The Parker Abbott Trio is a keyboard-centric group of Toronto-based musicians exploring the intersections between two pianists and a drummer—and using a huge sonic palette to do so. The group began as a writing and improvising collaboration between the two pianists, Teri Parker (Idioteque, Teri Parker Quartet) and Simeon Abbott (Danielle Duval, DO!). While both are celebrated pianists in Toronto jazz circles, their collaboration freely incorporated a host of other textures, using organ, electric keyboards, and even a ring-modulated harpsichord. This sense of eclecticism and experimentation informed their first album, Gallery, which they self-released in 2011. It also revealed their multitude of influences, suggesting everything from jazz (nicely situated somewhere along the Monk-Peterson axis), classical (shades of Bartok and Debussy), and more avant-leaning touchstones such as Cecil Taylor and John Cage. Spontaneous Combustion Magazine called Gallery “a wonderfully unique and refreshing addition to the music scene.” The album's charm is in its mixture of engaging, inventive compositions and selected material and spirited improvisational departures from these forms.
In late 2011, the duo expanded to a trio with drummer Mark Segger (known in Toronto for his work with the Kyle Brenders Quartet, See Through Quintet, and The Thing Is). Segger had played with Abbott in various ad hoc improvising scenarios, and his top-notch work in other Toronto combos made him an ideal choice for the drum chair. Over the course of the next year, the group found their footing as a three-piece, and by early 2013, they had secured a residency at the Banff Centre. It was there that they conceived the bulk of the material that would constitute their next album, The Wayfinders.
The group's first offering as a trio, The Wayfinders was a gigantic step forward. Parker and Abbott's compositional prowess lies at the heart of the group sound, but, with the added propulsion and new textural dynamic inserted by Segger, the album was a much more multi-faceted affair. With drumming that shifts between shuffle-pop grooves and loose-limbed swing behind the expressive keyboard sounds, the album explored the potential provided by a new auditory landscape.
The Parker Abbott Trio began carving a sonic niche with The Wayfinders, and this sound continues to grow with their newest release, Elevation. Building on the textural complexity of their first album, the compositions in Elevation gleefully shift between acoustic grand piano, organs, synthesizers, various electric pianos, and melodica. The result is a tremendously rich aural atmosphere, progressively structured and performed while still rooted in the jazz and classical inspirations that have fuelled the trio from the beginning. The combination of studio-oriented sonic detailing and intelligent, jazz-oriented writing and improvising on Elevation bring to mind the work of such contemporary stylists as Marco Benevento, Bill Frisell, and Brad Mehldau on his Largo album.
With Elevation, the Parker Abbott Trio has produced a record that demands attention from not only their core audience of forward-thinking jazz listeners, but from anyone remotely interested in hearing thoroughly original and well-executed new music.