MUSIC REVIEW / FOR JOHN PARIS / FOR ALBUM “ACCEPTANCE” / REVIEW WRITTEN BY KERRY BARNES UK #john paris #new age piano
John Paris is a decorated Jazz-New Age Pianist and Composer in the USA. Awarded Jazz Album of the Year by Enlightened Piano Radio USA. John says “I feel at home onstage, and I love the interplay with an audience” He is also an accomplished Accordian Player having studied from age 9 the Jazz transcriptions of the late Art van Damme, then onto Italian Folk Music. An extremely versatile musician. I’ve already had the pleasure of delving into his album entitled “Bhakti Grace” …….now the added joy of “Acceptance”
JOHN PARIS ALBUM “ACCEPTANCE”
Track 1. When Day Is Done 5:30 #contemporary piano #piano instrumental
Oooh, a needle pricks my arm, ouch! Don’t worry it’s only a Perfect 5th stab in the dark in the deep, deep bass below the underbelly of the piano. John, like me has a passion for 5ths, 4ths, 3rds and 6ths. A good 18 seconds spent here, then a right hand melody of ‘accepted’ beauty and poetry and I sense that John’s work is done…..but no. Reflective pedal work portrays a ‘trying day’ and a tinge of sadness. This intro and first subject gets a second wind and delightfully so.
Now lets move the goalpost…..A richness warms the heart with John at mid piano range, he’s coming home and accepting so graciously his lot, his life, his love and serenity of spirit. Masterful modulations colour the canvas and a certain ‘pentatonic-glistening’ like silver birds reaching up for the sky. John often uses the higher range of his instrument to portray ‘contemplation’ which sounds so beautiful to me.
But wait!……a swift run down the keyboard like a chase he’s just won, notes by step and discipline, founded by years of Hanon and Czerny Exercises I bet. A waved wand settles in the middle thickness, gradually lowering to greet peppered Staccato pokes, a thoughtful change. I sense the Coda is upon me as a foot flat to the floor on the right holds open intervals who gently and quietly make way for a singular and lonely old note in the bass to end. I think John’s day is now done.
Track 2. Ride the Wave 4:38 #minor tonality #surfing piano
Now this sound is very familiar to me. Just like work I’ve written. John we have something in common after all!! In the minor tonality which so resonates through the rumbles and grumbles of the opening material. In quadruple measure and riding the quaver waves. The right hand in turn rides the waves of the left as they froth and foam on this sea of jade. Lovely use of pauses and stillness, just surfing around.
A textured detach works its way toward my favourite all time musical device…..wait for it…..the ‘Suspended Fourth’ and its wanton resolve!! As John rides this wave of life…..like we all do somehow, I feel his determination to not give up, and he assures his listener with spiky and sharp repeated notes that yes there is still energy. But it is John’s decision to slow to a beautiful close, with a tried and trusted broken chord figure, resting at the bottom of the sea.
Track 3. The River Is Wide 3:58 #comforting piano #dudley moore #ann sweeten
Expansive and panoramic and am getting Dudley Moore here. The wave we rode previously is now spread thinly over this wide, wide river. Calm, still and very comforting and pleasing. I see a swan gliding peacefully across this body of water, it’s John’s swan-song and he will enjoy making music until the day he leaves this earth, sharing love with family and friends…….I’m feeling all fuzzy inside.
At 2:03 the landscape is rich and melodious, and what a treat to experience this wonderful sound until 2:26. Episodical links embraced by right hand trickles, so deft, sweet, delicate and filigree, and just very recently I heard a similar device working within Ann Sweeten’s new album, a dexterity practiced and learned from the great piano teacher David Sokolof……I wonder if Ann has listened to John’s music??…….so interesting to wonder of their births. There are no crocodiles in this water, just gentle ripples as each stone is cast. A beautiful song emerges with change on its mind, you can never step into the same river twice.
A pivotal chord of ‘augmentation’ takes us on a different path with a sense of resignation in the air, but there is none of that inside John, he’s not made that way. A long, luscious chord from heaven allows the mood to rest and breathe. Ahhh…….
