Starting in 2018, LA-based guitarist Jeff Parker set up camp at the Enfield Tennis Academy in Highland Park for an extended residency. Parker, who earned acclaim as a member of Tortoise, the Chicago Underground Duo, Isotope 217 and others before concentrating on life as a solo artist and bandleader, played every Monday with a quartet dubbed ETA IVtet. It also featured alto saxophonist Josh Johnson, drummer Jay Bellerose, and bassist Anna Butterss. As these things often go with expert players – and pretty much anything Parker touches – with each passing gig they evolved from four players into One Holy Thing, a unit with a collective musical consciousness.
Parker had the foresight to record these sessions, and has just released four epic, side-length jams as a double-LP and digital download called Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy. Though we don’t like using the word “best” in relation to assessing music, it’s certainly skyrocketed to become the most beloved, beguiling and mesmerizing new release we’ve listened to this year.
The Enfield Tennis Academy is a club so little that you can hear the room size in the occasional clinking glass. Named for a setting in David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest, the room has nothing to do with the sport – even if Parker and band are experts at serving and volleying improvised runs and shifting the pace and rhythm on the fly.
Parker’s regular Enfield gig has become an essential part of the nightlife schedule. Featuring a rotating cast of improvisers, in the summer one session featured Sam Gendel, Paul Bryan (best known for his work with Aimee Mann) and Ben Lumsdaine.
Each of the four sides of the new record features the ETA IVtet, though, selected by Parker from many hours of tape. Unlike Parker’s other recent knockout, the meditative solo guitar album Forfolks, rhythm drives Mondays at the Enfield. Bellrose and Butterss keep it steady and sure, with the drummer moving from kit to shakers to cymbals. The third track, “21.05-19” (named for the set date), clocks in at 18 minutes and vibes like a peaceful Pharoah Sanders lullaby.
Thusfar Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy is only available as a digital download or double LP. Unavailable on major streaming services, it takes more work to hear than you’re maybe used, but it’s so worth it.
The record was pressed on premium audiophile-quality 120 gram vinyl at RTI from Kevin Gray / Cohearent Audio lacquers. Per the notes, it was mastered by Joe Lizzi, Triple Point Records, Queens, NY.
Currently bandcamp has the digital download but not the vinyl. Details on it: “First eremite edition of 1799 copies. First 400 direct order LPs come with eremite’s signature retro-audiophile inner-sleeves, hand screen-printed by Alan Sherry, Siwa Studios, northern New Mexico. CD edition & EU x2LP edition available thru our EU partner, Aguirre records, Belgium.”
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