I can think of no title more apt for Aaron Parks debut than Invisible Cinema. The music creates a phantasmagorical environment that envelops the listener. Like the wheels of a projector, the piano of Aaron Parks, drumming of Eric Harland, bass of Matt Penman and guitar of Mike Moreno, create shifting textures and images. The groups interplay is very cinematic, perhaps buoyed by Parks’ recent work on the score of Spike Lee’s Inside Man. They never shy away from technical proficiency, but as a bandleader Parks allows his compositions to breathe, allowing them the space to unfurl at a leisurely pace. The result is an album that is both accessible and layered; an aesthetically pleasing tapestry of aural delicacy. Themes shift, tempos change, but at the core is a heart of playful but tasteful exploration. Aaron Parks’ Invisible Cinema, his debut as a leader, is an interesting balance between meandering and controlled, maturity versus boundless exploration of ideas.
Best known for his work with Terrence Blanchard’s sextet, Parks has clearly pulled out the sessions to hone his craft. This ultimately makes his transition to the front an easier move, having already created his own identity on the keys. Parks often relies on oscillating chords, improvising through scales mainly with his right hand. This creates a propulsive feel to the music, most noticeable and droning, trancing rock of “Nemesis”, which is primarily a showcase for the chops of guitarist Mike Moreno. He doesn’t disappoint as he builds from a sparse, minor key chord progression to a serpentinely solo. Still, this is ultimately the Aaron Parks show, highlighted in the tantalizing “Into the Labyrinth”. A graceful display of classicism, the piece seduced you into its almost elegiac atmosphere, and ends all too quickly. Other pieces on the album may be more complex turns by the pianist, but this piece is the one where he grabs you and pulls you in.
One shouldn’t neglect the other players however, as they all contribute their parts. While mainly running through chord progressions, bassist Matt Penman is solid and uses “Karma” as his main opportunity to shine. As mentioned, Mike Moreno creates a tasteful turn on guitar when he makes his appearances, especially on “Karma” and even adding a bit of kick to the centerpiece “Harvesting Dance”. However it is the exceptional drumming of Eric Harland. Right off the bat, on “Travelers”, the percussion on this album is as tight as... some sort of non-sexual joke is what I was aiming for. It bombards on “Harvesting Dance”, propels on “Nemesis” and gently directs on “Praise”. Harland knows how to use his kit creatively, and it adds another dimension to the already excellent album. In fact there are very few flaws to the album, and it really only depends on your preference to this style of jazz.
If you like Brad Mehldau, or Tord Gustavsen, or even Oscar Peterson then chances are you’re going to love Invisible Cinema. If you haven’t heard of any of the people I just mentioned, it’s time for you to get your ass to a record store. Then after you learn to appreciate those guys, come back to Aaron Parks. He makes a case for your time with a gentle and accessible, but explorative and adventurous album. Invisible Cinema is the type of jazz that can be enjoyed by many people. Not in the way of the god-awful Kenny G, but in a way that is actually good. I mean, people like Radiohead right?
when the drums started in the first song i thought "oh god that snare sound is going to annoy the hell out of me" but luckily it changed haha. it sure is a good album, i really like his style, definitely see the similarities with tord gustavsen too.
I like the first track a lot but even by the end of it the sorta-constant modulation and right hand
flubber wears on me and it goes downhill from there. It sounds more like someone having pro sex with
a piano then someone writing music for regular listening. This type of stuff is mad fun to play in
combos but outside of live settings it never really strikes me.