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1 	Asleep In The Forest 	4:16
2 	Toward Awakening 	6:16
3 	Past Presence 	4:28
4 	Elsewhere 	7:04
5 	In Pursuit 	5:32
6 	Squirrels 	2:21
7 	Branchings 	5:08
8 	River Ways 	3:06
9 	A Curious Bloom 	3:24
10 	Reverie 	4:17
11 	Homestead 	3:59

Piano – Aaron Parks 

 

Slowly but surely, over the past several years, ECM Records has forged relationships with some of New York City's most impressive musicians—no mean feat given that, despite the Big Apple no longer being the jazz mecca it once was, it certainly remains a lightning rod for some of the world's most creative musicians, ranging from trumpeter Ralph Alessi and saxophonists Tim Berne and Chris Potter, to pianists David Virelles, Jason Moran and Craig Taborn—all of whom have been represented, either as guests or leaders, on some of the most uncompromising and impressive music to be released in recent times—not just on the heralded German label, but anywhere, period.

Add to that list pianist Aaron Parks—who, like Taborn's superb first recording as a leader for the label (2011's Avenging Angels), makes his own ECM debut by contributing another fine installment to a label that has, across four decades beginning with Chick Corea's Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 (1971) and Keith Jarrett's Facing You (1972), defined the litmus test against which all subsequent solo piano recordings are measured.

Parks is a rarity: a young musician who, at a time when such things are difficult if not impossible, spent his first few professional years mentored by an older musician, in this case Terence Blanchard. The trumpeter met Parks when the pianist was 15, recruiting him three years later and giving him an opportunity to see how it was done both on the road and in the studio, so that when Parks stepped out on his own with the acclaimed Invisible Cinema (Blue Note, 2008), he was well and truly ready.

In the ensuing years, Parks has become increasingly in demand, including membership with the egalitarian James Farm, the promise of its 2011 eponymous Nonesuch debut confidently delivered with more recent live performances, and with Kurt Rosenwinkel, whose Star of Jupiter (Wommusic, 2012) represented yet another career milestone for the upwardly mobile guitarist.

None of which prepare for Arborescence, a suite of eleven largely spontaneous creations that reflect a great many touchstones while, at the same time, speaking with a voice that has fully matured, now plainly assertive of its own personality. The opening "Asleep in the Forest" and darkly pastoral "Elsewhere" feel somehow a kinship to French composer Erik Satie, were he to have hailed from the forests of the Northwestern United States (where Parks grew up) instead of the southern estuary of the Seine River in Northwestern France. Minimalistic hints imbue the repetitive motif-driven "In Pursuit," where Parks' virtuosity—never an end, just a means—is more dominant, while the skewed and, at times, abstruse lyricism of "Branchings" and "Past Presence" hint at Paul Bley's innovations in the realm of spontaneously composition, despite Parks' independent voice a constant delineator throughout this 50-minute set.

With Parks turning 30 a week prior to Arborescence's October 15 release, the pianist's milestones continue to accelerate. His past work may have been consistently impressive, but Arborescence represents the true watershed of Parks' arrival as an artist whose future shines brighter with every passing year. ---John Kelman, allaboutjazz.com

 

