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Paul LEWIS (b.1943)
Postcards from Paris [13:52]
Decospherics [12:11]
Musings on a Maori Lullaby, variations on ‘Hine e Hine’ [18:25]
Saturday Night Jazz Suite [11:12]
Gabriella Dall’Olio (harp)
rec. 2014/17, location not given

Paul Lewis has made appearances on EM Records; there’s Heritage and Landscape, where he conducts a sequence of his own (largely) landscape compositions, and Richard III, a twofer with compositions inspired by some element of the monarch’s life including one of his own called Threnody, and Now Comes Beauty with his Norfolk Suite.

In Harpscapes we have four more premiere recordings, light and breezy pieces for the athletic and technically adroit Italian harpist Gabriella Dall’Olio. Chanson guitar strumming inaugurates the opening movement of Postcards from Paris, where impressionistic glissandi soon take the listener into the heart of an imagined Montmartre, a gauzy, dreamlike romance served up by a lovely tune. This is followed by twilit tristesse on the Left Bank and a light, frolicsome promenade along the Champs Elysées. These pieces have the compact affection of character pieces from the 50s and 60s, such as Guild used to reissue. Decospherics, subtitled ‘Four Jazz Age Dances’, breaks down into Charleston, Rag, Blues and Foxtrot. The first has just a hint of Way Down Yonder in New Orleans about it whilst the Silent Movie Rag is a genuine delight. The slow drag called Cocktail Blues hits the mark too. It makes me wonder, speculatively, what Adele Girard and Casper Reardon would have made of Lewis’s good-humoured music.

Musings on a Maori Lullaby takes Princess Te Rangi Pai’s Hine e Hine and casts it in ten sections, opening with a statement of the melody, ranging somewhat quixotically around the theme with the help of a few of Lewis’ musical friends (Schubert, Debussy) and ending with a warm re-statement. This witty and very human piece includes a delightful waltz – Lewis is very good at things terpsichorean – a rather Mendelssohnian sequence of arabesques, castanets-a-go-go tribute to Leonard Salzedo’s Song in the Night, the Marche Militaire and a couple of brief quotations from Debussy (or as Lewis puts it in a heading to the ninth section ‘Claude Debussy muses on the melody in the moonlight and inadvertently sings himself to sleep’).

Saturday Night Jazz Suite is a light-fingered (in the best sense) three-piece suite. The blues salute to Harpo Marx, harpist extraordinaire, is accompanied by a more twinkly B section. It could be argued that Lewis gets decidedly carried away in his Take Five, Brubeckian tribute in the finale called Blue Fiver.

Two of the pieces were recorded in 2014 and the other two in 2017 but in the same location and the sound is thoroughly consonant across both dates – full, rich, first class. Lewis, who produced the disc, also wrote the sleeve notes and you can hardly beat him at his own game. This is a relaxing, delightful slice of his repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf

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