There is a giant roaming through Denver. And while his steps have been heard for the last two years, his melodies are finally whistling their way into our city’s funnel-shaped ears. Out of the haze of history, his form is solidifying and his shoulders are helping to fill-out the Queen City’s skyline.
Thing is: Ellison Park is not the biggest boy you’ll ever meet. He’s not boisterous, he’s not tall, nor is he wide. But somehow, put him on a stage and he will grow before your eyes. And for the last two years, he has been growing – right before our eyes.
Thing is: You would never know how far he has come in this short time.
Ellison Park’s music is ambitious. It plays with the heartiest of musical and emotional traditions. Park’s music is soul. It is heart. His live shows are big and developed in the way that takes most players decades to cultivate.
Thing is: You cannot expect something this robust from somebody Park’s age. His melodies, chord progressions and especially his parabolic, sensitive vocals are remarkably aged and weather-beaten while remaining refreshing and contemporary. Standing in front of Park when he’s on stage and you cannot reasonably expect all of this from a miniature giant like him. Then again, can you?
If anything, Ellison Park’s body of work speaks to the idea that music is bigger than all of us. If done with heart and soul, it is not about ego. And it is surely not about age.
A Chicago native, Park grew-up on songs that began somewhere in somebody’s gut. In their chest. The one theme in the music that circulated through his family’s home was that it was vocally-driven. It was Korean music. Marvin Gaye. The blues. Brazilian Jazz. And all of this profound influence served to impart an early, informal vocal training to the young Park. And all of this is strikingly evident in Park’s live shows: his soulful vocals will turn your sternum upside down.
An oldest child, Park has cultivated his maturation process by looking upward. Even from an earlier age, he sought mentorship and advice and friendship from those that were older than he. The analogy here is in the music that has also has pushed him into his current body of work: the blues, jazz, soul – traditions with lengthy emotional heft, and history.
When you spend so much time looking up, you can’t help but from encountering the big questions. About who and why and what and where. In this, Ellison Park has battled with spirituality and the voids that have made him feel incomplete. The result of his grand battles has to be the music he has managed to create – the act, or attempt, of completing something that was once incomplete.
Since his departure from Chicago over two years ago now and Park hasn’t played in Illinois since. With what has transpired in his maturation process as a man and as a musician, those back in the Windy City are going to be shocked. For Park is constantly still battling, but succeeding in the loftiest of manners – for pulling apart everything unimaginably complex and breaking it down into the simple parts for others’ comprehension is no easy task, in fact it may be one of the primary aims of all art.
When Head Killed Heart is a giant name for a debut album. And why Ellison Park doesn’t appear to flinch at the size and scope of his first album, I’ll never know. However I have some good ideas. Park is young. And while I don’t wish to beat this idea into the ground, it bodes well for him. To push forward with the burst of effort that he is, is much easier to do at his age. To experiment with the whole palette of colors and textures that the universe has to offer – is good, when you’re young. You have time to sort it all out.
But don’t let this sound as though Park’s music is confused, because, miraculously, it is not. When Head Killed Heart is cohesive. The content, he keeps close to the vest – he speaks about what knows best. And his stage shows reflect this, his performances are smart, focused and find their legs in the momentum that Park has crafts.
To this end Ellison Park is standing in the perfect place. At the perfect time. Park is driven. He works hard. He sings every day; in the car it’s D’Angelo – styles that he doesn’t necessarily play – but styles that challenge him mightily. Park writes as much as he can. Often he will set 6 pieces of paper in front of him and, just-go. He will write and compose unabashedly, picking-out the good parts and trashing the rest.
When Head Killed Heart is an exemplary album that heaves and dodges in the breathy spaces of driven emotion. For all purposes, one could swap the nouns in the title to read, “When Heart Killed Head” – for Park’s work is as much about living with your heart forward as it is trying to rationalize the grayscale world. Always yearning and craving, Park is incessantly calling out to someone, or more than that, some thing. But alas, he is not calling to one person, or one thing out and in the world. Instead, he wraps everything, every subject in his life, into the form of a girl and beckons her for attention, her open arms, and ultimately, for her clarification. In timbre and texture, Ellison Park’s music is feeling-out a feminine universe. To which end he treats her accordingly; with reverence and with the only thing that will gain her undivided attention: unadulterated passion and an earnest striving-towards.
In all of this, the thing is: Ellison Park is wise. Looking up at the forms and voices and people around him, he is living a virtuous life. He is diligent about striving to spend his days inspired, and working hard. And it shows: his live performances are not to be missed. Assuredly, after his June 7 release at Meadowlark, eyes and ears will surely be leaning in his direction for good.
Stay tuned with Ellison’s upcoming shows, releases and steps forward into the giant, grayscale world: www.myspace.com/ellisonparkmusic.