Nov 2, 2013
Making a solo piano CD on ECM Records is asking for comparisons. That label features a catalogue of memorable solo piano recordings from the likes of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Stefano Bollani, Paul Bley and more recently Craig Taborn. The good news is that Aaron Parks’ new solo piano CD, Arborescence, deserves favorable comparison with these praised recordings.
Parks, who hit the scene in a big way as a member of Terence Blanchard’s band right out of high school, has been steadily progressing as a composer, sideman and bandleader. His work with Kurt Rosenwinkel’s latest quartet made Star of Jupiter one of last year’s more memorable recordings, much as the James Farm collaboration with Joshua Redman was in 2011. His CD Invisible Cinema was a top release of 2008, and showed his strength as a composer.
However, Parks had never played solo in public or in a recording before deciding to take on this project. Eventually ending up with ECM, the album, recorded in Worcester, Massachusetts vibrant Mechanics Hall, is a wonderful collection of improvisations, expanded ideas and tone poems.
Parks is also a key part of another ECM release from this fall, his friend Yeawhon Shin’s collection of ballads and lullabies, Lua ya. Also recorded at Mechanics Hall, this collaboration allowed Parks to continue his spontaneous piano playing, a skill he said he was enjoying fleshing out.
I spoke with Aaron about these two CDs, the challenges of solo piano, and his current plans to tour on his own and with Rosenwinkel. Podcast 388 features that conversation along with musical selections from Arborescence and Lua ya.