Florida native Walter Parks, the longtime sideman to Woodstock legend Richie Havens, is excited to present swamp jazz – his take on America’s great art form. Via his new group The Golden Honey Blade, Parks lets jazz do what it does best–interpret contemporary music while honoring the past and inspiring the future. Both original and cover songs are built upon danceable swampy-blues beats set aflight by operatic soulful vocal melodies all manifested with the old-school instrumentation of upright bass, guitar and drums.
Walter is a prolific writer HBO and The Discovery Channel soundtrack credits. Whereas half of Walter Parks and The Golden Honey Blade songs are originals, Parks also re-imagines recent music by Radiohead and Death Cab For Cutie. There are classic interpretations of I Love Paris, Mavis Staples’ Eyes On The Prize and Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood. A fan of electronic music, Walter even delivers the Richie Havens classic Freedom with a techno pulse yet organically, without samples and encapsulated in a jazz delivery. Icing on the cake is a reverence to the music made in Southeast Georgia’s Okefinokee Swamp near where Parks grew up. Walter has reworked the backwoods hollers to breathe new life into near lost American folk treasures.
Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida at a time when classical music was offered in public schools, Parks began his music career studying the viola in the sixth grade. Succumbing to his parent’s advice that he lay the foundation for a more stable career, Parks enrolled in business school at the University of Georgia in Athens. “The best the thing about college was serving in the Student Union organization that promoted big concerts. Our budget was astronomical, our allegiance was to quality and most shows made money. I was fascinated by concert booking and production and I stayed beyond the end of every show to help the roadies. I learned that great reward could follow extra effort. After a Dixie Dregs show I was given the opportunity to play Duane Allman’s 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul, which at the time was in possession of The Dregs’ road manager Twiggs Lyndon. I still feel the power and magic of that cherished guitar, which is now on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Guitarist and singer Walter Parks moved to New York from Jacksonville, Florida to find his own sound. In short order respected peers noticed in his playing a swampy uniqueness already present ironically, one for which he had traveled so far to find.
After 10 years of performing with cellist Stephanie Winters in an acoustic group called The Nudes, Parks was weary and in search of a new perspective. He spent a summer at Plum Village, Tich Nat Han’s Buddhist monastery in France. “I told no one that I was a musician in order to find out what was left of me, without the guitar as my identity.”
In 2000 Parks returned to New York with a re-ignited urge to perform and he was asked to tour the world and record as sideman to Woodstock legend Richie Havens. “Accompanying Richie from 2001-2011 and hearing his wonderful voice at his side on stages all over the world was a incomparable honor. The grandest shows were at Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, The Cannes Film Festival in France and The WOMAD.”
Parks’ primary influences: Jaco Pastorius, John Scofield and Daniel Lanois