There is no shortage of fine solo piano offerings on ECM, going all the way back to Paul Bley's classic 1973 Open, To Love. Twenty-nine-year-old pianist Aaron Parks is notable in jazz circles for the skill he displayed in bands led by Terence Blanchard and Kurt Rosenwinkel, as well as on his own wonderful Invisible Cinema for Blue Note in 2008. Arborescence, his first solo recording for ECM, marks his second appearance on the label. His first was backing South Korean vocalist Yeahwon Shin on her lovely collection of ballads and lullabies, Lua Ya, recorded in 2012 and released in September 2013. Arborescence is a collection of 11 improvised pieces recorded at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Though two works, "Elsewhere" and "Homestead," were taken from previously composed works, here mere elements and themes were used as jumping-off points into exploration. This set is very much in the moment, though its atmosphere is more internal and restrained. A listen to its mysterious opener, "Asleep in the Forest," evidences this. The piano's sounds and harmonies are investigated not as process, but as a deeply connected emotional dialogic relationship between instrument and music, to reveal a "voice." The use of repetition in many of these pieces isthe polar opposite, with the much more dynamic "In Pursuit" as an example, revealing the sound of the pianist digging inside the emotional and sonic geography where harmony, space, tone, and silence commingle. "Toward Awakening" commences haltingly, one carefully placed note and chord at a time, but gradually develops movement as its timbral palette expands, never losing its intuitive elegance. "River Ways" comes from several directions at once, as the left hand articulates a repetitive sequence, the right hand conjures it further in another register, both of them meeting on a seam where dissonance, multiple tonalities, and several voices are articulated invidiously in directions that diverge after their initial meeting. Arborescence is as mercurial after ten listenings as it is after one. The only "strategy" that these pieces seem to share is Parks' determination to remain open as improviser and listener. This requires discipline. He never runs off with his discoveries, but remains present to them as they whisper, move, and slowly dance, seemingly never imposing his will against the suggestion of the music itself. The innate, quiet grace displayed on Arborescence is far from static, but an intricate, ever-evolving labyrinth of sonic communication and elocution. ---Thom Jurek, allmusic.com

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administration@theblues-thatjazz.com (bluesever) Aaron Parks Fri, 12 Jul 2019 15:31:20 +0000
Aaron Parks Trio - Live at Jazzfest Berlin 2009 http://theblues-thatjazz.com/en/jazz/4961-aaron-parks/18477-aaron-parks-trio-live-at-jazzfest-berlin-2009.html http://theblues-thatjazz.com/en/jazz/4961-aaron-parks/18477-aaron-parks-trio-live-at-jazzfest-berlin-2009.html Aaron Parks Trio - Live at Jazzfest Berlin 2009

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1. Travellers
2. Unravel
3. Siren

Aaron Parks - piano
Matt Brewer - bass
Tommy Crane – drums

Recorded live at Jewish Museum Berlin, 
Glass Courtyard, November 7, 2009

 

Berlin’s festival is well-established as one of the finer “off-season” festivals on the jazz scene, emboldened by creative and resourceful programming. In 2009, the second year programmed by a still-new director, Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren, the schedule was strong and blessed with the diversity necessary for any jazz festival, in terms of artistic cred and financial muscle. As he did last year, Landgren managed to strike some workable and impressive balances in programming, mixing up subgenres and positioning the commercial alongside the more esoteric. Not surprisingly, he also stirred in music of the Scandinavian and trombone-oriented sort.

In 2009, Berlin joined the ranks of jazz festivals paying tribute to Blue Note Records’ 70th anniversary. Opening night included Terence Blanchard, stirring up his “Requiem for Katrina” project with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg, and Lionel Loueke. Robert Glasper cancelled, as did Joe Lovano, the latter on the heels of an injury, but Lovano’s planned partner, the unstoppably graceful veteran Hank Jones, did go on with his trio, bringing out veterans Curtis Fuller (part of the trombone tribe in Berlin) and trumpeter Don Sickler for cameos. It’s always a treat to hear Jones, a true model of taste, elegance and timeless hipness. That same night, the Blue Note focus continued, once removed and European-ized, as the NDR Big Band offered a tribute to Horace Silver with Jacky Terrasson in the piano hot seat (where he sounded distinctly unlike Silver).

A new venue in the mix this year was a vast courtyard in the Jewish Museum, the acoustical openness of which swallowed up the sensitivities of Aaron Parks’ trio. --- Josef Woodard, jazztimes.com

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administration@theblues-thatjazz.com (bluesever) Aaron Parks Tue, 22 Sep 2015 16:06:08 +0000
Aaron Parks Trio - Saratoga Springs NY (2013) http://theblues-thatjazz.com/en/jazz/4961-aaron-parks/18493-aaron-parks-trio-saratoga-springs-ny-2013.html http://theblues-thatjazz.com/en/jazz/4961-aaron-parks/18493-aaron-parks-trio-saratoga-springs-ny-2013.html Aaron Parks Trio - Saratoga Springs NY (2013)

