MUSIC REVIEW / JOHN PARIS / BHAKTI GRACE / ACCEPTANCE / IMAGINE / REVIEW WRITTEN BY KERRY BARNES UK
This Music Review is for John Paris — Pianist, Accordionist and Composer. These words encompass two albums and one single. The albums are: “Bhakti Grace” and “Acceptance” & the single is “Imagine”
#john paris #pianist #new age #jazz #usa #instrumental #albums #single
John Paris is an internationally acclaimed Pianist, Accordionist and Composer in the USA. He grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, honing his skills in the Pocono mountain resorts performing with his own band and accompanying major acts. When touring America he met Tony Rome who produced his show group, Atlantis, who performed successfully in Las Vegas for over a decade, and John also appeared on the Merv Griffin show. Since 2004 John has recorded ten albums with a mix of New Age solo piano and joyful Jazz. His award winning music is on all the major digital platforms and he plays many solo concerts.
John says himself “Music has always been a very special part of my life……healer, mentor, comforter and the doorway to spiritual evolution”. Now I say to myself, “how honoured am I to be delving into this great musician’s work, to find what makes him tick……and tock!!” Now for the first album — ‘Bhakti Grace’
BHAKTI GRACE: #hinduism #attachment #faith #devotion #grace
Well, I must be honest……I didn’t know what Bhakti was or meant!…..but on finding out I can completely understand the symbiotic wrap around John’s music. There is attachment, fondness, faith, love and devotion with ancestral links to Hinduism. And yes, grace.
Track 1. Strolling Along and Feeling Free 3:27 #happiness #freedom #contemporary jazz #
Feeling very free indeed. There’s much happiness and optimism here, frittering and punctuated by fresh jazzy chords. I could never attempt to play like this, John’s chord knowledge is outstanding!! Trippy little descending episodical links are a real delight and the right hand virtuosity in the passage work is incredible. Big, fat chunky chords in this quadruple measure appeal to my love of chord playing. There are little splashes of classical theory in ‘perfect cadences’ which also appeal to me. My headphone listening has me cruising down the highway with the wind blowing through my hair, am loving this!! John’s control of semiquaver triplets in the right hand at high speed is just phenomenal, I can feel my right hand tensing up at the mere thought of doing this myself!! Within this rather ‘dry’ recording there are some blues vibes going on…..lovely. It takes a lot of skill to ‘dry-record’ with more emphasis on the keys, rather than drowning in pedalling. John changes key effortlessly and leads in with the bass area, very punchy. There’s clever control of Fermata and Pause-Phrasing, holding our attention in the palm of his hands literally. Even when John is very busy scampering around, there are moments of stillness and calm. My favourite moment is in closing where a miriad of beautiful notes are held in one pedal movement, I wanted this sound to last forever, well it will in my heart.
Track 2. Busy Signal 4:16 #rubato #new age
Loving the ‘Ad- Libitum’ opening, who knows what time signature this is in, but that’s the great thing about Jazz…..we don’t need to know!! It’s free and easy! Busy Signal is right….we’re in chaotic traffic here, so busy! So much going on, New Age harmonies, irregular signatures, but also very lyrical and sonorous playing which I love best. A tale of two textures, one spiky and alternative, the other a beautiful Cantabile-Tone. John’s fingers work completely independently of each other and his stamina is staggering, this is Oscar Peterson on STEROIDS!! Now and again I can hear my morning scales and arpeggios practice but one hundred times faster! Think I’ll give up playing now. There’s like a ‘mini-cadenza’ towards the Coda with a foot right down on the accelerator. I’m completely out of breath here!
Track 3. In Another Realm 4:29 #classical traits #solo piano
This track really is in another realm, compared to what I’ve just heard. Upon listening my ears have picked up smidgens of Beethoven, Bach, Bizet and Chopin. An opening Pedal-Note captures a descending Motif very much in a sort of Baroque style in Unison. Held back and rather still, more like something I would play. Mmmmm…..a touch of the late George Winston too, what a loss to this world we live in, so sad. George would love this John. My red blood cells flow as the tone and texture thickens with Beethovenian-Rubato work.
