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Aaron Parks: Atom-Smashing Jazz Accelerator

There's a widely held misconception that rock 'n' roll is the nemesis of jazz; that the impurity of repetitive, mechanical beats has killed the art of swing. Then there are those who already view jazz as if it were a patient etherized on a table. They're wrong, too.

Rejecting both principles is a 24-year-old pianist named Aaron Parks, a meta-musician with a mind built for aggregation. Log on to Parks' digital passport, and you'll discover the entry stamps of a habitual border-crosser. Category clouds of ambient, classical, indie rock, hip-hop and indigenous folk music collide like subatomic particles in an atom-smashing jazz accelerator.

In "Nemesis," Parks, guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland create dense clusters of metronomic precision and loose improvisation. They carry the rock totem into the labyrinthine world of jazz practitioners. But "Nemesis" is less about being jazz or rock (or jazz-rock or rock-jazz or Radiohead) than it is about providing a sonic environment. Parks adds some contrasting touches: A mellotron and glockenspiel combine with piano and keyboards to create his own episodic drama. Coming from an album with the appropriate title Invisible Cinema, this is soundtrack music for a movie waiting to be filmed.

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Copyright 2008 WBGO

Josh Jackson is the associate general manager for content at WRTI in Philadelphia.