Aaron Parks ‘Groovements’ (Stunt) 4/5

Seattle born pianist Aaron Parks first came to prominence in 2008 with his acoustic fusion debut for Blue Note, ‘Invisible Cinema’, and then five years later followed this up with an excellent ECM solo recording, ‘Abrorescence’, which was arguably his strongest album to date. Parallel to this, Parks has been a regular contributor to the James Farm collective that among others includes saxophonist Joshua Redman.
His new trio outing is on the independent Danish Stunt label that is carving out a reputation for quality jazz musicians and he is accompanied in the endeavour by bassist Thomas Fonnesbaek and drummer Karsten Bagge. While, perhaps, not as adventurous as the ECM album, this is nonetheless a highly enjoyable and melodic recording that takes on board various classical and contemporary influences from Debussy and Satie to Arvo Pärt, and from a jazz perspective from Paul Bley to Keith Jarrett and through to Brad Mehldau. In parts, there is a lightness of touch that recalls the Bill Evans trio, especially on a piece such as, ‘Elutheria’, and the interplay between trio members suggests that collectively they have soaked up the innovatory aspects of the classic Evans era.

Musicality is at the very core of, ‘Alcubierre’s law’, which has wonderful floating quality, and where one really hears the trio in unison. Whereas there is a reposing quality to, ‘Forever this moment’, the emphasis is more on the blues on, ‘A rabbit’s tale’, with a delightful bass line in the main theme that lingers long on the mind. In general, Aaron Parks specialises in quiet contemplative music and this is illustrated further on, ‘Winter’s waltz’, a piece that was composed by Fonnesboek. The choice of what has become something of a modern jazz standard in Cedar Walton’s, ‘Bolivia’, is treated less as a Latin-infused number as on the original and more as a piece with shifting polyrhythms that are expertly crafted by Bagge. One pop cover is intriguingly a Bruce Springsteen composition, ‘I’m on fire’, that here takes on a distinctive gentle New Orleans mid-tempo groove with inventive percussion work from Bagge. Classical music is not forgotten with a gorgeous pared down ballad taken from Carlo Neilsen’s, ‘Tit er jeg glad’, and featuring just piano and double bass, with Fonnesboek entering into an extended solo. In sum, a well balanced offering of modern and classic straight ahead flavours that impresses the listener from start to finish.

Tim Stenhouse