The 24-year-old pianist Aaron Parks has been making his own records for eight years. During that time he has played in bands led by Kurt Rosenwinkel and Terence Blanchard — with Mr. Blanchard on film-soundtrack projects, among other things. But he’s only now getting a wide hearing with “Invisible Cinema,” his first album for Blue Note.
You can guess at the lessons he has drawn from his experience. Here he’s forming expansive, semi-cinematic ideas, songs that stay engaged in an all-consuming mood for long stretches, whether swamp-bluesy or Middle Eastern or hymnlike. But he merges this with the latest jazz-bandstand language of long, stretchy soloistic lines, clanky-sinuous pop backbeats and floating slow-over-fast rhythms. Like a lot of young jazz musicians in the last 10 years, he sounds torn between Keith Jarrett and Radiohead, and when he tilts away from jazz as we know it, it’s toward big-gesture pop: a sweeping, earnest and melancholic music.
A lot of the record is arranged for piano, bass (Matt Penman) and drums (Eric Harland), with electronic keyboards added here and there. But three songs feature the guitarist Mike Moreno improvising with a big, echoey, almost heroic sound, and this throws the album off a bit, pulling the focus from Mr. Parks. It also widens the frame, and Mr. Parks, as a bandleader, still needs it narrower. He’s a gifted player, and he has compositional ambitions that could lead him to mix up with many kinds of music. But this record doesn’t make clear what kind of bandleader he is.
– BEN RATLIFF