Track 4. Full Moon Rhapsody 7:24 #rhapsodic piano #snow moon #brahmsian
The longest track on the album. 7:24
John’s right foot, flat to the floor, blurring a descending brightness, lit by the sun, dappled and patch worked. I may be wrong, but I think in this track the ‘sostenuto’ pedal may be at work. I rarely see this middle pedal at work, in actual fact I’ve only ever used it once myself, in Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C# Minor…(years ago when I could actually play it!) Little decorative 3rds punctuate a strong rhythm with only gentle accents, carefully treading the snow moon’s diameter. Very ‘Rhapsodic’ landscape, my favourite, so Brahmsian ( if there is such a lovely word…..I was just saying to my daughter yesterday, why can’t we make up wonderful words, they are usually so rhythmic and inflected when coming from us!!)
Silver sparks ignite over the left hand that inverts the opening motifs and a central hand position tweaks smudges of ‘major and minor 2nds’. Gorgeous. At 2:12 ish a very interesting pulse interjects this timing…..accents on beats 1 and 4 in 1234–1234 …love it. A big and bold dynamic rush, deep and throaty bass notes with possible hand crossing playing here. One of the hallmarks in John’s composing is the ability to hold our attention, even when there’s not much going on, stay in this moment for a second then whoosh!…..right hand pyrotechnics, swishing and swirling us dizzy and twitching rallentando. A rather serious and melancholic moods speaks in with a deep conversation in the left.
John holds this moon in his hands, cupping with care so as not to lose light through the fingers. Overuse of Fermata to mesmerizing effect, thoughtful singular playing……where is this going??…Aha! Back round Da-Capo! A final treat of pure virtuosity before we go, the tic-toc dreamy clock points homewards.
Track 5. Dancing on the Moon 5:25 #carnegie hall #romantic piano
A lovely even tone throughout caresses little 3rds in triple measure, simple and true. The frills of glissandi tickle our feet in readiness for this dance of the waltz, so beautiful indeed. As John dances with the love of his life, he remembers to hold her lovingly, until the light fades. This is all so easy on the ear, it’s stare out the window time in reflection and prayer.
Augmented chords are used here for John to stop forward motion, and fleetingly, a moment of darkness descends upon us. He holds her fragility and wonders how long it will last?? …..indeed a top note of uneasiness is begging to be resolved, but John just dangles our carrot, just out of reach. In this lovely waltz he packs a lot in with ornaments to share around in plenty. A deep rumble grumbles, as the dancing figure rotates to dizziness.
John has come to a place of serenity no matter what’s going on in his life, and his work is written from a place of love with almost healing melodies. One can hear all of this in the music.
Track 6. In Memoriam 6:23 #piano tribute #prayer like
Within this prayer lies questions and answers in call and response, what the questions are is for John and John only to know…..I can only guess. A silent reflection gains courage to sound an almost deathly knoll, taking its toll. I feel a remembrance on higher ground, surrendering. This beautiful prayer of repetition lies quietly in thought, burnished by the pain and loss of loved ones to the Covid pandemic.
As this beautiful tribute comes to an end, a shining love heart so tenderly shaped, by sensitive hands lets in a slither of light, of hope and peace. Less is more here, most definitely.
Track 7. Eternal Darshan 5:51 #hinduism #sacred piano
I’m wondering now, as there have been so many references to Hinduism in this album and of Bhakti Grace before, whether John is partly Indian or has Indian loved ones, or just loves its philosophy…..I don’t know??
A dish of lilting mood is served at the beholding of Deity, so sacred and blessed. John’s musical view point here is very interesting, he wants to hammer home an eternal devotion based on 2 chords which are in conflict with each other, like an ill wind blowing. The first is of logical shape and well known to all pianists, but the other, I just can’t describe, some sort of dissonance with an uneasy feel, where words fail me here, John’s music speaks. He trust’s in its divine guidance.
