AARON PARKS LITTLE BIG | New York, Winter Jazz Fest

Music festivals are for discoveries and at WJF sometimes the discoveries aren’t just artists, they’re the rooms they play in. Coming in from the biting cold of Bleecker Street everyone’s looking to warm up and at Subculture the warmth was not just thermic but also the acoustic. What a venue this is, and what a show Parks and co. played there on the opening night of the WJF Marathon Weekend.

Having just experienced a band where an exceptionally talented soloist was doing his best to make things work with a few temporary line-up additions, Parks and his baked-in band of sympathetic, assertive musicians was the perfect antidote. Moving easily between piano and synth, the keys player carved out melodic lines like new tracks in pristine snow. Working seamlessly through material from album Little Big, the band delivered a balanced sound that gave space for each other to thrive. The questioning, pacey ‘Rising Mind’ was followed by the deeper groove of ‘The Trickster’ and then the rhythmically asymmetry of ‘Professor Strangelove’.

‘Small Planet’ is described by Aaron as a ‘lullaby’ and it is indeed a petit and perfectly formed number. However this track —as with the rest of the set— fails the test of any good lullaby as no one is going to fall asleep while in the presence of such sumptuous musicianship. Greg Touhey’s electric guitar licks travel with Parks’s piano in an almost hypnotic fashion and the Jesse Murphy (bass), Tommy Crane (drums) engine beneath the bonnet keeps things rolling from piece to piece.

It’s not all soft and sultry: there are occasions that the set flirts with more prog-rock elements and the electric distortion provided by the synth and electric guitar means that there’s a bite that embeds the Little Big sound in the ears, where it’s more than welcome to stay. A beautiful room and a beautiful band at a beautiful festival. It’s the Little Big things in life.

The Winter Jazz Fest Marathon weekend runs over 11 + 12 January — more info here.

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