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.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Tatsu Aoki
feat: Bradley Parker-Sparrow