By his own account, guitarist Jeff Parker was deep into jazz-rock genre-specificity when his dad introduced him to the more relaxed pleasures of Wes Montgomery records a few years back. Though transformed, Parker didn’t choose one over the other. Instead, he picked them both—and a lot in between. Like-Coping, the Tortoise and Isotope 217° guitarist’s debut as a leader, runs the gamut of jazz six-stringing, from cool to full-on atonal, in 12 pop-sized doses. Lead-off track “Miriam” is both nearly lighter-than-air and Montgomery-dense with chordings, almost to the point of obscuring Parker’s rhythm section of bassist Chris Lopes and drummer Chad Taylor. They’re shown off to better effect on the title track and “Pinecone,” which give their bass-and-drum synchronicity more space to be heard as Parker floats spare, trumpetlike melodies. You might even mistake these tracks for some smooth Grant Green sessions—except that Parker sounds all hard and angular, not funky, like Monk channeled through a Fender Twin. And then there’s the noisy stuff: On “Holiday for a Despot,” Parker ventures beyond mere fretboard activity into some serious—if rather conventional—pickup-on-speaker cacophony. “Omega Sci Fi” takes a more measured, European approach to free improvisation, but it’s abstract nonetheless, with Parker splitting his time between skittery string runs and Derek Bailey-esque volume swells. Still, given that these aggressive excursions were undertaken by someone who usually travels in the rock world, it’s strange that they’re less convincing than the tunes Parker’s dad might like. It’s not that Parker doesn’t make a good avant-gardist; it’s just that he has so much more to offer when not tethered to a specific jazz style, whether loud or soft. The charm of Like-Coping is that Parker more often than not avoids such single-mindedness, creating a synthesis that sounds both classic and unfamiliar. —Brent Burton

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