Find The Way

Aaron Parks, Ben Street, Billy Hart

For the second ECM album by Aaron Parks – following the solo release Aborescence, which JazzTimes praised as “expansive, impressionistic… like a vision quest” – the prize-winning pianist has convened a trio featuring bassist Ben Street and drummer Billy Hart. The rhythm pair, which also teams in Hart’s hit quartet for ECM, blends fluidity and strength – what Parks calls “an oceanic” quality, producing waves of energy for the pianist to alternately ride and dive into. Find the Way has the aura of a piano-trio recording in the classic mold, from melody-rich opener “Adrift” to the closing title track, a cover of a romantic tune Parks grew to love on an LP by Rosemary Clooney and Nelson Riddle. Parks also drew inspiration for this album from the likes of Alice Coltrane and Shirley Horn (for whom Hart played); space and subtlety are a priority.
Für den Nachfolger seines ECM-Debüts Arborescence, ein Solo-Album, das das Magazin JazzTimes als „allumfassend, impressionistisch…wie eine Visionssuche“ pries, hat der preisgekrönte Pianist ein Trio mit dem Bassisten Ben Street und dem Schlagzeuger Billy Hart um sich versammelt. Das Rhythmusgespann, das auch in Billy Harts erfolgreichem ECM-Quartett zusammenspielt, verbindet hier Geläufigkeit und Kraft – eine Qualität, die Parks als „ozeanisch“ bezeichnet – und bringt so Energiewellen hervor, auf denen der Pianist mal surft und in die er gelegentlich auch eintaucht. Find the Way hat die Aura einer Pianotrio-Aufnahme in klassischer Manier, vom melodisch süffigen Eröffnungsstück „Adrift“ bis zum Titelstück am Schluss, der Coverversion einer romantischen Melodie, die Parks auf einer LP von Rosemary Clooney und Nelson Riddle lieben gelernt hatte.  
Parks zog für diese Aufnahme auch Inspiration von Alice Coltrane und Shirley Horn (mit der Billy Hart einst zusammenspielte), subtiler Umgang mit musikalischem Raum hat für ihn auf diesem Album Priorität.
Featured Artists Recorded

October 2015, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes les Fontaines

