"An imaginative composer and
an extraordinarily musical soloist."
- Paul de Barros (Downbeat, The Seattle Times)
New Album CREEKSIDE Available Now!
A Visual Journey
The Critics Speak...
"Parisot is in his realm here, unleashing a torrent of fills and cymbal accents throughout. . . The level of pure, seething virtuosity is stunning." - Mark Holston, JAZZIZ
"Parisot never seems to run out of inspired thought as a composer, or original rhythmic conception as a drummer." - Paul Rauch, All About Jazz
“The playing of drummer Phil Parisot is always stimulating and strongly interactive.” - Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
“On drums Phil Parisot is engaged and engaging throughout; he takes up the challenges of the often complex counts with apparent ease.” - Peter Monaghan, Earshot
9/17/2019 - Axiom at Tula's
10/6/2019 - Steve Treseler Group at The Angry Beaver
11/4/2019 - Kelley Johnson Quintet at Rhythm and Rye
11/17/2019 - Steve Treseler/Mark Taylor Group at The Royal Room
11/26/2019 - Kelley Johnson Quintet at The Triple Door
12/20/2019 - Kelley Johnson Quartet at The Pacific Room
2/26/2020 - Phil Parisot Group at Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously speculated that there are no second acts in American lives, but he didn’t anticipate drummer Phil Parisot.
Seattle jazz lovers became pleasantly accustomed to hearing Parisot in the early years of this century, playing with modernist groups such as Big Neighborhood and the Jim Knapp Orchestra, straight-ahead swingers like trumpeter/saxophonist Jay Thomas and saxophonist Don Lanphere or subtly supporting top Northwest vocalist Kelley Johnson.
But in 2007, a hiatus of several years ensued, during which he left town to pursue other ventures. Now, it’s a pleasure to report that Parisot is back on the scene, ready to take up where he left off, though with some significant strategic changes. In his early days, Parisot worked mostly as a sideman – learning tunes, compulsively practicing, studying the masters and paying his dues in the time-honored fashion of jazz. Today, you’re more likely to hear this accomplished, 37-year-old drummer playing his own compositions with his own quartet (Michael Glynn, bass; Dan Kramlich, piano; Steve Treseler, saxophones), which he does with aplomb on his stunning 2016 album, Lingo (OA2) (which All About Jazz praised as a “well conceived, expertly performed album that swings unabashedly”) and on the equally masterful, recently released “Creekside.”
But before all this, Parisot was knocking out listeners even as a teenager. Born in 1981, Parisot is a product of Seattle’s fabled public-school jazz education programs. He played in the first Garfield High School jazz band to compete at Essentially Ellington, in New York, in 1999, and was part of the Garfield units that regularly aced the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, in Moscow, Idaho, where in 2000 he won the award for outstanding drummer. He also played classical percussion in the Garfield orchestra, so sight reading comes as naturally to him as swing time. Parisot’s peers from his school years include, among others, flutist Anne Drummond, pianist Aaron Parks and trumpeters Tatum Greenblatt and Jumaane Smith, all of whom have gone on to successful careers in music.
“I have the classic Seattle jazz pedigree,” affirms Parisot, who was one of the kids who saved up his money so he could sit in the front row every night at Jazz Alley when Elvin Jones was in town. He also made a point of meeting his hero, Tony Williams, at a drum clinic the ex-Miles Davis drummer gave locally, four months before Williams died.
Starting on drums when he was nine years old, Parisot studied privately with Jon Wikan (of the Maria Schneider Orchestra) and John Bishop, co-founder of the Seattle record label, Origin, for which Parisot records. Bishop was immediately impressed by how much Parisot already knew, at 14.
“He was probably the most advanced student I’ve seen at that age,” recalls Bishop. “I’d go over to his house for a lesson and he would say, ‘Here’s a new Tony Williams thing I’ve been working on.’ And I’d say, ‘I’ve kind of always wondered how to do that Tony Williams thing. Thanks for showing me.’”
