Little Big (Ropeadope Select)
Over the years, I’ve gone out of my method to be close by when Aaron Parks performs piano.
I first heard him, fairly fortuitously, within the winter of 2003, when he performed a trio set on the large International Association for Jazz Education get-together in Toronto. Parks — who performed then with bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Obed Calvaire, if reminiscence serves — was scarcely greater than 19. But he had an terrible lot occurring. After all, he was already enjoying within the band of trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who was additionally on the town.
Since then, I’ve caught Parks at a bunch of competition gigs — with Blanchard in Ottawa (2005), with the all-star quartet James Farm in Montreal (2009), Ottawa (2010) and Newport, Rhode Island (2011), after which again in Ottawa in 2013 with Kurt Rosenwinkel. I heard Parks play free-flowing solo piano in a church on the 2013 Quebec City Jazz Festival. Most just lately, I heard Parks in two small New York golf equipment — at Smalls in 2017, when he backed saxophonist Remi LeBoeuf, and this spring at Rockwood Music Hall, the place he performed a gap set along with his newest undertaking, Little Big.
The level of this recap is that for a very long time — Parks is 35 now — I’ve had large ears for his particular lyricism and creativity, that are audible in each state of affairs, whether or not he’s making use of his presents to jazz requirements or presenting the strains of his authentic music that has grow to be so influential. While Parks has dazzled on a variety of recordings (I’ll single out his 2017 piano trio album on ECM, Find The Way), it was his 2008 launch Invisible Cinema, Parks’s big-label debut on the age of 24, that made his technology of jazz lovers and friends go “wow,” with its seminal, standard-setting mix of jazz with indie rock, electronica and extra.
Which brings me to this week, when Parks performs tonight (Friday) and Saturday night time at Montreal’s cozy Diese Onze membership along with his Little Big group. You can guess that it tempts me to make the street journey. (Note: Parks shall be in Ottawa later this month, on the 27th, within the band of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington when it performs the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival.)
Parks’s Little Big album was launched final fall, and I popped it onto my list of 2018’s best jazz albums with out hesitation. I by no means did get round to writing intimately about it, however given Parks’s upcoming Montreal exhibits, plus a couple of newer fan-friendly developments, now’s the time.
Despite a hiatus of greater than a decade, Little Big picks up the place Invisible Cinema left off, exploring how a guitar-heavy, hard-grooving, indie-rock sensibility can intersect with the sophistications and improvisations of jazz. However, Parks has put a brand new band collectively, drawing on the distinctive musical voices of guitarist Greg Tuohey, bedrock bassist David “DJ” Ginyard Jr. and drummer Tommy Crane. In the evolution from Invisible Cinema to Little Big, Parks’s music burrows deeper into the sheer sonic aspect of issues, with not solely the pianist’s arsenal of keyboards but additionally Tuohey’s digital manipulations and Crane’s earthy clattering contributing to a bigger sound that embraces the very best of a number of genres.
Here’s a dwell model of Kid, the primary of Little Big‘s 15 tracks.
On the album, it’s an ideal opener, demonstrating the breadth of Parks’s imaginative and prescient and its marriage of accessible, earworm-worthy components and melodic exoticism. I like that pristine piano and gritty distortion co-exist so efficiently on Little Big, and that the songs and the soloing are so nicely fused. The big-picture vibe and the detail-level word decisions are all the time aligned in order that listeners, nevertheless they entry music, will probably be hooked. It feels to me that the fabric and idea are so compelling that at its greatest, the musicians are making the music — they’re channeling it.
Over its many tracks, Little Big adjustments gears and switches up its sonic palette. There are different rousing tunes like Kid such because the percolating tune Digital Society that can set heads bobbing. Rising Mind has a distinct sort of urgency, paired with harmonies and a melody which have a particular move.
The slower follow-up Small Planet was in all probability my chill-out tune of 2018:
Other tunes reminiscent of Mandala and Bells solid distinctive hypnotic spells. Aquarium is burbling, reverberant and immersive.
Siren, which Parks recorded on the 2013 piano trio album that he gave away on the internet, reappears on Little Big in a extra expansive kind, with poignant solos by Ginyard and Parks on the piano embedded within the track’s a lot bigger dramatic arc.
Two transient and fetching solo piano items — the jaunty Lilac and extra rubato Hearth — are musical resets on the album. I’ll additionally say that they call to mind Keith Jarrett’s heartstring-tugging evocations of Americana, which isn’t to say that they’re spinoff, particularly since I’m somebody who often hears lovely piano music of every kind and thinks, “Oh right, Keith Jarrett got there first.”
The album’s penultimate tune Good Morning is a bright-keyed, sun-dappled, drone-y, unabashedly upbeat deal with that pops and refreshes all of the extra given the minor-key moods that Little Big delves into so successfully. Then, Doors Open concludes the album concisely and definitively with hymnal cadences and a swell of grand, swaggering feeling.
A word to musicians who need extra perception into Parks’s magic: Last month, he generously made accessible, free of charge, not solely the sheet music for the Little Big album, however the stems (sub-groups of audio tracks) as nicely, ripe for remixing and extra.
“The idea is to make this raw material available to anyone who may be inclined to play around with it,” Parks wrote in a mass electronic mail. “That might be so simple as muting the piano monitor and taking my place within the band, or as substantial as a complete remix/re-imagination. I’m super-curious to listen to what folks would possibly give you! You can discover the stems HERE.
“If you make one thing with our stems and need to share it non-commercially (posting on SoundCloud, YouTube, or Instagram, for instance), I’m all for that! That’s completely the thought. Just please give us credit score.”
So, take Parks up on his largesse if you happen to can — piggyback your creativity on his. But don’t overlook to purchase his music too (Bandcamp is likely to be one of the best ways to offer him his correct share), and attempt to catch him dwell. I do know I’ll.