Aaron Parks - Find The Way
(ECM 478 1841. Review by Peter Bacon)
The California-born, Seattle-raised Aaron Parks' first ECM disc under his own name was the solo piano effort Arborescence (>Review) but for his second he leads a trio with Ben Street on double bass and Billy Hart on drums. (this trio was photographed in London in 2015)
There is a dreamy, indefinable quality about Parks' writing and playing which I find irresistibly intriguing. As a listener I find I am constantly reaching (figuratively) into the music and finding that what I thought was substantially there has somehow transfigured into gossamer and smoke and eluded my grasp, only to be replaced by a further, seemingly substantial, element... and on and on.
It can't just be me that feels this way. That quality is reflected in some of the pianist's song titles: Adrift, Unravel, First Glance. And maybe even Hold Music. Which is in no way to suggest that it's all froth! There is real intellectual and emotional substance here, it's just that it's hard to pin down.
The other key to the pianist's music is in a further title: The Storyteller. Fellow pianist Kit Downes showed his appreciation in these words: "He has a compositional approach to improvising, always telling an interesting and clear story through his rich melodic lines. Even at very high speed, his lines always harness harmony and time together into one pure voice..." (Kit Downes writes... about Aaron Parks).
The choice of Street and Hart to amplify Parks' vision is a brilliant one. Ben Street follows and comments on the pianist's moves with equal melodic richness, while Hart, his drums exquisitely recorded with just the right amount of reverb to suggest the space around the kit as well as the drums themselves, adds an astonishing richness of sound and the subtlest of rhythmic accents. And yet neither bass nor drums overwhelm what must still be the beating heart of this music, the piano.
Chamber classical in its mood, cinematic in its evocation and thoroughly jazzy in its spontaneous creativity and lithe nature, Find The Way is one of the loveliest piano trio discs I expect to hear this year.