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Aaron Parks: The Comeback Kid

Nearly a decade after his major-label debut, and following much soul-searching, pianist Aaron Parks mounts his return as a leader

Photo of Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks (photo by Bart Babinski/ECM Records)

Aaron Parks’ eyes are the first thing one notices when meeting him. They are large, widely spaced, electric blue and remarkably expressive. “Great to meet you!” he tells JT at ECM Records’ offices in midtown Manhattan, with a bear hug for good measure. Sure, it’s a boilerplate greeting. But those eyes say he really means it.

Photo of Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks (photo by Bart Babinski/ECM)

The 33-year-old’s piano stylings are equally expressive, if not more so. On Find the Way, his new ECM album with bassist Ben Street and drummer Billy Hart, he puts dark underpinnings into the chords; like chiaroscuro in a Caravaggio painting, they throw his melodies’ bright whimsy and humor into relief. Original compositions like “First Glance” aren’t just clouds on the left hand, sunshine on the right, but a sophisticated balance that nonetheless makes the most of its contrasts. Parks is expressive but hardly facile.

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