“Parzen-Johnson has been able to craft a set of tunes that reach deep into the soul.”
- Capital Bop (June 2012)
“Jonah Parzen-Johnson is an innovative saxophonist who can do incredible things with the instrument.”
- DCist (June 2012)
“Parzen-Johnson’s plainspoken compositional vision impresses as much as his formidable command of circular breathing and other outré techniques.”
- TimeOut NY (June 2012)
“Parzen-Johnson is a formidable voice on bari, and the band play the kind of post-bop — knotty tunes, strong grooves, lots of freedom — that has kept the avant-garde alive while shifting the mainstream to the left.”
- Boston Phoenix (January 2011)
“Playing with a collected focus belying his age, displaying a chamber-like propensity for counterpoint, thoughtful arrangements, and consideration for the possibilities of the given instrumentation.”
- Jazz Inside Magazine (March 2010)
“Baritone saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson presents a dusky set of illuminated solo pieces that resonate the simplicity and unpretentiousness of folk music as played by an improvising jazz artist.”
- All About Jazz (May 2012)
Jonah Parzen-Johnson is a baritone saxophonist living in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Jonah was surrounded and inspired by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and South Side music community. Before graduating from high school Jonah had studied under saxophonist & composer Matana Roberts, as well as former AACM chairman Mwata Bowden. Under their tutelage he developed a dedicated focus on the essential role of composition in the life of a musician.
Parzen-Johnson moved to New York in 2006. He is a long-time member of Zongo Junction, a Brooklyn based afrobeat ensemble, and a founding member of the collective trio Reed’s Bass Drum. Currently, Jonah can be found performing and workshoping his solo saxophone work, Michiana. If you look hard you might find him performing with the Steve Newcomb Orchestra, Steven Lugerner Dectet, Tiffany Chang’s Free Association, and other friends.
Jonah’s debut solo saxophone album, Michiana, will be released on Primary Records on June 5 2012.
“His unaccompanied playing captures the sentiment of an old Polaroid, long-ago happiness fading into the melancholy of memory.”
- Philadelphia City Paper (June 2012)
“One of a number of solo saxophonists currently making waves in NYC, baritone player Jonah Parzen-Johnson presents his mesmerizing and exacting compositions in advance of a new album, Michiana.”
- TimeOut NY (January 2012)
Brooklyn NY – Primary Records is proud to announce the release of experimental folk saxophonist, Jonah Parzen-Johnson’s debut solo saxophone recording, Michiana. “I have had an obsession with the solitary nature and focused power of solo performance for as long as I can remember,” muses the 24 year old saxophonist in his apartment in northern Brooklyn, “but I have struggled with how to utilize the format in a way that resonated with my musical aesthetic.” Although there is an important history of solo saxophonists hailing from Jonah’s home-town of Chicago, he first found inspiration in the unadorned voices of Appalachian Music and lo-fi musicians like Bill Calahan.
“I love the way the musicians on the Smithsonian Folkways recordings communicate melancholy. Hearing Old Regular Baptists sing ‘I am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow’ instantly transformed the way I saw unaccompanied melody, and ‘High on a Mountain’ (Ola Belle Reed) reminded me that there is so much music about leaving things behind. Michiana is the place where I mentally store all of the things that I smile about missing. Things that make me feel nostalgic” Situated on the border of Michigan & Indiana, Michiana is a beach town on the shore of Lake Michigan. “Somewhere that was never home, but was the backdrop for a surprising number of my formative experiences.” The perfect setting for a collection of songs that capture the distant warmth of memory.
From the moment Jonah put a saxophone together he found himself surrounded by musicians like Matana Roberts and Mwata Bowden of the AACM (Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians) who were dedicated to finding an individual path to musical discovery. Jonah’s impressive use of extended techniques including circular breathing, multi-phonics and almost impossibly nimble vocalization owes a debt to players like Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Lacy, and Henry Threadgil, but his devotion to a quirky almost vocal style reminiscent of Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, and Jose Gonzalez, places him in new territory for the solo saxophone. “I am interested in creating music with a rich and complex aural landscape, but I am absolutely devoted to writing songs with a melody that can convey a sense of joyful melancholy.”
With the exception of the final two remix tracks, Jonah plays unaccompanied and without any edits, overdubs or effects on Michiana. The final two tracks are transformative remixes by Anthony LaMarca (St. Vincent, Dean & Britta, The Building) and Lenny Pickett (Tower of Power, Saturday Night Live), that offer a revelatory look at the depth of audio captured in the recording process. Recorded using 15 microphones in a room twice the size of most New York apartments, Michiana offers the singular opportunity to hear Jonah’s solo saxophone music from virtually limitless aural perspectives. Something impossible to experience live.
Jonah has meticulously constructed a world of warm memories remembered in a cold present, as he melds the evocative nature of folk music with the chilling power of experimentalism. The result is a highly captivating and strikingly intimate solo saxophone recording.
“Hyper minimalist compositional fiends should be all over Jonah Parzen-Johnson.”
- Yes Weekly (June 2012)
“Baritonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson has a tone and phrasing somewhere between Giuffre, Chaloff, and Pepper Adams, with even a little Mulligan, only with a modern twist.”
- Cadence Magazine (July 2010)