Seattle born pianist Aaron Parks has packed a lot into his relatively young (twenty-four)years. From jazz mentors of the calibre of Kenny Barron, Fred Hirsch and latterly a tenure in Terence Blanchard’s band, to university studies begun at the tender age of fifteen, Parks is one precocious talent. On his debut for Blue Note he takes in multiple influences that range from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter on the jazz side to Bjork, Radiohead and Talk Talk in the world of rock. In this respect he is like many of his contemporaries and not dissimilar to Brad Mehldau. What is interesting about the quartet is the interplay between guitarist Mike Moreno and piano on the one hand, and the subtle use of electric keyboards and drums on the other to create a layered, sometimes rock-inflected groove. In this respect there is a nod to EST in attitude, but in the sound created this is far more in the vein of a pared-down version of Pat Metheny in a quartet setting.
Beautiful ensemble work permeates ‘Karma’ with musicians playing off each other to wonderful effect whereas ‘Nemesis’ is characterised by a catchy and effective simple piano riff after which the guitar takes off. The expansive ballad ‘Praise’ showcases the refinement and maturity in Park’s piano style. No standards and all originals makes for an accomplished debut that promises a great deal for the future. Last year Robert Glasper was rightly hailed as a major new talent. This year the mantle must surely be passed on to Aaron Parks and one looks forward to the trajectory in development of his next releases.