When the first American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship winner in 2002 for jazz, Aaron Parks, returned to town a few weeks ago, he was no longer an awe-struck teen-ager. Now 22, Parks has been a regular member of the Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard Sextet for three years.
I caught up with him at the Jazz Kitchen in January after Blanchard's second set. Park's maturation is somewhat startling - his voice is now three octaves deeper and he has a full-grown beard and mustache in place of facial peach fuzz. He is no longer a teen-age piano phenomenon, but a worldly adult paying his dues for jazz.
Since joining Blanchard's band, Park admits he has grown as a person first. "It has been an amazing experience for me," he stated. He still speaks in awe of playing nightly with Terence Blanchard. "It's a real honor to be sharing the bandstand with someone like that. He has a certain type of freedom he gives to everyone in the band, which just gives the possibility to go any direction and just completely be yourself."
Aaron Park's career is a work in progress as he is carefully absorbing the lessons of life. A life of musical freedom called jazz.
Jazz Renegades concert
Thursday, March 2 the month-long Jazz Symposium series produced by the Phillips Guild will wind down with a concert featuring the Jazz Renegades Octet led by Dr. Lee Jones. Dave Pell's musical arrangements of Rodgers and Hart songs, one of the top modern jazz sounds of the '60s and '70s, will be played.
Dave Pell was a cool school tenor saxophonist who specialized in swinging tight arrangements of Great American Songbook composers, but left plenty of room for lyrically improvised solos for his octet members. The West Coast-based Dave Pell Octet developed a large following of fans before disbanding.
The Phillips Guild gives promising music students a chance to develop quicker by playing side by side with more experienced musicians in challenging situations. Jones pointed out that for this particular concert the veterans will play these demanding charts. He added, "It does two things for us: It builds public awareness for us for what we are doing. It also it teaches any young person at the concert that there is more than rock and roll."
The free concert will be at the Martin University Gathertorium, 2171 Avondale Place, at 7 p.m.
* A new CD of interest will soon be released of piano music by Scott Morris Soltermann, entitled One. Of particular interest for Dog Talk fans is that this marks the return of the group's vocalist Cliff White after a stroke just over a year ago. White appears on four of the CD's 13 cuts of songs from movies, Broadway and standards. White does his distinctive version of "Wonderful World" on this release. Glad you are back, Cliff.
* A special live recording session will take place this Friday, March 3 at the Jazz Kitchen when Seven Pleasures, with its horn line blowing hip bop solos over acid jazz grooves, takes the bandstand. Both the 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. shows will be recorded. Jazz Kitchen owner David Allee says he is shooting for a mid autumn release date of the CD.