Jonah Parzen-Johnson, I Try To Remember Where I Come From

Post Author: Elizabeth Schneider

I Try To Remember Where I Come From is the newest LP release from Brooklyn based saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson.  In addition to playing baritone sax, he plays the analog modular synthesizer.
Parzen-Johnson has created an incredible album that is unlike anything you will hear this summer.  I Try To Remember Where I Come From is a nod to growing up in his Southside Chicago neighborhood and the local musicians who influenced him and shared their craft with him:
Jonah had quite a bit to say about the project.

In many ways, Black American music is a response to an environment of exclusion, oppression, and institutional silencing that I, a white American man, have not, and will never experience. Despite this fact, throughout my teenage years, Black musicians in Chicago shared their traditions, their gatherings, their bandstands, their living rooms, and their musical incites with me in a generous, and enduring way. I find it deeply humbling that a community that formed, in part, to protect its members from an environment where everything could be taken from them, is also one of the most generous sources of creativity and inspiration in American art. I think this generosity deserves music that is loyal to the truth behind the tradition. I wrote these songs because I care about the people who own that tradition, and who forged it as a tool of inclusion. I seek to honor their battle for institutional recognition, and racial equality, with every show I play, and everything that I make. Their fight continues today, and deserves all of our attention.

Parzen-Johnson constructs his unique sound using circular breathing (a technique of inhaling through the nose while blowing air through the lips from the cheeks, used to maintain constant exhalation) and multi-phonics.  What makes this music so captivating is that everything is performed live without looping or recorded samples.  Some notes end up with a sound like a didgeridoo, some notes have the sound of bagpipes.  All the notes are mesmerizing and make up songs that are equally mesmerizing.
The two songs you must listen to first are “I Try To Remember Where I Come From” and “These Shoulder, Those Shoulders”.  Although all seven songs on the album tell specific stories, these two will draw you in like no other.

Track List:

  1. Cabin Pressure
  2. These Shoulders, Those Shoulders
  3. Guns Make Us Murderers
  4. Too Many Dreams
  5. What Do I Do With Sorry
  6. I Have Questions
  7. I Try To Remember Where I Come From

Keep up with Jonah here.