Klavierhaus Launches Jazzhaus
A Dream Piano, Played by a Dreaming Pianist
Aaron Parks Inaugurates Jazzhaus at Klavierhaus
By NATE CHINENNOV. 18, 2014
Aaron Parks performing at Jazzhaus at Klavierhaus, at Le Parker Meridien hotel on Monday. He played a 1903 Hamburg Steinway.
Credit, Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times
Aaron Parks took a moment, during the homestretch of an hourlong solo piano performance in Midtown on Monday night, to acknowledge the inward turn of his state of mind. “I’m just up here kind of dreaming,” he said, with an obliging half-grin. It wasn’t an apology; it didn’t feel like a disclaimer. Mr. Parks, working within his usual radius of essential poise, was simply checking in, making sure that he was being understood.
That isn’t typically a problem for him, and it wasn’t one here. An expressive and insightful pianist, Mr. Parks, 31, has spent more than half his life in one or another sort of spotlight, and while he favors a spirit of expedition, he isn’t an obscurantist. His music seeks communion, often delving deep into familiar song form. This is as true of his work with the collective James Farm, which just released its second album, “City Folk,” as it is of his solo work, like “Arborescence,” a quietly brilliant effort from last year.
Here, as on “Arborescence,” Mr. Parks was at ease in solitude, pulling some pieces from an established repertory and creating others on the spot. He was also helping to inaugurate Jazz at Klavierhaus, a series organized by the producer Jim Luce in a long, narrow space just off the lobby of Le Parker Meridien hotel.
By day Klavierhaus is a showroom for Fazioli Pianoforte, the Italian piano company, as well as a restorer and retailer of vintage Steinways. On this occasion the shop’s prized Fazioli was on duty in a concert hall, so Mr. Parks was seated instead at a 1903 Hamburg Steinway, which sounded marvelous in the room — vibrant and warm, especially in the low-to-middle register. Mr. Parks favored that range, probably for that reason, and employed a firm but rounded touch, with no brittleness or bark in the attack.
His approach was varied, sometimes demonstrating fluency in the bebop-centered piano language of Cedar Walton and Kenny Barron, and sometimes edging into a more atmospheric zone, with strobing chords evoking both post-Minimalism and brooding indie rock. One piece called to mind the recent precedent of Brad Mehldau playing Paul McCartney. Another one, the Jimmy Van Heusen standard “Here’s That Rainy Day,” unfolded in an air of slow rapture before coming into focus.
Mr. Parks’s audience, for the first of two sets, numbered barely more than a dozen, including a few fellow pianists. He put a good face on this, noting that it felt as if he were in a living room. And he didn’t flinch when, during a hauntingly spare reading of Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia,” a fire engine roared past on West 56th Street, jarring the dream logic as it went.
Jazzhaus at Klavierhaus continues on Friday with the Manuel Valera Trio at Le Parker Meridien hotel, 119 West 56th Street, Manhattan; 212-245-4535, klavierhaus.com.
A version of this review appears in print on November 19, 2014, on page C3 of the New York edition with the headline: A Dream Piano, Played by a Dreaming Pianist. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe