Exactly like you, Bob Parker

Jack Branfield

Alexander Wilburn

Exactly like you, Bob Parker

'Bob never got through a gig without having a good time and having a laugh,” said Wanda Houston at Music Mountain’s Gordon Hall on Saturday, June 29. She was there performing jazz classics in a tribute concert, and the “Bob” in question being honored was the late West Cornwall resident Robert Andrew Parker, who Houston described meeting at The Wake Robin Inn in the mid 1990s as she was still getting used to the music scene of rural Connecticut. Parker was a veteran of just that scene. Outside of his work as a prolific watercolor painter and illustrator whose work was featured in The New Yorker and the collection of The Museum of Modern Art alike, was also a drummer. In his free time, Parker, who died in 2024 at the age of 96, was a member of the jazz band Jive by Five along with members like pianist Scott Heth.

“Bob was a legend, both as an artist and a drummer,” Oskar Espina Ruiz, Music Mountain’s summer concert series’s artistic director, said of Parker in describing why the Falls Village concert hall had chosen to honor his legacy this summer. “His son Chris also is very famous, and so it’s a family of musicians. At Music Mountain, we build relationships with the artists. That’s what’s special about Music Mountain. We invite artists back year after year, after year, after year... Bob Parker performed at Music Mountain with Jive by Five, his band, for over 30 years.”

Wanda HoustonAlexander Wilburn

“I know that was very important to him, always having a gig,” said Parker’s son Nick who was in attendance for the evening. “That’s what musicians call it: ‘gigs.’ And his mother used to tease him about it. But he loved having a band, he loved having that camaraderie and musical expression with players who appreciate the same kind of music as him. I think if he could have, he would have just been happy as a successful musician and successful illustrator.”

The summer of 2022 was the last time Jive by Five performed at Music Mountain, a grand return after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the band’s live gigs for a few years. On Saturday night, Jive by Five made another return, this time sharing stories and memories of Parker instead of playing beside him. The jazz ensemble included Heth, as well as Bob’s son, drummer Christopher Parker, guitarist David Spinozza, Kris Jensen on saxophone, Peter McEachern on trombone, Joe Salamone on bass, and a new addition in young saxophone player Jack Brandfield. The live evening’s program was filled with jazz standards like Duke Ellington’s 1939 composition “In A Mellow Tone,” and his 1931 composition, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” as well as “Exactly Like You,” popularized by singers like Nina Simone.

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