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1. Like Someone In Love
2. Isle Of Everything
3. Band Intro
4. Ecaroh 
5. Unknown Title
6. UT
7. UT
8. Eleuthera
9. Comments
10. Untitled Tune
11. Cartoon Elements

Aaron Parks - piano
Ben Street - bass
R.J. Miller – drums

Skidmore College
Zankel Music Center
Saratoga Springs, NY
December 6, 2013

 

Aaron Parks didn’t just look like a young college professor as he led his trio onstage at Zankel Music Center last Friday night (December 6). James Farm’s piano man had actually been teaching master classes at Skidmore College the day before, so the “mentee” of Terence Blanchard was now the mentor. Just one more step in an ever winding, always interesting creative journey that started when Blanchard plucked a teenage Parks out of Manhattan School of Music and showed him the world. And, as we saw on this night, that journey is far from over.

Given the prodigious nature of Parks’ compositional skills, having him start the night with a straight-down-the-middle take on Jimmy van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love” was a bit of a shock. It’s true that Parks’ early recordings touch on the Great American Songbook, but we’ve become so used to Parks doing his own thing that it’s kind of weird to hear him doing anybody else’s tunes. More to the point, Parks eschewed the young musician’s urge to deconstruct an older piece, giving van Heusen’s music the loving touch it deserved.

Parks went back to his own work after “Someone,” spinning a swirling, aggressive piece called “Isle of Everything.” (Say the title fast, and you’ll get the joke.) That was one of the few titles Parks shared with us, as he seemed to be woodshedding new material for us. The one untitled piece he did introduce was a deep, dark blues that showed his ability to play inside and outside at the same time. But Parks wasn’t done looking back, as he and his backers mixed music he wrote with music he didn’t over a too-short 70 minute set that gave every player plenty of room to show his stuff. During an old Horace Silver tune, Parks simply sat back after the introductory section, put his hands on his thighs, and smiled with the rest of us while bassist Ben Street and drummer R.J. Miller took off on the piece.

Although Miller is something of an unknown quantity, Street’s massive tone and sterling foundation-building abilities are well documented. But given that Parks was flying without a second “traditional” soloist, both players had to do a lot more heavy lifting than your average rhythm section on this evening, and both were more than up to the task. Street has the same kind of love (and ear for) a lyric as Parks, and told marvelous stories of his own that matched the mood of anything Parks played. What Miller shared with Parks was an unerring sense of control as he kept his kit’s temperature just hot enough, relying on cymbals and rims to inject sizzle into the songs. Miller’s only “big moment” was towards the end of the closer, “Cartoon Elements,” but we’d discovered the size of his talent long before then.

Those of us who’ve watched Parks “grow up” have become used to soaring works like “Harvesting Dance,” or “Coax” from James Farm’s self-titled 2011 release. Whether it was the trio format or just Parks’ own choice, this evening’s vibe was – for lack of a better term – “restrained-plus.” There were plenty of moments when the teenage-prodigy-made-VERY-good showed the muscle and intention that knocks our heads back. But Parks only brought out the hard stuff when it was called for, like in “Cartoon Elements” (which was more Venture Brothers than Warner Brothers in tone and attack); in contrast, “Like Someone in Love” felt more like Brubeck than Blanchard. It was a real departure from Parks’ breakout release Invisible Cinema, but it was also a step away from Arborescence, the contemplative solo-piano disc he recently recorded for ECM.

The point is, Parks is confident enough and experienced enough that he doesn’t have to let his freak flag fly for us to know he’s on the job. His ability to give each piece just the right touch, just the right push, and just the right twist makes the mind bubble whether he’s paging through the Great American Songbook or sending pages of his own out into the air. Long removed from Terence Blanchard’s universe, Aaron Parks is his own man on every level – and even though he’s got two decades of music behind him, it’s patently obvious that he’s just getting started. ---J.Hunter, nippertown.com

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administration@theblues-thatjazz.com (bluesever) Aaron Parks Fri, 25 Sep 2015 15:49:07 +0000