It's not every musician who can say that they first found their love of performing in a strip club. Chris Parker of Local 802 (New York City), who started playing the drums at three and first performed professionally at age 11, says that once he had his first taste of public performance, he couldn't get enough.
"It was backing up strippers and exotic dancers," he laughs. "So, it was an education anatomically, as well as musically."
Since those early days, Parker has had the opportunity to play in far grander venues. He's traveled all over the US and the world, and has recorded with dozens of well-known musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, and Michael Bolton. He's shared the stage with great and diverse talent as well, touring with Bette Midler and fellow Local 802 members Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, among others.
Although he's had many amazing musical experiences, Parker can't define any one stage of his career that he prefers.
"What I did last night is my current favorite gig, and it usually works out that way," he says. "Whatever I'm currently involved in, I'm totally immersed in, and loving it."
Right now, that's his band Toph-E & The Pussycats, which was formed in 2000 and includes AFM members Will Lee, Ralph MacDonald, Clifford Carter, and David Mann, all of Local 802. The group's first CD, Live in Detroit, was released in 2006, and its second, No Ordinary Day, came out in 2010. Both of the albums have received glowing reviews. Its next CD, which Parker says is in the works, will be a tribute to Horace Silver.
Working on the new CD, arranging and composing, and playing with his other band, Funkasaurus Rex, keep Parker busy, but that's the way he likes it. He tries to have a lot of different projects, in all different styles, going on at the same time so that he continuously challenges himself in new ways. Constantly inspired by the performances of other drummers, Parker believes that his playing can always improve.
"I'm trying to climb up," he says, "Trying to get to the highest level of creative expression that I can get to."
However, for Parker, the drum set doesn't provide his only outlet for creative expression. The son of a graphic artist, he has been drawing and painting since he was a boy, and says that his music and his art have always gone hand-in-hand. …