There’s plenty of plain repetition but it’s not metronomic at all, we are relying on the reassurance of the same message, over and over, it’s comforting and hypnotic. Very well done John!! (hope I’m not sounding too much like a school teacher)
Track 8. Swan Flight 4:19 #graceful piano #childlike piano
A waltz in 4 time?……how is that even possible!! But that’s how it sounds! Absolutely gorgeous. Simply put together. So effective. I’m getting the film scores of the British composer Michael Nyman, especially the children’s series for a cartoon idea. Graceful feathers separate a blue glisten, while bowing a head in classical style. Trills create ripples in this white water, kissing a beak of orange, gently and lovingly. John keeps to a time, as the long neck of rhythm dances, balletic and beautifully studied. A fondness for closing in singular unison is a love of John’s, and of mine too. I mentally note that John’s teaching of the recorder to children, comes across in this piece for me, and I expect there are many stories to tell that come from this arena. Just getting kids to stand still is a feat! I remember that too!!
Track 9. Lullaby for Argos 3:31
Upstairs piano writing. Innocence is key here. I imagine my mother reading me bedtime stories, with breathable phrasing. Words are light and simple in my head as I watch a little music-box. A pink fairy, perfectly poised as she watches the key turning beside her, hoping to be wound to full extent because she loves performing. A crystalline bass note, all alone with no friends but providing preparation for the next line of the story. The keys of musical machination wind down and I find myself asleep with my teddy bear. Regression to the magical moments of childhood are worth millions, priceless.
Track 10. Through the Veil 4:44
A very unhappy morning mist descends, through a haunted veil made from faded grey netting, uncomfortable, constricting disturbance. A melancholic movie trailer that we never want to watch. There are moments of warm, red blooded heat with modulatory beauty pinned up with a ‘minor-2nd’ smudge, so unexpected……so Ennio Morricone. On occasion a louder, rotund intensity gives way to solitary confinement, lonely and abstract, hanging on to stillness.
An episodical link of ‘pop-music’ in all its detached scratchings, trilly and dry as a throat and in conflict with a wet and warm ascent. Emotions become more opaque as steam clouds our view, the veil is here, in minor tonality, a pedal blur restricts our view even further, until it becomes totally invisible. Scary.
Track 11. Japanese Lantern 2:30
Pentatonic orange hues float away…..but it’s ok, we can light another. Glorious Oriental flavours become smaller and smaller, we crease our eyes to see. Experimental colours of dark matter, cooler and black, momentarily confuse us…..but no, all is well as filigree lace burns a flame of Asian colours. All of this wonderful escapism is meticulously dreamed up by John’s virtuoso piano playing, with its chameleon changes on the spin of a sixpence, constantly moving the goalposts, much to the surprise of the tiny hairs in our ears……vibrating away and trying to keep up!!
Track 12. Goodbye Old Friend 3:05
A Chopinesque stately Marche bears time with the heavy feet of loved ones keeping going. Soft and measured, only one step per beat please. A philosophical melody tries to sing, coming to terms with the feelings of numbness and no description. My heart swells with pain, but yet with joyous memories of treasured moments never to return. A final vessel is lowered, stops, and lowered again, deep in the bass of time.
Beloved being……either human or animal, goodbye old friend. RIP.
Track 13. Acceptance 4:56 Title Track.
I’m going straight to the last chord and key family……it ends out of the home key and cadence, I’m expecting the last sound to be in the ‘Tonic’ position…..but we’re left hanging in the air in an Imperfect Cadence. This imperfectness for me underlines the whole story. I must say the general mood of this piece is pleasantly optimistic, walking along with a bit of happy swagger but that last chord is very telling. A musical reference to a little uncertainty for the future as John accepts his love and life, what it will bring, and he holds this up for us to see. A shining love heart, so tenderly shaped by sensitive hands for two people, John’s are larger in order to hold hers, which are smaller and very fragile, but he lifts her up with all the strength he has left. There is nothing greater in this world.
John says “I hope that my music will bring comfort to your heart. Much love to you all”. Nothing left to say except God Bless You John and it has been a privilege to hear your music. xx