I’m starting to sing in my head Bizet’s ‘Habanera’ from CARMEN…where did that come from??……and the use of an ‘alberti-bass-ostinato’ is very compulsive. Now the Chopin comes in, lyrical and sweet dolce playing. This other realm has a ‘hymn-like’ quality to it and complete with suspended fourths and plagal cadences. I wonder if in John’s youth he enjoyed playing hymns??
Track 4. Bhakti Grace (title track) 3:59 #harp like #jazz flourish
Oh, the ‘grace’ in this work, so filigree and fragile, with swathes of shimmering silver veils in abundance. The right hand technique is just staggering and just keeps going and going. I have only ever heard something on this scale in Prokofiev’s Zhein Kleine Klavierstucke Opus 12 where in one particular piece the right hand mimics a harp in constant arpeggio mode, so difficult to play….believe me I’ve tried! I can also hear Debussy traits from his Images collection. I’m feeling cool blue water over my body, droplets on skin. I have to say what comes to me……Khachaturian Toccata 1932 warm flourishes on their way to key melody notes, even in fragmentation. There’s much more to this landscape that only John understands and that I could never learn, truly. Many years ago, the famous British concert pianist John Lil showed me how to practice fast repeated notes in a fingering pattern of 123454321 and again, only on the same note, and I can hear this skill in John’s (Paris) repeated note playing on a par with the Keyboard Sonatas of the great Baroque Italian Domenico Scarlatti, just wow! All change…..contemplative moments with serene use of Fermata phrasing and hiatus listening. Tenutos of gentle firmness peppered here and there whilst Spanish tremolandos brush the strings of a classical guitar. John closes in the simplicity of unison, still, yet wanting more.
Track 5. Roaming the Worlds 3:47 #like mancini #boogie woogie
I’ts funny, because I felt we’d just roamed around the world of composers in the last piece! Here we go! Henry Mancini touches my shoulder with a wiff of Pink Panther in these chromatic descents, sliding on down, right past me. Vibes. Then a terrific boogie-woogie jumps on in whilst Scott Joplin joins in! My knees are going up and down under the table, what a groove. Errol Garner would be very proud of John’s left hand stabs, lightly as they go in perfect accompaniment here. The persistent use of right hand semitone work reminds me of when I try to play Beethoven’s Fur Elise and fail miserably. The right hand is off on a tangent and gently encouraged in the bass as it goes along. God only knows what time signature this is in. It’s fun and jaunty. Vamping along and dragging beats into their next bar where they belong. Again we visit the hymn books and their plagal cadences where music speaks and words fail me.
Track 6. Come on Along 2:01 #musical escapism #jazz fun
John’s in light and frisky mode here, nothing to heavy for this second shortest piece on this glorious album. He looks behind like a pied-piper only to see a trail of fans following on, coming on along indeed! There’s a sense of wonderful forward motion, just skipping and hopping….only momentarily halted by some swaggering chords that play 3 against 2, very nice. At some points it feels like two pianists playing, amazing coverage indeed. John’s having so much fun!
Nimble finger work as always, hallmarked ties across barlines and getting ready for the octaves in unison that don’t sit down as they go over the hill…..then take-that! Short and to the point. Two minutes of musical escapism embroidered by this charismatic musician with his trusted posture and golden wedding ring of care in his heart, so loyal.
Track 7. On the Move 3:30 #teaching jazz #music symbolism
Oooooh, I’m in a Jazz classroom, come on and show me those fast rising scale fragments and those perfect 5ths, and those 3 chord riffs, love it. Nice and stodgy like thick sliced white bread. John is really fooling around with our emotions and bodily responses, catching us out at every turn……..then in complete contrast and totally unexpected, a dream, a reverie so warm like runny honey, drooling onto that thick sliced bread. On point use of una-corda and pausing on delicious chords with facial screws of bliss and toes of curling. He catches us out again……flying swiftly to the upper thermals of keyboard design with a spine tingling pianissimo tickle, dusting us with turkish-delight powder.
