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Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2016: The Ever Beautiful Aaron Parks Trio

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-in-Chief
anthony.deanharris@nextbop.com / @i_ADH

Aaron Parks is an altogether beautiful person, as if his aura just colors whatever he touches, particularly pianos. Billy Hart is a legend and a giant and gets to do whatever the hell he wants on the drums. Ben Street is an anchor and a pure soul able to keep the three aligned on the bass. The trio were absolutely outstanding playing one of the last sets of the festival on Saturday, July 9 at Le Gesù presenting new material Parks is set to release some time next year on ECM.

The three hadn't played together in a little while before this gig. Performance-wise, this had little impact. Hart's bombastic brilliance, Parks' eloquence, and Street's tether were all perfectly intact. However, the set itself took on a freewheeling nature about halfway through as Parks' setlist neared its end and the next few songs were selected almost on the fly. However, like the artful pros they are, they improvised the rest of the songs as jazz musicians do.

It's enthralling watching Parks play the piano as if he fees this all over. It's what he does -- the Keith Jarrett hums, the constant swaying -- he really can't help himself. It's really something to overflow with feeling like that, admirable. Much like a Fiona Apple lyric, he just wants to feel everything. Hart, conversely, is a controlled thunderstorm. The lightning strikes are dancing about, taking pleasure as they hit the ground as it churns across the landscape spreading change to the earth below, where all impacted must improvise to it. Billy Hart affects change like that. It is in Ben Street as the anchor, keeping these songs in focus, that Hart the storm and Parks, let's say… the water itself, provide a central point to swirl around.

Oh, and at some point, they were doing that in a song in 10/4. That was nuts.

This is all for Parks' next trio album, as was previously stated. He later noted in conversation about the importance of standing out on his own and not caring so much about others' opinions as he's in his 30s. (I was turning 30 the following week. It was good to hear this from him. Man, the last two weeks surrounding my 30th birthday have been great!) This is his next thing. These compositions are controlled, emotive brilliance. He's covering Rosemary Clooney-- her composition, "Find the Way", is the upcoming album's title. He has Billy Hart and Ben Street. One can tell what Aaron Parks makes next is going to be beautiful.

Nextbop editor Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current. You should follow him on Twitter.