Gang of four

The Ryan Parrish Quartet

At rehearsal at the University of Nevada, Reno, from left, Joey Berger, Mike Lockwood, Ryan Parrish and Greg McLean get ready for their closeup.

At rehearsal at the University of Nevada, Reno, from left, Joey Berger, Mike Lockwood, Ryan Parrish and Greg McLean get ready for their closeup.

Photo By David Robert

A musical permutation of the talented local network of players known as the Reno Jazz Syndicate, the Ryan Parrish Quartet is relatively new to the Reno jazz scene, having only officially claimed their name in June, though the regular ensemble has been playing together for nearly four years. Parrish has been playing sax since he was 12.

The usual suspects are Mike Lockwood on drums, Greg McLean playing bass, Joey Berger on guitar, and bandleader Ryan Parrish, alternating between tenor and soprano saxophones.

The sound is a solid, full-bodied blend of what Parrish describes as, “a highly improvisational collaboration that still maintains its compositional integrity.”

Through the course of a set, the band plays standards, from Coltrane to Arnet to Rollins, while Parrish puts his own compositions seamlessly into the mix.

Parrish’s jazz holds its own. As part of the Reno Jazz Syndicate, he can call on one of 20-30 reliable players that make up the group to fill in or add a dynamic when he chooses. That includes trumpet-playing brother, Trevor.

The band has a regular gig at Red Rock at 10 p.m. on Friday nights, one of the three main stages devoted to jazz in Reno at the moment. With a recording date set in December and a CD due to be released in the spring, Parrish is enthusiastic for the future. “This is a great moment for us. We’re still slowly refining the sound as we start to ‘lock in’ our music. Within the next year or so, I hope to go to New York with the band and see what can happen from there.”

The band members are all in their early 20s, though they take the stage with a confident comfort.

The enchanting jazz that’s acquired through the obvious trust and professionalism within the group has been established over time, and through a common goal and respect for an American musical heritage, but Parrish says that though he writes the music, he owes everything to the band. “I love those guys. We’ve been through a lot together. I look up to them musically, because we learn so much from each other.”

The music is driven by an immensely complex vehicle, according to Parish, ranging from the technical aspects of harmonic structure and rhythmic fields, to a social reflection that is reactionary and even spiritual. The goal is to achieve that blessed jubilee of golden rhythm and time that takes the listener to new places that seem almost familiar.

“It’s an oral tradition that ranges from Creole, swing, blues, bebop, modal, free jazz and on,” says Parrish. “I want to stay true to the various styles [of jazz] while bridging the gap and keeping it honest.

“I believe that music is the language of the soul, and jazz over the course of the last 100-plus years has evolved and expanded through creativity, experimentation, risk and collaboration. There are no boundaries or limits, and honesty is supremely important. My music is the way in which I perceive the world around me. My pains, pleasures, inner peace, struggle, anger, joy, sadness and love are all dealt with through composition and improvisation.”