Mid range rumbles of purple hunger spasms, shaped by willowy digits riding a logical wave……but wait a minute, more tom-foolery before perfect dynamic control of a singular bass note, you never quite know how they’re gonna come out, you pray for the sole finger and arm weight to make the right call…..and John does. Nice job.
Track 8. When I Hear the Music 7:24 #uncertain journey #new age solo
The 2nd longest track on the album. John says “these songs were composed in a 2 week period to reflect the love and joy of life” …..WHAT….2 WEEKS!…to compose all these tracks!! …..WOW!!
Lattice work of falling raindrops, I feel each droplet kiss my cheeks in all it’s muted beauty. They are manifested by rapid 4 note demi-semiquavers that are very carefully controlled and with no bulges of tone, beautiful. I hear this piece as more New Age than Jazzy. Harmonies in 3rds and a pattern of 7 detached chords chop it up, followed by a ‘drum-roll’…..something’s coming, but I didn’t expect moonlight on a rare constellation twinkling upwards.
Original thematic material returns fixing a cocktail of fine movement only between one tone, backwards and forwards on a child’s swing. A silhouette of dissonance in perfect phrasing held for us to admire, and with a delicate pianissimo touch. Loose trills decorate and embellish and make way for that warm rush, generously pedalled. I just wonder at this point, ‘when and where did John hear this music?’….as he suggests. I think this as a singular repeated note, so soft, so subtle, so slow, so dreamy…..nighty night everybody.
Track 9. On a Rainy Afternoon 1:22 #complex jazz #dance
The shortest track on the album for sure……but boy does he pack it all in!! I almost have no words for this piece as it is too complex for me to understand what’s going on technically, but if I go by feel only I would say that Gene Kelly is dancing in splashy puddles, tap shoes afoot, and an upside down umbrella dancing all by itself as if by magic. The right hand virtuoso work is off the chart, really, chasing an upward ascent moving in chromatic semitones, with little spiteful stabs in the left wherever John wants them to be. John, you must perform at the premiere Jazz club in London….Ronnie Scotts. That’s all I have to say.
Track 10. Impressions 2:46 #french jazz #impressionistic
A French lilt is immediate, a triple measure, nice change. Am getting Erik Satie big time! I think most pianists in their lifetime are touched by the Gymnopedie’s at some point, even if they don’t know it, embedded in our music memory system. Loving the way John lays out a ‘six’ note rhythmic motif for us, and I sense the first two notes are ‘dotted-and dashed’ bringing such colour to this ‘impression’. The sun is out and flowers bloom, so happy, and John’s artistic instincts run through the blood in his veins, coursing with ideas and shapes. My body keeps lurching forward for the next ‘expected’ beat but they are about to tear and stretch at limits, and then go ‘PING’. I bet every Easter John sends his children on an ‘egg-hunt’ but there’s no eggs!! Naughty-naughty.
Track 11. Clogging 3:15 #dutch jazz #repeated note playing
Am loving this world tour. John’s love for musical ‘bi-text’ doesn’t disappoint. Flavours of Germanic and Dutch ‘Toccata’ dancing, dry and detached, nice. A medieval and dimented typewriter cloggs away until giving way to a warm aquabase full of beautiful pedalling. Hey, we’re back…..Michael Flatley sets everyone up in a line, ready for River-Dance and the fast turning heads of time. Quite different John, surprisingly.
Track 12. Icarus 3:49
Immediately Scott Joplin says hello from his entertaining chair, and I have it on very good authority from a certain lovely little bird that she witnessed John up and improvising on stage in Mr. Joplin’s style to the amazement of other esteemed individuals in the room, so wish I could have been there for that!
