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Aaron Parks: Little Big (Ropeadope)

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Cover of Little Big by Aaron Parks
Cover of Little Big by Aaron Parks

This album picks up where pianist Aaron Parks left off 10 years ago with his acclaimed 2008 Blue Note release, Invisible Cinema. Like that disc, this is the product of a piano-and-guitar quartet playing modern rock- and electronica-influenced postbop. Time, though, has altered Parks’ music: less ostentation, more gravitas. It’s the beauty and vision of the older album, filtered through maturity.

Perhaps Parks learned something from his stint at ECM (with whom he released last year’s trio album, Find the Way, with Ben Street and Billy Hart), something about restraint, letting the song pull its weight and atmosphere have its place. On the decidedly unsubtle “Professor Strangeweather,” with its funk/hip-hop beat, Parks’ squiggly synth solos use ample space and economy of notes—and, in a menacing exchange with guitarist Greg Tuohey, some minimalist vamps. On the other hand, the hymn-like “Hearth” is subtle, Parks’ solo piano accompanied only by his soft hum; if the chords are dense here and there, it’s only because the song requires them to be.

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