Not Like Me / Just Like Me
In 2013 I reviewed “Just Like Me”, a digital only release by the Newcastle based pianist and composer Paul Edis. At the time I commented that it was unfortunate that this highly accomplished solo piano recording hadn’t been granted a full CD release.
This situation has now been rectified with the appearance of this two CD set on Edis’ own label which teams “Not Like Me” with “Just Like Me”, a second set of solo piano performances recorded in 2015 at the same location, the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle. Like its predecessor “Just Like Me” presents a fascinating mix of Edis originals together with a selection of interesting and, in a jazz context, sometimes unusual outside material. Once again the album has been engineered and co-produced (with Edis) by Adam Sinclair, the regular drummer with the pianist’s trio and sextet.
“NOT LIKE ME”
My original review of the “Not Like Me” recording is reproduced below and includes something of a biography of Edis up to that point. Since then he has released a second sextet album, the hugely impressive “Mr.Hipster” which appeared in 2014 and is also reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. Currently he is working in bands led by saxophonist Graeme Wilson and is a member of Pannonica, a new quartet featuring vocalist Zoe Gilby, bassist Andy Champion and drummer Adrian Tilbrook.
“Not Like Me”
Paul Edis is a highly versatile pianist/keyboardist based in Durham and he is a leading figure on the jazz scene in the North East of England. Still only twenty eight Edis graduated with first class honours from London College of Music in 2006 and completed a PhD in Composition at the University of York in 2012. His playing and writing skills were highlighted on his début album as a leader “There Will Be Time” (Jazzaction Records), a sextet recording that owed something to the “Blue Note” sound of Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk. Nevertheless Edis brought plenty of himself to the proceedings and the album was very well received and made the Jazzwise list as one of the best albums of 2012.
Edis’ ability has ensured that his trio featuring bassist Mick Shoulder and drummer Adam Sinclair is the “first call” combination for London based or international soloists visiting the North East. He’s a skilled sight reader, accompanist and musical director who has recorded with vocalist Ruth Lambert and with Newcastle based funk/jazz/soul outfit Nick Pride & The Pimptones.
Edis is also a key member of ACV the jazz/prog quintet led by double bassist Andy Champion. Here Edis plays both piano and electric keyboards and the group is beginning to forge a national reputation following the release of their second album “Busk” (2013) which appears on the long established London based Babel label.
With ” Not Like Me” Edis reveals yet another side of his playing and musical personality on a solo piano recording that is available as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Further information is available from http://www.pauledis.co.uk
The material on the new digital album includes nine original compositions plus three highly personalised arrangements of outside material, Monk’s “Round Midnight”, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “My Favourite Things” (presumably inspired by the version by John Coltrane) and more surprisingly “Bring Me Sunshine” written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee and immortalised by Morecambe and Wise.
Edis’ own tunes such as the opening “Pulse” offer reminders of his classical background, as a child he studied piano, flute and composition. But “Pulse” is also a convincing piece of contemporary piano jazz with Edis striking a good balance between right hand melody and left hand rhythmic patterns. There’s a classically derived lightness of touch and an “ECM” like use of space that is highly effective but any superficial “prettiness” is countered by a willingness to stretch out and explore as exemplified by Edis’ mid tune extemporisations.
Similar virtues are brought to bear on the following “From Nothing To Nowhere” before Monk’s “Round Midnight” is given a respectful reading with Edis avoiding any slavish copying and placing his own British/European stamp on the music.
“Eastern” begins with interior scrapings and string dampenings before opening out to embrace sombre but often beautiful melody, again in a contemporary style that draws upon both jazz and classical influences.
The title track begins sparely and offers a intriguing variations around a central motif with Edis adding more layers and nuances as the piece progresses, all the while displaying a kind of intellectual rigour.
I assume that the gently elegiac “For Bill” is a tribute to the late, great Bill Evans, a musician whose influence seems to be present within much of the music to be heard throughout this album.
“Vignette” is pretty and unadorned, and I suspect that “Olivier” is a tribute to Messiaen with Edis’ high register right hand trills reminiscent of the bird song transcriptions that appear in many of Messiaen’s compositions.
Edis’ version of “My Favourite Things”, presumably inspired by John Coltrane, involves the innovative and inventive use of unusual time signatures and intervals. The piece is wholly recognisable but with Edis approaching it in a variety of styles and tempos. It makes for interesting and enjoyable listening with a tantalising classical quote (Bach?) thrown in at the end.
“Beneath The Surface” is a stately and lyrical Edis original.