After graduating from high school in 2000, Parisot briefly attended William Paterson University, then gigged for a year in Manhattan, rooming with Garfield buddy Greenblatt. During that formative time, Parisot sat in with Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, David Gilmore, Ravi Coltrane and Antonio Hart and also got to know the late ex-Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali, who had befriended another Seattle émigré, Jumaane Smith.
“We would go to Rashied’s around 10 in the morning,” recalls Parisot, “and hang out till one in the morning the next day. He had all these Coltrane bootlegs. He was a mentor – a direct connection to Coltrane.”
In 2002, Parisot came back to the Emerald City, where in five years he made a name for himself as a first call sideman and served on the faculty at Cornish College of the Arts. He also started the group Axiom, with saxophonist Alexey Nikolaev, bassist Jon Hamar and pianist John Hansen, which has been playing together ever since. A “big mentor” at that time, says Parisot, was Big Neighborhood bassist Doug Miller, who showed the drummer, “This is how you swing.”
But that was then. Now a married father of two, for his second act Parisot is husbanding his time more judiciously. He no longer teaches, does not play as much as a sideman and devotes the bulk of his musical energy to his own group and writing.
Parisot started composing when he was at Paterson, inspired by drummer and classmate Tyshawn Sorey, and mentored by Anthony Braxton drummer Kevin Norton, who advised Parisot to write something he’d like to play himself.
“That became my mantra,” says the young drummer.
In his writing, Parisot displays a love of angular, intricate and multi-metered music – think Dave Holland, particularly the band with drummer Billy Kilson and saxophonist Chris Potter – without ever forgetting that the average listener loves melody, soulful swing and a coherent mood. That magic combination comes across in spades on Creekside’s “Emerald Crescent,” which, despite unusual rhythmic groupings, has a funky, Horace Silver-like hitch to the beat and a melody you come away humming.
Parisot’s writing also reflects the influence of world music – especially West African and Afro-Cuban – as well as funk, fusion (a taste of Return to Forever), and, naturally, the grunge-rock of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden that blossomed in Seattle when Parisot was growing up.
“I was very fortunate to come up at that time and hear a good mix of stuff,” he says, noting that his father, a “weekend warrior” on fretless electric bass, had eclectic, open-minded taste that ranged from classic rock to jazz to fusion to classical.
Jazz-wise, Parisot came up “favoring a highly interactive style,” but as he matured, he came to appreciate the drummer as a timekeeper.
“I try to create an atmosphere that is fun and playful and organic,” he says. “Everything has to defer to the atmosphere and mood of the piece, with a clear sound and a clear pulse that feels great. My project is foremost to glorify the composition, not to glorify me.”
That sets Parisot apart from a lot of drummer-composers right off the bat, but make no mistake, he’s an amazing soloist. At a recent gig at Seattle’s Tula’s, Parisot played with the kind of understated musicality and narrative clarity one associates with Max Roach, a player Parisot also made a point of meeting at Jazz Alley before he passed.
But perhaps the ultimate litmus test is that he even gets high praise from singers, who are so often at odds with drummers. Says Kelley Johnson: “He is a drummer that orchestrates while he interacts, using subtlety, color and textural chops to lay down the feel and help tell the story, leaving plenty of sonic space for other players to be free.”
That’s a mouthful and it’s only one kudo among many, many others coming from a jazz world that is happy to welcome Phil Parisot back to the fold.
As a leader:
Creekside (OA2 Records, 2017)
Lingo (OA2 Records, 2016)
As a sideman:
Doug Miller - Regeneration (Origin Records, 2008)
Jay Thomas - The Jaybird (McVouty Records, 2008)
Big Neighborhood - 11:11 (Origin Records, 2006)
Brian Owen - Unmei (OA2 Records, 2006)
Big Neighborhood - Neighbors (Origin Records, 2005)
Eric Verlinde - Daily Grind (Freedom Jazz Productions, 2003)