Concert Review: Aaron Parks Quartet @ The Falcon, 07/09/2023
Aaron Parks’s new quartet made its public performance debut on Sunday night on a stormy summer night at the Falcon. This project has an entirely different feel from his Little Big Band, which is an electric/acoustic band bordering on a jam band. There were no electric instruments this evening; instead, they had a standard jazz quartet configuration. However, the music was far from standard as they performed almost all original compositions, which is what one would expect from a Parks-led project.
They opened with a tune titled “Little River,” which was inspired by Aaron’s son and beautifully depicted a flowing object. Aaron’s piano and the tenor saxophonist, Ben Solomon, created a musical connection that was in perfect harmony. Aaron, who gained fame as a piano player in his youth, seamlessly alternated between leading and accompanying the music, creating a sense of fluidity. On the other hand, Ben Solomon remained relatively still while playing, allowing his tenor saxophone to speak for him. Ben Street’s bass playing was discreet and graceful, adding a touch of mystery to the performances while maintaining a swinging rhythm. His solos were inventive and captivating.
At 82 years old, Billy Hart displayed more energy in his explosive drum solos than many musicians years his junior. He played fills with discretion, keeping the listener engaged rather than distracted, and possessed the wisdom and respect to know when to lay back and let other players shine. He was always attentive to his fellow musicians. It was evident that he was thoroughly enjoying himself as he animatedly played the drums. Despite his low-key demeanor, he was the focal point of the performance in many ways.
They performed one cover during the set, Wayne Shorter’s “Marie Antoinette.” Their rendition had a strong Middle Eastern influence, setting it apart from Freddie Hubbard’s original version from the early 60s. They also featured one of Ben Solomon’s original compositions, “Reflection Pool,” which evoked the imagery of ripples disturbing a serene reflecting pool. They closed the set with “Alice,” a composition inspired by and dedicated to the late Alice Coltrane, the queen of spiritual jazz. It served as an appropriate conclusion to a meditative session of music, taking the audience far away from the turmoil of the rainstorm outside, which had caused significant damage less than 15 miles to the south.
As I reflected on the music during the rainy yet manageable drive home, I was unaware of the disaster that had occurred just south of where I was until after I arrived home. This experience highlighted the power of music.
Aaron Parks – piano
Ben Street – bass
Billy Hart – drums
Ben Solomon – tenor sax
Marie Antoinette (Wayne Shorter)
Reflection Pool (Ben Solomon)
Your Favorite Raincoat