While he only just passed his 24th birthday in October 2008, the gifted Aaron Parks has been appreciated by New Yorkers for quite some time. He's been paying his dues in local clubs for years and has distinguished himself furtherenhancing his reputation as a pianist of excellenceas a former member of Terence Blanchard's notable Flow sextet, touring and playing on three Blanchard recordings for Blue Note, including the Grammy-winning A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (2007). He's also been heard on soundtracks of Spike Lee movies and tours with Kurt Rosenwinkel.
Now, with Invisible Cinema, his first offering in a Blue Note deal of his own, this Seattle-born self-starter who entered the University of Washington at 14 with a fast-track transfer to Manhattan School of Music two years later is broadening his scope as a bandleader and composer. It's easy to see why he has received Blue Note's vote of confidence. This fellow can play. And he's about more than technique. Whether performing live or on record, as a sideman, soloist or leader, he does so with taste and sensitivity. How he will develop as a bandleader and composer remains to be played out over time. How he will be perceived in his expanding role as a composer right now will depend on the listener's expectations and orientation. Favor compositions that register a bit free-form? If so, this could be your cuppa java. Those who prefer to witness how musicians reinterpret and improvise standards won't get that this time out, though Parks has proven that he can handle those well in performance and on earlier recordings.
Those open to inventiveness incorporating different types of music such as rock and pop into a contemporary, still developing strain of forward-thinking jazz will find much worth sampling here. Varying in mood and scope, these likeable pieces offer restraint, thoughtfulness and versatility, and parts actually sound like they could be segments of a bona fide movie score. (At times, though, ears that crave more traditional structure may experience some things as seeming a little like incidental film music, or even random musings of a talented pianist noodling on the keys as a passing fancy of the moment evolves). But nothing feels lackluster or inappropriate and Parks is never self-indulgent. Whatever he chooses to do, he does it well. The support he receives from a committed and able band of collaboratorsthe accomplished guitarist Mike Moreno, very capable bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harlandis fully effective.
Track Listing: Travelers; Peaceful Warrior; Nemesis; Riddle me This; Into the Labyrinth; Karma; Roadside Attraction; Harvesting Dance; Praise; Afterglow.
Personnel: Aaron Parks: piano, mellotron (3), glockenspiel (3), keyboards (3, 5, 6, 8); Mike Moreno: guitar (2-4, 6-9), Matt Penman: bass (1-4, 6-9); Eric Harland: drums (1-4, 6-9).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.