on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2018 23 Dez

Aaron Parks – Little Big

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags:  15 Comments


I didn’t know Aaron Parks had a new release until I accidentally stumbled across it a few days ago on Tidal and was happily surprised to see the title, Little Big, which happens to be the title of one of my very favorite novels. Apparently it’s one of Parks’ favorites as well.

Little Big the novel was an allegory of life, a fantasy about a peculiar family, an exploration of relationships and karma, and a blend of mysticism and magic set in a sort of parallel Macondo deep in the heart of New England. Little Big was a fairy tale for adults, populated with visions of an alternate reality as filled with mysteries, paradoxes, and conflicts between light and dark as the world we inhabit.

Little Big the album (Ropeadope,) takes us on a journey that is at first deceptively simple, but a closer listen reveals deep roots under the soil. It grooves, lopes, and meanders along with its own logic, at times sounding like a Bruce Hornsby tune without words, at other times like an early Jarrett solo piano piece, at various times melding and synthesizing influences as disparate as Phillip Glass and Stephen Foster, Return to Forever and Procol Harum, an indie soundtrack vibe a la Sufjan Stevens, occasional forays into ‘70s fusion, and even hints of EDM. Every so often, Parks ratchets up the energy into a near frenzy of good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll. Yet regardless of the detours it takes, the sound of Little Big is decidedly Parks’, and always remains distinctively American.

Clocking in at about 80 minutes, it’s a long ride. I admit that at first I didn’t quite get the moderate tempos, stacked up one after the other after the burning opening track, but then I let the music wash over me and began to settle in for the trip.

Parks is a sure-footed conjurer of unique sonic textures. He needs far less notes than most to evoke these tonal hanging worlds, and the band seems to fully understand their job: Like Parks’, it isn’t to grandstand or show off their chops. Rather they are all entirely in service to the music and the particular spaces and stories Parks is invoking. Indeed, in a way, this music is entirely focused on storytelling; Parks and his band are all about the telling of the tale.

Some of compositions are long-form, while some consist of not much more than a repeated hypnotic ostinato. Odd time signatures appear as do phrases that require an extra measure or two, but these devices are never self conscious or employed to merely be clever; clearly these are the kinds of things that came unforced and organically, right out of the fingers and the heart. They have that fresh, newfound sense of joy that only seems to flow from genuine, improvised discoveries.

This is a very well recorded album of a simpatico band playing beautiful, accessible music. Go ahead- turn it up; Much of it is meant to be played loud. It’s not intellectual music per se, yet it certainly is intelligent. It is far less a jazz album than Parks’ fine ECM trio album, Find the Way, and more aligned with his first Bluenote release, Invisible Cinema. Parks is mining his roots here, while keeping his head high in the sky.

This entry was posted on Sonntag, 23. Dezember 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Rosato:

    a very competend review of a mind moving album
    pleasant listening, however no easy listening

    „Bells“ (Track 12)
    unusual wellsounding harmonies
    a special kind of demanding rhythmic polyphony
    guitar lines of irregular length
    subtle pianistic ingredients

    a description that can be used for some more pieces of this beautiful album
    I like it

  2. Brian Whistler:

    Thanks Rosato, Yeah, this album just keeps growing on me-that was a first impression review. I’m trying to get away from the tune by tune style analysis and come from a more spontaneous place. This review speaks of how this beautiful album makes me feel.

    Wish I could’ve seen their album release concert last Wednesday at a small, intimate club in NYC. I’ll bet this music is a blast live.

    And Merry Christmas.

  3. Brian Whistler:

    And your short description of Bells is spot on and yes, could be used to describe any number of pieces on this recording.

  4. Rosato:

    Thanks to you. I’d never have discovered this fine album without your presentation here. I think the one or another piece will become my daily bread for the upcoming time …

  5. Brian Whistler:

    I know what you mean. I just received my hard copy and am really digging it. And it sounds way better than streaming, even in hifi. It’s a very punchy mix – exceptional definition in the kick and bass. I’ve been listening to it almost every day. Glad you are enjoying it.

  6. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Slowly I start getting curious, haha.

    Do you find elements in the way the music is delivered, Brian, that you can easily connect with that fantasy novel that has apparently inspired the whole project?

    I remember this otherworldly effect of Bo Hansson‘s LORD OF THE RINGS early in the 70‘s that has really caught up (imo) some of the otherworldly atmospheres of Tolkien‘s Hobbit saga …

  7. Brian Whistler:

    You know Michael, this recording doesn’t really correlate to the moods of the novel. After struggling with the idea, I finally took out the paragraph that tried to connect the two. I think Parks was inspired by the novel to the extent that he wanted to use that title. It does say somewhere (possibly on Ropeadope label site,) that he loved the novel, but I honestly can’t see any direct connection between the two, only that each is a long journey into the imaginal realms. I love both, but the music doesn’t conjure up that magical realist world of Little Big for me at all, unlike the Bo Hansson recording you mention, which I too remember very well.

  8. Rosato:

    sorry for returning …

    Yesterday I purchased the album at bandcamp
    It seems you can listen to the full album there. Don't know what sound quality will be offered then. BUT if you buy the recording for only 10 $ you'll get highres quality (FLAC – 24 bit 48 kHz) – amazing !!!

    I don't care about the album title, it doesn't tell me anything. I'm not able to avoid watching the structures of the music – that's just my *problem*. The music is rich of tricky inventions, but you also may ignore them and immerse your soul in wonderful sounds.

    It's my ALBUM of the YEAR
    nota bene
    you’ll find Music of Brian Whistler at bandcamp

  9. Brian Whistler:

    Well, I should’ve bought it @ Bandcamp. I got the hard copy. I’m so into the subtle textures of this recording, I’m tempted to buy it again in hi res. I put it at the top of my best of list. It’s addictive, is t it?

  10. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I didn‘t hear a note, guys. But your enthusiasm is infecting.
    On Jan 1 it‘ll be doubled for one month as the real ALBUM OF JANUARY🎩

    But, just believe me, guys, on February 1, a stellar album of sorts, down to earth and dreamlike: Rustin Man and DRIFT CODE will appear as ALBUM OF FEBRUARY.

  11. Brian Whistler:

    Check out Siren or Aquarium. This album is like ear crack.

  12. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ear crack????

  13. Brian Whistler:

    A step above ear candy in that it’s highly addictive!

  14. Michael Engelbrecht:

    My daily English lesson😅

  15. Rosato:

    unfortunately missed :(

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