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Aaron Parks/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Find the Way

Karl Ackermann By

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Find the Way is pianist Aaron Parks' eighth release as a leader and second on the ECM label. The prolific artist has appeared as a sideman on thirty-eight albums dating back to 2003, working frequently with Terence Blanchard, recording with Joshua Redman and Kurt Rosenwinkel and many other top names in jazz. At the age of fourteen, Parks was studying music and computer science at the University of Washington and has gone on to win multiple awards including sharing a Grammy for Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (Blue Note, 2007).

Parks' ECM debut, Aborescence (2013), was a critically acclaimed solo outing that highlighted his deceptively nuanced flair for intricate harmony. On Find the Way he returns to a trio formation to convey his intricate vision. A complete resume on Billy Hart would fill a book. The tireless, veteran drummer, he's been a leader since Enchance (Horizon, 1977); one of eleven such releases. He has anchored rhythm sections in groups that covered the jazz alphabet from John Abercrombie to Joe Zawinul. Hart and bassist Ben Street are well acquainted having recorded together on three recent Hart albums including Hart's last two ECM outings All Our Reasons (2012) and One Is the Other (2014).

Hart is key in shifting the dynamics throughout the program, quickly evident in the varying subtleties of the opening pieces "Adrift" and "Song for Sashou." "Unravel" is a balancing act between rich melody and somewhat more outside lines. "Hold Music" begins with an extended Hart solo focused on the tom-tom before Parks eases the piece down to a ballad. Parks modeled "Alice" on the compositional style that Alice Coltrane employed with the tune "Ptah the El Daoud" from her under-recognized album of the same name (UMG Recordings, 1970). More upbeat and exotic is "Melquíades," named for a character in a Gabriel García Márquez novel. The title track closes the album as it began—lyrical but slightly elusive.

Parks expressed his awareness of the ECM aesthetic, and at points looked to emulate that increasingly broader sensibility. The music certainly fits in the label's eclectic catalog nicely but because Parks is not given to over-the-top drama, the simplicity and polish in Find the Way demands closer attention to appreciate some thorny time signatures and moody textures. Parks proves that classic lyricism need not be played out as a relic of the past.

Track Listing: Adrift; Song for Sashou; Unravel; Hold Music; The Storyteller; Alice; First Glance; Melquíades; Find The Way.

Personnel: Aaron Parks: piano; Ben Street: double-bass; Billy Hart: drums.

Title: Find the Way | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records

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