AARON PARKS, Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man (Ropeadope, 2020). Aaron Parks has solidified himself as one of the voices in 21st century jazz, with a keyboard voice that is both dynamic and solid in its sense of urgency. Parks and his band use the modern influence of electronic music to present their music in a largely acoustic fashion, with gorgeous results. From the opening strains of “Attention Earthlings” it becomes evident we are about to be taken on a journey to the next plane of musical existence. Guitarist Greg Touhey proves the perfect musical foil for Parks, while the rhythm section of David “DJ” Ginyard (bass) and Tommy Crane (drums and percussion) provide a bedrock groove to help make everything else possible. One can try to use this as background music, but it will most certainly insist on making its way to the front. And rightfully so.
HAL GALPER QUINTET, Live at the Berlin Philharmonic 1977 (Origin Records, 2021). This record can really be summed up in two words: IN-SANE!!! Not only is Hal Galper an amazing pianist with a raw aggressive tone one might compare to Keith Jarrett, but his inclusion of the legendary Brecker brothers (Randy on trumpet and flugelhorn and Michael on tenor sax) was nothing short of inspired. Everyone is given an equal chance to shine, and no one wastes his opportunity. Bassist Wayne Dockery and drummer Bob Moses are equally rock solid. Jazz (particularly straight-ahead) was beginning to show its age in the seventies, but the artists were still out there doing all they could to keep it relevant. Hal Galper, it appears, was leading the charge.
MAMMAL HANDS, Captured Spirits (Gondwana, 2020). Marvelously fusing jazz with electronica, classical, and world music while keeping it all on a smooth and even keel, Mammal Hands offers up another set of glorious music for the peaceful places of the mind. Even at its most aggressive, the music never finds itself spiraling out of control or overwhelming the listener. The (slightly) unusual trio of sax, piano, and drums covers the soundscape in such a way that you don’t notice the more traditional sound of bass. Pianist Nick Smart is terrific at holding down solid grooves with his left hand while creating lovely melodies with the right. Meanwhile, Jordan Smart (sax) offers up some fine melodies of his own, while drummer Jesse Barrett holds the fort and keeps things nicely centered. Pour yourself a glass of wine, light a candle, and enjoy.
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