Aaron Parks photo by Deneka Peniston
Wednesday, June 20, 7 & 9:30pm
The Royal Room
5000 Rainier Ave S
Presented by Earshot Jazz
Heavily lauded University of Washington alum and jazz pianist Aaron Parks is leading his fresh quartet Little Big on a debut West Coast tour in celebration of their new album on Ropeadope Records. Seattle can catch Parks’ Little Big during two shows at the Royal Room, Wednesday, June 20.
The color-rich electro-acoustic quintet sees impressive members backing Parks: Greg Tuohey (guitar), Vicente Archer (bass), and Tommy Crane (drums). Each player brings their varied experiences from jazz and improvised music but also electronica, R&B, indie pop, alt-country, and much more to this genre-fluid music, which creates a world of its own.
The forward-thinking Aaron Parks entered the public eye during his time playing with trumpeter Terence Blanchard. When the New York Times praised Parks for being “a step ahead of everyone else,” they were spot on in more than one way: At just 15, the Seattle-raised pianist was a triple-major in math, computer science, and music at the University of Washington. That same year, Parks was selected to participate in the GRAMMY Jazz Band, which led to a move to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music. At 18, while a member of Blanchard’s band, he earned the title of Cole Porter Fellow from the American Pianists Association. Parks appeared on three Blue Note albums by Blanchard before making his own debut with 2008’s Invisible Cinema. In some ways, Parks’ newest endeavor with Little Big can be seen as a continuation of the trajectory set Invisible Cinema—with a deeper commitment to melodic songwriting, modern rhythms, and immersive storytelling.
Joining Parks on guitar is Auckland-born jazz non-purist Greg Tuohey. Tuohey had a guitar in his hands before he was a decade old, and by the age of 15 was playing professionally in jazz clubs. Awarded a scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music, Tuohey used this as a jumping off point to move to New York, where he would work with the likes of Reid Anderson, Mark Turner, Seamus Blake, and Ari Hoenig, eventually becoming a founding member of the collaborative jazz group Flipside. Following an extensive tour with Flipside, Tuohey himself flipped sides as he began working strictly in rock music for over a decade. In 2010, Tuohey picked improvised music back up and released his first jazz record as a leader. Now back on the New York scene, he maintains a rigorous touring and recording schedule with both rock and jazz acts.
On bass is Vicente Archer, one of the most sought-out collaborators of his generation. Archer, born and raised in Woodstock, NY, was a 20-year-old college student in Boston when he was picked up for touring with acclaimed artists Donald Harrison and Eric Reed. That launched him into working and recording with artists such as Terence Blanchard, Kenny Garrett, Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Jordan, Kendrick Scott, and Stefon Harris, among many more. Vicente currently tours with Blue Note recording artists Amos Lee and Robert Glasper, and Grammy Award-winning artist Nicholas Payton.
New York-based drummer, composer, and producer Tommy Crane completes the lineup. A product of The New School, Crane got his start touring with The Mingus Big band in 2002 and has since performed with notable jazz musicians Greg Osby, Ambrose Akinmusire, Logan Richardson’s SHIFT, Becca Stevens, and Yaron Herman. Aside from his work as a core member of Little Big, Crane is the leader of post fusion jazz/rock outfit Late Bloomer and a staple of Concurrence with Paul Horton (Alabama Shakes) and Wood River. Not withholding himself from other genres, Crane contributes to ambient drone and experimental rock music, and he has discovered a niche for himself in audio-visual collaborations. Crane’s acclaimed compositions have can be heard in various podcasts including NPR’s “Death, Sex & Money.”
If the last decade is any indication of Parks’ career and the promise of this new lineup, the world can expect many more milestones out of this singular artist. Perhaps there will be small enlightenments that Little Big gives to us; I’m skeptical that these little moments aren’t glimpses into Parks’ more profound vision.
Tickets are $18 adult, $16 Earshot members and senior citizens, $10 students and military and are available at earshot.org.
Note: Tickets do not guarantee seating during shows at the Royal Room. To guarantee a good seat, make a dinner reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Royal Room is an all-ages venue until 10pm.