I recently purchased Ann Sweeten’s new album Love Walks Through Rain and here in John’s playing I’m getting fleeting glimpses, little flickers of similarities that make my ears spark and my eyes dart, like flashes of light when in mid migraine, I can’t describe these moments, but they are there. Suddenly and without warning, a pearl beaded necklace breaks thread and jewels fall to the ground and their names are frosted-filigree, so inventive and beautifully coloured in natural sea shades, I try to catch them but I can’t……they are too fast. Within this terrain speaks a beautiful melody, very singable, I’m singing it right now, but again, this ‘fugitive’ escapes me.
I now present the son of Daedalus as Ancient and consecutive 4ths and 5ths whisk me back to heat of Greek mythology, simple but weighty, this is the ritual of ICARUS, who flew too close to the sun. John burns him with magical dexterity like a cat on a hot tin roof forged in fire.
I rest in a closing unison octave of white noise.
Track 13. The Rhythm of Joy 3:22 #virtuoso Jazz piano #a musical joke
A truly joyous occasion! A Rondo-come-Scherzo on acid. John’s really playing with us here, true Jazz if ever I’ve heard it…….I could not play like this in a million years and I’m a professional composer!!
You never know whether John’s coming in, or going out here, moving the musical goal post all the time……scary when you don’t know what’s coming next. Loving the use of ‘middle-thickness’ chords in all their rotundness and the ‘rumbles-in-the-jungle’ that announce to all the ladies and gentlemen, like a drum roll, genius. In this game of ‘hide-and-seek’ Garner joins in the fun and John is wearing his best teasing T-shirt, as Dan Chadburn shouts…..John is a class act!!!
Something so finite is going on with the time here……I can count 4 for a while, then it’s like a ‘slither’ short in the next bar….the tiniest slither you’ve ever heard. With wizardry of dexterity, John waves his magic wand before smacking us in the face with the sharpest percussion instrument that an orchestra has to offer. It’s beautifully crazy and true. Just when I think he’s finished, it turns out to be probably the longest Fermata on record, then quickly back in the game. Enter a bluesy pedal depression, holding and restraining a broken chord from heaven, then something that makes my daughter laugh when I do this at home…..a short quick fire bass note to finish. Terrific John!
Track 14. Contemplation on Bhakti 7:54 #new age piano #contemporary #tender piano #classical twists
Probably the most New Age based track on the album and definitely the longest duration 7:54 of pure bliss. Very ‘contemplative’, reflective, thoughtful and carefully phrased. Wow……some chords that I can actually play, hoorah! Sonorous flourishes as Spanish dancers’ dress of swish in all their ruffled layers. I’m getting a lot of Classical responses here, Chopin’s romantic lyricism and the descents of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C sharp minor. I keep thinking that any second now Barry Manilow is going take to the mic and sing over romantic Polish chord structures, beautiful work. A certain stillness lives amongst John’s cadence here, pale and interesting, arresting yet developed. I look dreamily out of a summer window, flowers kissed by wildlife, dragonflies hover with expression in their stained glass wings and set off with approval.
In John’s phrasing I am reminded of the rubato rhythms of bedtime stories, the sort my mum would read with lullaby inflection, prayer like and calm. Bach and Khachaturian Toccata inventiveness, very serious and intense, a brief visit signifying to us all the Neo Classicism at work. What contrasts.
As a pianist in hunger, I’m full of the musical foods of the Gods, tenderness, cantabile, expression, lyricism, poetry and spot of drama, power and grace of course. This work is a ‘recapitulation to die for’ and Beethoven is looking on with great pride in his number 1 student!! Bravo John!
A note from Kerry. This album has been pure joy to review, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a Jazz student starting out and wishing for guidance, or a Classicist needing that extra special touch of newness, or like me…..just put those headphones on, lie down in a deck chair with a glass of your favourite tipple and be sent to musical heaven for an hour or two. Thank you so much Mr. John Paris for sharing your unique gifts with the universe!!!
For your complete pleasure, below is a video of John playing in his inimitable way. Enjoy folks.