A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Pianist Aaron Parks is bringing two trios to The Jazz Gallery this week. On Thursday, August 21st, he will be joined by bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey and on Friday the 22nd by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer RJ Miller. Parks is perhaps best known for his much-lauded 2008 Blue Note release, Invisible Cinema, for his work with Kurt Rosenwinkel, and for his prodigious beginnings. At age 13, he entered the University of Washington as a triple major in math, computer science, and music before settling on music. 

However impressive these accomplishments are, they fail to cover his complexity as an artist. Parks is a pianist of boundless curiosity. His fondness for indie rock has been noted elsewhere, but less commented on is the breadth of his listening. In an interview given last year, Parks lists what he had been checking out recently: Lester Young, Bud Powell, Art Tatum, Grizzly Bear, Talk Talk, Scriabin, Prokofiev, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes. One imagines the directions a more thorough examination of his music library might take.

Parks’s only available trio album, a “bootleg” recorded on his iPhone in Japan in 2012 and released for free on Bandcamp, is a testament to his wide-ranging interests. At times, Parks brings joy, openness, and humor to standard repertoire. Elsewhere, he displays his continued interest in the kind of mood-driven pieces that fill Invisible Cinema, beneath which lives a diverse ecosystem of influences. Throughout we hear an artist glad to share his knowledge with his audience, expanding himself at the edges while keeping his core dense and mysterious.

In the interview mentioned above, Parks also said:

I used to care so much about the art that I had convinced myself that style could be a prison, and that I didn’t want to learn the craft of different styles, because I didn’t want to be held captive. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the value of playing something good, not playing something just because it’s supposedly “new.”  As long as you play those things with feeling…play something that’s authentic. Even if you know where something is going…there is such a sense of satisfaction as a listener when you hear someone play a phrase and you know exactly where they’re going to go, and then they go there. I used to be so concerned with always being new, it was so obfuscated for the sake of being “original.”

There is a quiet strength to his recent playing that reflects this musical ethos. He still pushes himself emotionally and intellectually, as all improvisors must. But his playing shows a new confidence, a surety in his ideas and a comfort in tradition. He is beginning to address his masters with his own voice—the sign of a mature artist. 

The two bands he will bring to the Gallery, made of such different—even opposing—personalities, promise to show a considerable spectrum of Parks’s abilities.

Aaron Parks Trios will perform at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday & Friday, August 21st & 22nd, 2014. Both nights feature Parks on piano, with Matt Brewer on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums on Thursday and Larry Grenadier and RJ Miller on drums on Friday. Sets are at 9 and 11 pm. $22 general admission, $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.