“Bring Me Sunshine” sees the pianist having more fun by approaching this much loved item in much the same way as “Favourite Things”. There’s an almost ragtime feel about some of the quirky and fragmented rhythms as Edis deconstructs the tune but in an affectionate and good natured manner.
The Edis original “Sunrise” ends the album on an optimistic note, his aural depiction of the dawn beginning with a fragment of melody on the horizon and ascending into something more substantial as the piece develops. Suitably unhurried it’s another example of Edis at his lyrical best.
“Not Like Me” sees Edis taking on the challenge of the solo piano album and succeeding well. Much of the original material is highly lyrical, often beautiful, and sees the pianist embracing both his jazz and classical roots. “Round Midnight” is interpreted in a similar vein but the other two covers introduce an element of fun with Edis’ interpretations displaying both wit and invention.
Each tune is a self contained journey that impresses in its own right but the album also seems to have a unifying aesthetic and hangs well together as a whole. It was recorded in a single day at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle and was engineered by Adam Sinclair with Edis and Sinclair co-producing. The pair do a good job and the sound is excellent throughout, fully bringing out the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic nuances of Edis’ playing. It’s an album that brings out yet another aspect of Edis’ talent and versatility and it’s unfortunate that it’s not yet been granted a full CD release.
JUST LIKE ME
And so to the second disc of solo piano recordings by the talented Mr. Edis. “Just Like Me” represents both a continuation and a progression from the previous work. The sound quality is again excellent with the production again enhancing the quality of the playing.
The programme begins with the Edis original “Montage” which combines a classical sureness and lightness of touch with the adventurous inclinations of the jazz improviser as the music builds and develops.
In my summary of the “Not Like Me” recording I alluded to the “melodic, harmonic and rhythmic nuances” of Edis’ playing, qualities that are again delightfully apparent throughout this latest collection of performances. Edis is also capable of making excellent use of the spaces between the notes, and once again there’s the sense that this a recording that wouldn’t sound out of place if it appeared on the ECM label.
Another Edis original, “Murmuration” combines a classical elegance with a melodic lushness that might have come from a 1930s jazz standard and it’s another excellent showcase for Edis’ pianistic talents.
It’s not made clear to whom the original tune “Vince” is dedicated (composer and arranger Vince Mendoza perhaps) but it’s another delightful performance that again combines jazz and classical influences and maintains a sense of lyricism throughout.
The title track is busier, more rhythmic and more obviously ‘jazz’ than anything else heard thus far. It’s a virtuoso performance from Edis that incorporates some highly impressive work with the left hand.
The music of John Coltrane has been a considerable influence on Edis and the saxophonist’s “Giant Steps” gives the pianist plenty to get his improvisational teeth into. It’s a tribute to Edis that he finds plenty of interesting things to say on a composition that has been widely recorded on a variety of instruments over the course of the last half century or so.
The traditional folk song “Greensleeves” represents the second of the ‘outside’ pieces. Although frequently quoted during solos I suspect that there are comparatively few full length jazz recordings of the piece. Edis’ quirky and highly original arrangement with its flamenco style flourishes emphasises the song’s Latin roots.
Apparently the original piece “For Kathleen” was written as the result of a commission. With its lyrical theme and classical style embellishments this has the feel of a very personal performance.
“Cerebral”, another original, is less daunting than the title might suggest as it combines an exuberant melody with lively rhythms in another stunning solo performance.
A second traditional tune, the “Skye Boat Song”, is treated to an intelligent, elegant, slowed down arrangement that captures the emptiness of the ocean and again invokes that ECM like sense of space. However there’s improvisational gristle here too, particularly in the manner in which Edis stretches out mid tune before closing with a quote from “Scotland The Brave”.
Percy Grainger’s “Country Gardens” is then given a rigorous, rhythmic and highly contemporary makeover that again features some terrific left hand work.
I’m not quite sure what a “Nostaloptimist” is or does but if my ears don’t deceive me Edis’ tune seems to borrow something from the melody of “Secret Love” before his extemporisations take it to a different place.
“Not Like Me” ended with a piece called “Sunrise”. It’s therefore perhaps appropriate that this latest recording concludes with its companion piece “Sunset”, a suitably elegiac composition from the pen of Mr. Edis that is performed with his customary blend of musical good taste and instrumental virtuosity.
The quality of the music to be heard on these two solo piano recordings suggests that Paul Edis should be regarded as far more than a just a good ‘regional musician’. I recently reviewed Liam Noble’s 2015 solo piano album “A Room Somewhere” and both of these offerings from Edis compare well with this critically acclaimed recording. On this evidence the names of Liam Noble and Paul Edis should routinely be spoken of in the same breath.