Review and photographs by J Hunter
Aaron Parks didn’t just look like a young college professor as he led his trio onstage at Zankel Music Center last Friday night (December 6). James Farm’s piano man had actually been teaching master classes at Skidmore College the day before, so the “mentee” of Terence Blanchard was now the mentor. Just one more step in an ever winding, always interesting creative journey that started when Blanchard plucked a teenage Parks out of Manhattan School of Music and showed him the world. And, as we saw on this night, that journey is far from over.
Given the prodigious nature of Parks’ compositional skills, having him start the night with a straight-down-the-middle take on Jimmy van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love” was a bit of a shock. It’s true that Parks’ early recordings touch on the Great American Songbook, but we’ve become so used to Parks doing his own thing that it’s kind of weird to hear him doing anybody else’s tunes. More to the point, Parks eschewed the young musician’s urge to deconstruct an older piece, giving van Heusen’s music the loving touch it deserved.