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Aaron Parks: Little Big

Glenn Astarita By

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The press release for highly praised keyboard/composer Aaron Parks's (Kurt Rosenwinkel, Terence Blanchard) latest album states: "after experimenting with various lineups and sessions, Parks landed on three musicians ideally suited for this atmospheric, genre-bending new work." And after listening to this inspiring session it's easy to discern why Parks needed time and a bit of prudence to fulfil his personalized mission of original genre-hopping compositions, that gel to a synergistic group-focused vibe. Here, it seems that the artist has reached a milestone 10-years after his 2008 Blue Note debut Invisible Cinema.

This acoustic-electric set is best played in its entirety. And while each piece stands on its own, there's a synchronous flow akin to a movielike plot that casts a flurry of contrasting emotive aspects and propositions. Parks derived inspiration from John Crowley's science fiction writings, in concert with his take on indie rock and electronic instrumentation bolstered with progressive jazz applications. Even while guitarist Greg Tuohey uses effects, his soloing conveys lucid imagery of a hornist's jazz lines, partly due to his rangy extended notes, tuneful flurries and improvisations around primary themes.

The quartet's cyclical melodies, blossoming arrangements and the element of surprise are pivotal components, abetted by the frontline's multihued shadings and bassist DJ Ginyard's sturdy and fluid groove-based foundations. However, "Small Planet" is a touching ballad, instilled with contemplative sentiment and the guitarist's tempered use of distortion, duly supported by the rhythm section's pliant rock beats and supple jazz cadences.

Parks and Tuohey generate plenty of background effects, airy colorations and sensitive voicings. But "Professor Strangeweather" is a funk jazz spree, coated with Park's velvety synth lines. Whereas, the plot takes a U-turn on the ethereal and echoing "Lilac," triggering a lazy day type vibe but picks up steam thanks to drummer Tommy Crane's inventive maneuvers within a stewing undercurrent and swirling ostinatos. Other works are designed with a hardcore jazz fusion impetus, instigated by Parks' hammering block chords and gritty tradeoffs with Tuohey amid thrusting pulses, dense synth swashes and burgeoning progressions.

"Hearth" is the pianist's brief, heartfelt and blues-tinged solo interlude, although "Rising Mind" is a lyrically resplendent and blustery piece, sparked by Tuohey's punk jazz licks and the leader's tuneful block chords. Indeed, it's a rather majestic presentation, devised with chutzpah, grit, multi-flavored oeuvres and technical mastery. Toss in some intermittent risk-taking methods and you have a program that highlight Parks' exceptional talents, enacted by a superb band that performs with the greatest of ease, and a laser-like focus.

Track Listing: Kid; Small Planet; The Trickster, Professor Strangeweather; Lilac; Aquarium; Digital Society; Siren; Mandala; Hearth; The Fool; Rising Mind; Good Morning; Doors Open.

Personnel: Aaron Parks: piano, keyboards; Greg Tuohey: guitar; David Ginyard: bass; Tommy Crane: drums.

Title: Little Big | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Ropeadope

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