Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Parks, Aaron

Parks, Aaron, piano; b. Seattle, WA, 7 October 1983. He was raised on Whidbey Island, 45 minutes from Seattle.

Parks showed an early interest in mathematics and computer science. Skipping high school, he entered the University of Washington at 14 as a National Merit Scholar.  There, he studied with Marc Seales.

His first exposure to jazz wasn't anything hip and modern, but rather Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." When his teacher and his parents learned that he could improvise, he began playing with a student big band. He hadn't had much formal training (although the guidance of Murl Allen Sanders through nontraditional piano lessons was key). He had started to compose before he learned to play. By thirteen, Parks had joined the Langley Middle School Jazz Band, earning two Outstanding Jazz Soloist Awards for piano and First Place in the Middle School Combo Division from the prestigious Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. He returned to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and entered the Reno Jazz Festival in Spring, 1999 with his trio, this time in the college division. Once again, his trio did well, earning Outstanding Soloist Awards for all at both festivals. In 2000, his trio won First Place in Reno Jazz Festival's College Division, and this year, he won First Place as a piano soloist for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, College Division.

In December, 1999, Aaron was selected as a Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellow by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) in a blind competition of over 5,000 applicants. The NFAA also awarded Aaron the only jazz composition award for his original jazz compositions, "Early Entry," "Double Tall Latte," and "Serpentine."

As an NFAA award recipient, Aaron was invited to perform at Artsweek 2000 in Miami and at the International Association of Jazz Educators in New Orleans in January, 2000. After his performance in Miami, he was awarded the top Level I award of $3,000 and was designated a Presidential Scholar in the Arts by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. Joining nineteen other Presidential Scholars in the Arts, Aaron flew to Washington D.C. in June, received a Presidential Medallion in a ceremony with President Clinton, and performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In January, 2000, his combo was named "Northwest Emerging Artist of the Year" by Seattle's Earshot Jazz. The same month, he was selected by the Grammy Foundation to perform in the 2000 Grammy Combo; among other performances, they performed at the Grammy nominees party the night before the Grammys. In April, Aaron was one of 24 jazz performers/composers selected for the prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He received a 10-day all expenses paid trip to D.C. to study with world-class jazz masters such as George Cables, Terence Blanchard and John Pattitucci, and to perform his original compositions at the Kennedy Center.

In June, Aaron was selected by the Yamaha Corporation as a Yamaha Young Performing Artist and was selected by Down Beat Magazine as Outstanding College Instrumental Performer. In the summer of 2000, Aaron was one of ten semi-finalists from around the world and only two from the U.S. invited to perform in the 2000 Jas Hennessy Piano Solo Competition held at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. At the competition, he was selected for the finals and was awarded Third Prize. Aaron was also invited to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival this July with his trio from the Manhattan School of Music. Most recently, he was named a Cole Porter Fellow by the American Pianists Association after winning the 5th American Jazz Piano Competition in Indianapolis, Indiana this April.

He later pursued studies at the Manhattan School. In January 2002, he joined the critically acclaimed Terence Blanchard Quintet. Parks' 2008 Blue Note release, Invisible Cinema was a noteworthy effort, showing off both driving straight-ahead work as on the track ""Travelers," as well as more pastoral moods, as on Parks' "Peaceful Warrior."

The Promise; First Romance; The Wizard; Shadows (2002)
Invisible Cinema (2008)

Television broadcasts:
In the summer of 1999, KCTS-9 public television in Seattle filmed a short " Currents " program about Parks and his trio, featuring performances at home, at a jazz club, and in the recording studio.
He also appeared on the KCTS-9 television show, " KCTS Connects " on May 25, 1999, and was filmed for a 10-minute segment, which aired on January 25, 2001.
Aaron has also appeared on KING-5 news on two occasions--once when he was thirteen and again when he released his first CD, The Promise, at Jazz Alley. 

Radio broadcasts:
On the airwaves, Aaron made his debut in November 1999, with a guest appearance on KBCS-91.3 FM as they played cuts from his new CD, The Promise.
He returned in July, 2000 to do the same for his second CD, First Romance.
His trio has also performed live in the studios of KUOW Weekday (94.9 FM) with Dave Beck.
In addition to KBCS-91.3 FM, his music can also be heard regularly on KPLU-88.5 FM.
Recently, Aaron was profiled in a ten-minute radio segment, "Teenage Jazz Prodigy ," on National Public Radio, a nationally-syndicated radio program.
In October, 2001, he was a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, which also aired nationally on National Public Radio (NPR).
Most recently, Aaron recorded an XM satellite radio program with Terence Blanchard's band, moderated by Wynton Marsalis, which aired in 2002.

As a part of Terence Blanchard's band, Aaron has performed on several film soundtracks including an upcoming Spike Lee HBO movie, Jim Brown.

Aaron has also been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including The Seattle Times, Alaska Airlines Inflight Magazine, Northwest Life, Yamaha Corporation's Accent, Earshot Jazz, the April on-line issue of " Sounds of Seattle", the May issue of Seattle Homes and Lifestyles, and the DVD Reporter, an on-line magazine which highlights young, promising musicians.

Contact information:
For booking information, please contact Judie Stein at (917) 685-7107
or Judie@KeynoteRecords.com

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