Tatsu Aoki and pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow -- the founder/president of Chicago's jazz-oriented Southport Records -- team up for a series of acoustic piano/bass duets on If It Wasn't for Paul. This avant-garde CD was named after Paul Smith, a Chicago-based engineer who referred Aoki to Sparrow in 1994. When Aoki told Smith about his desire to record a piano/bass project, Smith urged the acoustic bassist to consider Sparrow -- and the fact that Sparrow had his own label obviously didn't hurt. So if it wasn't for Smith, this album might not have come about. Favoring an inside/outside approach (mostly outside), Aoki and Sparrow prove to be quite compatible on such abstract, eerie, AACM-minded duets as "Dracula," "Return of Dracula," and "First Day." Joanie Palatto, Sparrow's wife and an excellent jazz singer, joins the duo on "Someday Free" and "What Can I Say?," both of which find her getting into some scatting that is more outside and left-of-center than what she generally did on her own Southport albums in the 1990s. Thankfully, If It Wasn't for Paul wouldn't be the last time Aoki and Sparrow worked together.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Tatsu Aoki
feat: Bradley Parker-Sparrow