcek’s website, describes his guitar style as weaving “rock, gypsy-jazz, country, folk, and blues-- especially blues-- into a tapestry of melody, harmony and daredevil solos that push those styles to their limits without sacrificing the warmth of his own personality.” He has a release to showcase this musical blend and his virtuosity, “The Mathematics of Love” (VizzTone). As for this album he states the influence of Django Reinhardt, “Django’s performances are breathtakingly beautifully and technically demanding. I’ve really been taken with the purity of his acoustic guitar sound, and he played electric with such abandon. His music is very much alive and creative, so I also tried to bring those qualities to ‘The Mathematic of Love.’” He is backed here by drummer Steve Scully and bassist Marc Hickox with appearances by Mandolin virtuoso Jimmy Ryan, violinist Dan Kellar and upright bass Marty Ballou.

The recording opens with a rendition of Peter Green’s “Showbiz Blues,” with the mood incorporating Elmore James licks, a driving hill country groove with blistering slide. While not a great singer, Parcek convincing asks “Do you give a damn about me.” The title track follows with a hesitant slow tempo, as he hauntingly sings “don’t lie to me, don’t erase me, you know the Mathematics of Love are plain and simple as a A B C,” with nice acoustic slide contrasted with his use of electronic effects. “Rollin’ With Zah,” is an dazzling instrumental tour de force as Parcek snaps, crackles, chicken scratches and lays down some heavy runs.

A surprising, but striking, cover is from the pen of the late Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord Help the Poor and Needy,” which he sings and plays at a dirge tempo with vibrato and echo prevalent and a synthesized drone, before he takes an impressive, carefully developed solo against this thudding rhythm. “Get Right With God,”is a rocking instrumental take of a Lucinda Williams song with more guitar pyrotechnics. He takes a softer approach on “Tears Like Diamonds,” with his vocal being a bit more effective here. “Kokomo Me Baby,” takes a number associated with Mississippi Fred McDowell, and takes it into warp drive with an able vocal and dazzling guitar. The cleanness of his picking as well as his use of sonic textures again stands out.

New Year’s Eve,” again takes a more country blues feel with some tasty harp by Mike Fritz and Ronnie Earl adds his guitar to the performance. This is followed by an instrumental interpretation of “Busted” with Al Kooper guesting on organ. Parcek employ’s a heavy, nasty tone at the beginning as his guitar sings the lyrics before taking off on his sonic explorations.

The Mathematics of Love,” is a first-rate recording of blues roots and guitar explorations that mixes tradition with a heavy dose of the contemporary. While his vocals may vary in convincingness, (he shines when he is in an acoustic-oriented vein), he always is listenable. However, his guitar playing will unquestionably be the recordings strongest appeal; and fans of the legendary Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan should enjoy listening to Parcek’s impressive fretwork.

This review originally appeared in the June 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 326) at pp.19-20 ( to which I made minor stylistic corrections. The review copy for this CD was provided by a publicist.

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