Aaron Parks – Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man
(Ropeadope records. CD Review by Jon Turney)
The second offering from pianist Aaron Parks’ appealing quartet consolidates the approach introduced two years ago on Little Big. The band sound absolutely of one mind, with keys, guitar, bass and drums working up a seamless blend of soft-rock, electronica, jazz and folksy themes (though the hip-hop influence mentioned in the press release is so subtle I failed to detect it.)
The typical setting for a succession of accessible, hooky tunes, plus a couple of pieces taken from collective jams in the studio, begins with a softly insistent, immaculate groove laid down by drummer Tommy Crane. David Ginyard’s electric bass is well-down in the mix, more felt than heard, but deepens the pulse, and the texture is sometimes thickened a little from the keyboard. (If you have a low tolerance for piano ostinati, best steer clear of this recording). Synth lines colour some tunes, but are used sparingly, with acoustic piano and Greg Tuohy’s clean-toned, comfortably-paced guitar taking the lead most of the time.
Players who eschew unexpected intervals or swerves between time-signatures have to rely mostly on melody to sustain interest. That demands a certain confidence, perhaps. It’s justified here – with tunefully affecting music in both composed and improvised passages. The writing generally evokes open-faced, sunny moods that recall the Pat Metheny Group or early Keith Jarrett. There’s an absence of grandstanding – virtuosity here is restrained for the most part. The solos increase the intensity, now and then, but most pieces relax again, a move typified by the closer, Unknown’s, shift from a hefty piano riff urging on the guitar to just piano and wordless vocal at the very end.
It’s music that’s easy to lose yourself in, for the hour or more it takes to complete the whole set. Of course they didn’t know quite what times would await the release of these tunes, but if the intention is indicated by the title of the rather lovely early track, Solace, it certainly won’t go amiss now
Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk. Twitter: @jonWturneyNext Saturday, 16 May, London’s Vortex club is broadcasting a video of a set from Little Big in 2018. LINK