Aaron Parks' Invisible Cinema

Nick Catalano By

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Some ten years ago when I was speaking at the annual Clifford Brown Festival in Wilmington Delaware, I ran across a remarkable family. The "Parkses" (a family of four represented at the festival by mother & son) were there, excited by the prospect that young Aaron, age 14 or so, and his young compatriots (winners of a jazz competition) were selected to perform. The youngsters were talented and entertaining but what I remember most about the encounter were conversations with Aaron's mother. She had hauled her young prodigy from Seattle and was preparing to move her family to New York in order to service her son's music career which she was dutifully producing, directing and networking. She was amazing, charming and amusingly determined.

Young Aaron progressed rapidly as his Mom knew he would. He had attended the University of Washington with a triple-major in math, computer science and music at age 15. Soon he attracted the attention of Terence Blanchard and began a five-year tenure with the acclaimed trumpeter appearing on several notable albums, and initiating an association with another young phenom, drummer Eric Harland. During this time he met Jason Moran, Robert Glasper and began exchanging ideas with guitarist Mike Moreno and bassist Matt Penman, appearing on the latter's debut album "Between The lines."

Now, ten years after my auspicious encounter with young Aaron and his benevolent stage-mother, the keyboardist has achieved her dream and makes his debut as a Blue Note recording leader on Invisible Cinema. The CD is a comprehensive reflection of Parks' unique pianism, compositional innovation, and early compilations. From the percussive richness of "Travelers" to the Balkan flavors of "Harvesting Dance" (inspired by John Zorn's "Masada") Parks' fresh imprimatur is always present.

The mention of Zorn and this new recording achievement of Aaron Parks gives further impetus to the suspicion that something very new and exciting is afoot in jazz. And those who are eager to discover its essence would do well to seek out the music of Aaron Parks.

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