It’s adroit, mellow and nuanced, but missing the spark that might raise it above other quality piano trios.
Time: 9 tracks /50 mins
Listen to samples on the ECM website and this disc stands out as a lyrical, mellow collection, where all the tracks work together to build mood.
As it begins to open the set, “Adrift” could almost be Tord Gustavsen; it’s spring-like and fresh, and after a quieter spell that allows Ben Street’s double bass to swim around freely, Parks’ insistent left hand creates a rise and fall like swelling waves.
“Song for Sashou” takes you to a 1940s noir movie. The femme fatale walks into a low-lit club and looks to the front, where a jazz trio is casually creating a relaxed atmosphere. The pianist is playing, but looks up and gives her a slight nod and a friendly half-smile. This is what he is playing.
It’s a timeless piano trio and much of this disc is like these tracks. A couple of early pieces – like the spacious, drifting “Unravel”– offer hints of Satie and several feel like they could based on songs you know, but actually, all are originals, except the Ian Bernard title track, written for Rosemary Clooney.
Parks wants the music to breathe, and it does so, usually in long, deep breaths.
Veteran drummer Billy Hart and Ben Street support the piano discreetly. Hart’s snare and toms help drive the swells on “Adrift,” and “Hold Music” was conceived as a miniature drum concerto for him.
For me, a key strength of a piano trio disc is its stamina. Does the album hold interest as much by the end as it did at the beginning? It is questionable with Find the Way. You could, for example, take “The Storyteller” or “First Glance” out of the collection and not really miss them. That the liner is virtually all photos, with no text, supports the idea that this is on the thin side – not because Parks’ intelligence or playing lack anything, but because you have to pay close attention to really gain from its subtlety.
“Melquiades,” with its series of time signatures, is a stronger song, and set highlight “Alice” is based on Alice Coltrane’s compositional style on "Ptah the El Daoud." Sans horns, Parks’ version is less driven, but you can see where he is coming from. The extra plateful of purpose that it dishes out – and the extra freedom given to the rhythm section – makes it one of the most satisfying works here.
It was recorded in the South of France. Maybe that it why this collection is so relaxed and covers a lot of middle ground: tracks last between four and seven minutes – long enough to explore, but not long enough to be self-indulgent; the style caught halfway between raw melody and noodling improv.
With plenty of nuance, this lyrical collection is rich and pleasing in a somewhat humble way.