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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


PAUL EDIS

Not Like Me/Just Like Me

Edis Music

 

 

 

CD1 Not Like Me

1. Pulse

2. From Nothing To Nowhere

3. Round Midnight

4. Eastern

5. Not Like Me

6. For Bill

7. Vignette

8. Olivier

9. My Favourite Things

10. Beneath The Surface

11. Bring Me Sunshine

12. Sunrise

CD2 Just Like Me

1. Montage

2. Murmuration

3. Vince

4. Just Like Me

5. Giant Steps

6. Greensleeves

7. For Kathleen

8. Cerebral

9. Skye Boat Song

10. Country Gardens

11. Nostaloptimist

12. Sunset

Paul Edis - Piano

One of the advantages of living in the Newcastle/Gateshead area of the North East of England is the number of opportunities to hear live jazz in a variety of venues, large (such as Sage Gateshead) and small (such as the Jazz Cafe) alike. It is in one of the more intimate settings, at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle, that pianist/composer Paul Edis recorded the two discs that make up this set. It's fair to say that Paul is one of the brightest stars in the North East jazz firmament. Not only is he a highly regarded performer, arranger and composer but he is very much involved in jazz education locally. These two CDs were recorded almost two years apart. Initially, Not Like Me, released in 2013, was available as a download only. Now, with its successor, Just Like Me, it forms a stimulating collection of Paul's solo work on piano. Of the twenty-four tracks, seventeen are Edis compositions. It's far from unknown, especially on the contemporary jazz scene, for musicians to attempt to showcase their own music on their albums with perhaps an odd standard thrown in as a sweetener. Needless to say it doesn't always work because sometimes the material just isn't strong enough. Edis is quite different many of these tracks are simply a joy to hear. When he does perform other people's melodies on these discs, he reveals a penchant for choosing the unexpected, the road less travelled, if you like. Not only that but his treatments of them are highly original.

On the first CD, half a dozen tracks merit particular mention. His creative interpretation of Monk's Round Midnight, surely one of the most recorded jazz standards of all time, brings out the strength of the melody and proves to be a tour de force. Eastern, a piece by Edis which was also recorded with his sextet on their Mr. Hipster release of 2014, is an intriguing insistent theme that lodges in the mind. Vignette, another sextet number, is one of his finest compositions and is here delivered with finesse and charm. This Satie-esque melody stands comparison with the best. My Favourite Things works well, too, the tune played straight at first, then off into the realms of exploration, garnished with a hint of Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring. Then there's Bring Me Sunshine, forever associated with the comedy team Morecambe and Wise, in British minds at least. I suggested above that Edis has a highly individual taste in material! This turns out to be a jazz-inflected romp. For Bill, I'm guessing, is dedicated to the great Bill Evans and is appropriately reflective and lyrical. Evans has clearly influenced Edis (see, for instance, Murmuration, on the later recording, which is a classy composition played in a manner the maestro himself would have approved).

Among the Edis compositions on the second disc, I was drawn to Montage, where a lovely melody is interpreted sensitively, and also especially enjoyed Just Like Me, which illustrates in this interesting, blues-inflected piece that he has strengths well beyond his capacity to deliver a beautiful ballad. Speaking of which, there is the tender, romantic, even rhapsodic For Kathleen. There is, too, an inventive, spry treatment of John Coltrane's Giant Steps, while the spirit of the Caribbean imbues the traditional English melody, Greensleeves. The Skye Boat Song is exquisitely played, channeling Keith Jarrett in his more meditative moods. As for Country Gardens, Percy Grainger might not recognise this highly engaging, rhythmic approach but careful listening reveals what a striking improvisational journey Edis embarks upon. Inevitably, there's the odd exception to this paeon of praise. Sunset, for instance, is maybe nearer contemporary music than jazz, a reminder perhaps of the Edis hinterland. Neither was I sure where Olivier was going on the earlier disc. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles.

What we have here, then, in Paul Edis, is a regional treasure, well on his way to becoming a national one. The competition is fierce, given the amount of talent around, but Edis more than fills the bill. While I'm handing out the plaudits, congratulations to the sound engineer Adam Sinclair for a job well done. I recommend these discs to all lovers of modern jazz piano.

James Poore





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