9 Feb 2011

Which Robert Parker do I read?

Parker is quite a common surname, and there are several famous bearers of this name. Apart from the Parker pen which I was given by my parents as a symbolic gift when I first was packed off to boarding school at the age of 7, the one that has made the biggest impression on me was undoubtedly Charlie "Yardbird" Parker the brilliant and tragic alto saxophone player who moved jazz along by several decades as from the late 1940's. We may return to him in the future.

If we narrow the field down to the Parkers whose first name is Robert, the only one I read (and very much enjoy) is the late, regretted, Robert B. Parker, the very prolific author of crime novels, not to mention the odd western and so on. Robert B. Parker died just over a year ago and this made (still makes) me sad, although I didn't know the man. He produced over 60 novels and disciplined himself to write 5 pages every single day. His writing was (is, as it lives on!) of the classic, sometimes minimalistic US crime vein that has more than a hint of Chandler to it. But, alongside the pared-down, punchy and often funny dialogues, it also shows great sensitiviy to personal issues and Parker's characters are quite unforgettable.

I have just read his "Back Story" for the second time and highly recommend it to to anyone wanting to make a start with Parker. Quite a few of his books have been translated into French, but I cannot vouch for the translations as I read him in English. Spenser, Hawk, Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall (his woman detective) are all in my pantheon of crime heroes.

I will write some more about this Robert Parker in the future. I understand that he has a homonym who writes about wine. The odd thing is that apparently they both like dogs.

Read on....


  1. Very witty, David. Tu connais tes auteurs ... par coeur !
    Talking about Bird’s music, you MUST treat yourself (15 €, still “doable”) to Joe Lovano’s latest opus: Us five bird songs (issued 2011, Blue Note I’m afraid). Not only does the immense Giuseppe play con brio the tenor and soprano saxophones, as ever, but he also introduces his listeners to the fantastic “aulochrome” designed and built by my friend François Louis (see www.aulochrome.com), to a brand new G mezo soprano sax and to a very brilliant straight alto. His band includes 2 drummers, James Weidman on the piano and good-looking Esmeralda Spalding with her fingers on the strings of the bass.
    This big man bloody plays a helluva good music, Mamma mia! Aunt Rose must be proud of him.

  2. Thanks Luc, including for the Joe Lovato tip, which I will definitely follow up (I am intrigued by the "I"m afraid" after Blue Note: please tell me more).

  3. You are a subtle customer, David, and I’m a blatant pachyderm. I knew you’d pick up on that.
    Blue Note has been seminal (like Verve, Impulse and so on) in the development of recorded jazz, no question about that. Technically, I appreciate their present-day takes, although purists may find them too “clean”. I never was a fan of “fatty” Gibson guitars with a greasy-oily sound – with or without a case (see Quadrophenia).
    BUT: they clearly promote mainstream money-making artists rather than pioneering in the revelation of new talent. I’m a fan of Joseph Zawinul and Giuseppe Lovano and ... you name them, but it is very much “white money” again, and hardly any “black music”. Look at Stacey Kent for instance. Yes, she has something, I don’t deny it, but “ .... she hasn’t got no coffee that’s perking!”

  4. "Blatant pachyderm" is hardly the term I would use to describe you, Luc. I must confess that although I listen to quite a bit of jazz, my current culture is severely lacking and I can only remember how strong Blue Note used to be when I really listened (and bought) a lot back in the 1960's.

  5. I have bought the Joe Lovano album on i-tunes, where it costs just 9.99 like most of the others. Have listened to it on journeys on the Paris metro today. Will listen more carefully but I like it a lot. He has a lovely sound.

  6. Yes, he’s a tall man and has a deep breath ! Before him, François had “trusted” the one and only existing aulochrome (3.000 hours to complete it!) onto Fabrizio Cassol (of Aka Moon fame). He’s an outstanding instrumentist, that Fabrizio, but normally plays the alto. Therefore, he was a bit “short in the lungs” for the “double tube” of the aulos. With Joe, the power is there, credits to all the pasta Mamma and Auntie fed him.
    Know nothing about down-loading music. I suppose it is MP3 technology and you miss all the harmonics then. I don’t enjoy MP3 sound: it is hollow and nosy. Mind you, if you want to listen to Parker, the nosiness may be an asset! Call me a busy body.

  7. Call you a specialist, in many fields.

  8. Don’t think so. There are plenty of things I know nothing about but, when I’m interested, I want to be rather well informed. In this case, my “discovery” of jazz dates back to the mid-nineties, thanks to a bunch of friends. Before that, I listened to some jazz music, yes, but no more than that. Yet, we were lucky, in Belgium, to have a very active jazz scene, for such a small country, and at least four very competent music schools. And ... we have François Louis, this master of them all in the making and designing of custom woodwind instruments. And, via via via, we became acquainted.
    Here, in Perpignan, it is excellent guitar player Serge Lazarevitch who runs the jazz department of the “Conservatoire” and tries to keep the pressure up. He used to be a professor in Mons, a while ago.
    As I don’t own a tele (don’t want to), I have plenty of time to do interesting things, beside my work at the wine estate, that is. In addition, I do not “go out”, whatever this means, also increasing the likelihood to do something constructive with my free-time.
    As far as MP3 is concerned, I’m amazed at the ease with which people accept this rubbish. My kids all are musicians, the eldest even having played (bass guitar) in a heavy metal band (now split) that recorded a few albums and appeared at various festivals around Europe (Lo.dep = lost department). The other members were quasi-professionals. Even those kids, with a wonderful technique, a high musical education (uiversity level), brilliant sensitivity accept to cope with this poor sound quality: troubling. This being said, their pleasure is probably more intellectual than mine. When they read sheet music, they actually “hear” it. Me, I need all senses to enjoy the pieces.