You don’t typically hear experimental jazz and folk music on the same track, but leave it to a Chicagoan to make it work. Hyde Park native Jonah Parzen-Johnson has been playing saxophone since he was eight years old, and he’s on a mission to push the limits of the instrument.
"When I started playing solo, I was aiming to capture a feeling of nostalgia that comes from remembering moments from your life,” Parzen-Johnson told Chicago Like a Local in advance of his Nov. 23 concert at Transistor. “It’s the joy of remembering moments, but also the sadness that comes from realizing that moment is never going to happen again. It’s a joyful melancholy that’s much like touring.”
So, as you can imagine, Parzen-Johnson’s songs aren’t downers. They’re not completely lighthearted either. Thirty-thousand miles of touring over the last two years has been enough to hone that “joyful melancholy” sound.
Before moving to New York when he was 18 to attend college, Parzen-Johnson spent his early years sneaking into legendary Chicago jazz clubs like the Green Mill and Jazz Showcase. He also grew up surrounded, mentored, and inspired by renowned musicians like Mwata Bowden, Fred Anderson and Roscoe Mitchell, members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
“...I consider jazz to be American folk music. It captures a piece of American history that nothing else does.”
Jonah Parzen-Johnson comes home this Saturday, Nov. 23, to play Transistor (3441 N. Broadway) with bass clarinet player Jason Stein, a musician whose playing Parzen-Johnson describes as “incredible” and “absolutely effortless.” The concert is completely free (but donations are happily accepted) and it’s BYOB!
Give his latest release, a 7" titled Look Like You're Not Looking, a digital spin before you check out the show.