Born: Detroit, MI
Styles: Avant-Garde, Modern Composition, Free Improvisation
Instruments: Accordion, Harp
Zeena Parkins plays the harp, piano, accordion and sampler in a variety of improvised, new music, modern composed and avant garde jazz settings. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she studied dance, harp and classical piano, and earned a Fine Arts degree from Bard College. Parkins moved to NYC in 1984, where she began collaborating with other musicians in downtown's avant garde music scene. She performed in Butch Morris' ensembles and in John Zorn's Cobra. She also formed Skeleton Crew with renowned improviser Fred Frith and versatile cellist Tom Cora and toured Europe, Japan, the U.S. and Iceland with them. From 1986 on, Parkins composed scores for theater, dance, and films, commissioned by performers, venues and organizations such as Meet the Composer, NY State Council for the Arts and The Rockefeller Foundation. She's remained interested and involved in staging multimedia performances, and gave workshops for dancers and musicians at NYC's Movement Research and in Vermont, at Bennington College. As a leader, Zeena Parkins has performed and recorded solo - as with No Way Back, on Atavistic - as well as with her Gangster Band. Gangster Band, which includes relatives Sara and Margaret Parkins, has recorded her compositions for the Avant and Tzadik labels, including the chamber piece for Isabelle Eberhardt Isabelle (1995), and 1999's Pan-Acousticon, which she co-produced with longtime collaborator, Elliot Sharp (she performed in his group, Carbon, too). The Gangster Band has performed at festivals in Europe, and at a variety of NYC venues, from the Lincoln Center to the Knitting Factory. Parkins has performed and recorded in a wide realm of settings, from working with Pauline Oliveros and Anthony Braxton, to an MTV Unplugged concert with the rock band Hole. She has played at new music and jazz festivals around the world, including The Moers Festival (Germany), Switzerland's Taklos Festival, Music Merge in Tokyo, and Quebec's FIMAV. After a somewhat quiet period, a live recording featuring improvisors Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Nels Cline (Geraldine Fibbers) appeared on JMZ Records.
-Joslyn Layne (All Music Guide)