Original Release Date


  • 1Adrift
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 2Song For Sashou
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 3Unravel
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 4Hold Music
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 5The Storyteller
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 6Alice
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 7First Glance
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 8Melquíades
    (Aaron Parks)
  • 9Find The Way
    (Ian Bernard)
Aaron Parks’ spacious, optimistic playing is like a shaft of sunlight in the dense forest of contemporary piano trios. The thirtysomething Seattle pianist is to the forefront of a generation of players who are rediscovering the American romanticism of the likes of Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. ‘Find the Way’ is Parks’ second recording for ECM – following his gutsy 2013 solo debut ‘Arborescence’ – and it shimmers with bright, singing melodies.
Cormac Larkin, Irish Times
The choice of Street and Hart to amplify Parks’ vision is a brilliant one. Ben Street follows and comments on the pianist’s moves with equal melodic richness, while Hart, his drums exquisitely recorded with just the right amount of reverb to suggest the space around the kit as well as the drums themselves, adds an astonishing richness of sound and the subtlest of rhythmic accents. And yet neither bass nor drums overwhelm what must still be the beating heart of this music, the piano. Chamber classical in its mood, cinematic in its evocation and thoroughly jazzy in its spontaneous creativity and lithe nature, Find The Way is one of the loveliest piano trio discs I expect to hear this year.
Peter Bacon, London Jazz News
‘Find The Way’ proves that Parks’ piano chops are now only a means to an end. The end is beauty. The lyricism of this music is vast. It engulfs you, wave upon wave. A risk of making an album that is a single rush of romanticism is that it will come out soft and too much the same. But parks’ compositions, with their diverse time signatures and intriguing open forms, provide inner contrast  and his sidemen provide hard edges. Ben Street’s basslines are compelling forces that often pull against Parks’ flow. Drummer Billy Hart’s accent marks are everywhere, in unexpected places, constantly redirecting the energy.
Thomas Conrad, New York City Jazz Record
Die Musik erzählt in einem wie beiläufig wirkenden Duktus Geschichten, die sich im Kopf des Zuhörers zu Bildvorstellungen verdichten. Kein aufdringliches Solo stört diese audiophile Synästhesie, das Ego aller Beteiligten bleibt im Interesse des Bandsounds außen vor – und gerade deshalb entsteht eine außergewöhnliche Musik, die sich vom herkömmlichen Trio-Format kunstvoll gelöst hat: maximale Freiheit im Rahmen einer vorgegebenen Komposition. Wer nur europäischen Musikern Innovationen jenseits von Blues und schwarzer Tradition zutraut, wird von diesem Trio aufs angenehmste überrascht sein.
Heribert Ickerott. Jazzpodium
The album is a feast of drifting pulse and deep sonority, with Parks applying his usual mastery of touch. ‘The Storyteller’ sits on a cloud, with a harmony and melody that manage to resolve while still imparting a sense of longing. Hart and Street, regular partners in the Billy Hart Quartet, work quietly but with grounded purpose.
Nate Chinen, WBGO
An exquisitely balanced trio recording with pianist Aaron Parks joined by Ben Street on double bass and Billy Hart at his most sensitive on drums. The interplay between the musicians and their ever present rapport, together with ECM’s clear recording make it a joy throughout.
Peter Bevan, Northern Echo
The trio have put together nine atmospheric & expansive tracks that follow classic influences like Alice Coltrane, Shirley Horn, Rosemary Clooney, and Nelson Riddle, mixing that with a modern sensibility. […] For a modern take on the classic piano trio, it doesn’t get much better than ‘Find the Way’.
Pete Pardo, Sea of Tranquility
On his second ECM album – following the solo release Arborescence, which JazzTimes praised as “expansive, impressionistic… like a vision quest” – pianist Aaron Parks leads a trio featuring Ben Street and Billy Hart. The bassist and drummer blend fluidity and strength and what Parks calls “an oceanic” quality, producing waves of energy to alternately ride and dive into. Find the Way has the aura of a piano-trio recording in the classic mold, from melody-rich opener “Adrift” to the closing title track, a cover of a romantic tune Parks grew to love on an LP by Rosemary Clooney and Nelson Riddle. Parks also drew inspiration for this album from the likes of Alice Coltrane and Shirley Horn (for whom Hart played); space and subtlety are a priority, with the pianist aiming to allow the music to breathe.
Parks recorded Find the Way with Street and Hart in the South of France, the trio working closely in the La Buissonne studio with producer Manfred Eicher. The pianist had previously played with Street in guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel’s band, and Parks was a longtime admirer of Hart, “from his days backing Shirley Horn to when he played with Herbie Hancock’s funky Mwandishi group to the Quest band with Dave Liebman to the Billy Hart Quartet on ECM, with Ethan Iverson, Mark Turner and Ben. I listened a lot to that quartet, really digging how he interacted with Ben. Ben and Billy have such a clear sense of where the ‘center’ is that they don’t even need to play it, just allude to it. But their playing has a centrifugal force – it’s like a whirlpool. Billy, in particular, has this special authority when he plays, this vital presence – and it makes you rise to the level of that engagement. He also has this subtle, poetic quality from his time playing with singers. He really is a poet of the drums.”
The trio plays the music of Find the Way with special elasticity, a push and pull between high lyricism and kinetic energy. Parks is particularly pleased with “Melquíades” (named for a character in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude). “That piece has a classic ECM feel to me,” Parks says, “and Billy just breathes the music, with its constantly shifting time signature.” Parks conceived “Hold Music” as a miniature drum concerto especially for Hart, but the pianist sprung “Unravel” on the drummer in the studio: “Ben and I had played the song before. It has this complicated 13/8 time signature, and even though Billy had never seen it on the page, he just started reacting when Ben and I started playing it – doing so with such individual color and vibrancy.”
Another highlight is “Alice,” which Parks initially patterned along the lines of an Alice Coltrane number like “Ptah the El Daoud.” He says: “It was a swinging tune with a cross rhythm in the piano figure, but it ended up opening out once we got through the melody, becoming something a bit more mysterious.” A key influence throughout Find the Way is vocalist Shirley Horn, who was also a distinctive pianist. “Shirley, when she took her solos, would leave notes hanging in the air, teasing with duration,” Parks says. “There was a sense with her piano playing of not needing to prove anything, but of a desire to let the music breathe. I think I’ve become more patient as my own playing has evolved, with my touch more resonant. I don’t feel as much of a need to grab the lead, to fill space. I feel free to let a note ring out and hang in the air, to hear what the sound does as it decays, to allow the pedal to work its magic.”
Aaron Parks was born in California in 1983 and raised in Seattle. By age 15, he was already attending the University of Washington with a triple-major in math, computer science and music; three years later, he was the champion Cole Porter Fellow of the American Pianists Association. Parks has recorded in the quartet collective James Farm with Joshua Redman, as well as contributed to albums by trumpeter Terence Blanchard, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, trumpeter Christian Scott, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, drummer Kendrick Scott, trumpeter Philip Dizack and guitarist Mike Moreno, among others. For ECM, the pianist appeared on South Korean singer Yeahwon Shin’s label debut, Lua Ya.
The solo Arborescence, Parks’ sixth album as a leader and his ECM debut of 2013, earned him his best notices yet. The Guardian pointed out that the pianist’s “melodic sense is acute and original, his narratives and harmonies varied, and his pacing subtle,” adding that “Arborescence has a low-lights feel, but its musicality and lyricism glow brightly.”