Somebody once asked me to find two words that describe the music I make, and the words I picked were 'spontaneous' and 'cinematic,'" says Aaron Parks. Having clarified the essence of his art, the pianist kept those two words closely in mind while conceiving and recording Invisible Cinema, his extraordinary debut for the Blue Note label. In its virtuosity and harmonic complexity, Invisible Cinema speaks to Parks's immersion in jazz on the highest level, even as it references a wider world of contemporary music-making.
"The title has a lot of different meanings," notes the 24-year-old Seattle native, who is currently based in Brooklyn. "For one thing, Invisible Cinema is what music is, in a sense. You can't see it. But there's all this drama between the musicians, all these stories that can be told. Also, I was thinking about actual cinema, and this album has a story line that I wouldn't spell out to anybody, because I want to leave it open to interpretation. But for me there's a narration in the sequence and song titles and everything."
Invisible Cinema finds Parks in excellent form as both a soloist and composer, buoyed by the support of guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland. Together and apart, these players have assumed roles at the forefront of jazz in the new millennium. Harland has made lasting music with Geri Allen, the legendary Charles Lloyd and of course Terence Blanchard, in whose band Harland first encountered the young Aaron Parks. Moreno, fast becoming one of the most sought-after plectrists of his generation, featured Parks on his own acclaimed debut album, Between the Lines. Penman, Harland and Parks were also heard to great effect on the bassist's 2007 release, Catch of the Day.
Parks recalls a Harland-led quartet tour of Japan, with Penman and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, as "one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life. Playing with that rhythm section is so easy. They just fit each other like a glove." If Penman and Harland were a natural choice for Invisible Cinema, Mike Moreno was the puzzle piece that brought it to completion. "With the guitar quartet, these songs really started to make sense to me," Parks notes. "It was exactly the sonic environment I needed. Mike and I have played together with Kendrick Scott, in John Ellis's band and so many other contexts. There's this lyricism about his playing that I'm really into."
At its core, Invisible Cinema is an acoustic jazz record, yet it evokes other sonic and rhythmic frontiers through the use of subtly added keyboards, meticulously varied guitar sounds and unorthodox beats. "I'd sometimes give Eric a very specific drum part to learn," Parks explains. "But as soon as he'd get what I wanted, I'd tell him to forget it, let it go." In this way, Parks coaxed free interaction and discovery from all involved. "The music that I write has a lot of structure, a lot that's written into the pieces, but there's also room for new things to happen at the same time. I like writing songs that are simple on some level, letting the musicians work their magic in those little nebulous cracks, the spaces I leave open."
Parks evokes a broad range of textures on Invisible Cinema, from the bright feel and metallic snare drum attack of "Travelers" to the rock-influenced grooves of "Riddle Me This" and "Nemesis"; from the multipart structure and dizzying piano-guitar solo exchanges of "Peaceful Warrior" (written for Loueke) to the lilting 5/4 ballad "Praise." "There's a lot of drama built into the pieces," Parks observes. "A lot of my favorite bands have that. Wayne Shorter's quartet is all about drama."
Invisible Cinema, Aaron's most significant milestone to date, sends him off and running on a solo career that is sure to awe listeners for years to come.
8-20 - New York, NY - Small's Jazz Club (w/Kurt Rosenwinkel)
8/22 - New York, NY - J&R MusicFest @ City Hall Park (w/Roy Hargrove & Esperanza Spalding)
8/29 - Lenox, MA - Tanglewood Jazz Festival
9/10-11 - Jazz Standard - NYC - Win Tickets
10/17 - Memphis, TN - Germantown Performing Arts Center
10/18 - New Orleans, LA - Snug Harbor
10/19 - Los Angeles, CA - Jazz Bakery
10/20 - San Francisco, CA - Yoshi's
10/23 - Seattle, WA - Earshot Jazz Festival
10/24 - Denver, CO - Dazzle Jazz Club
11/01 - Philadelphia, PA - Chris' Jazz Cafe
Riddle Me This