Joy of Jazz Review (2015)
by Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com
Despite the understated title, Joy of Jazz is a powerhouse of solo piano jazz by John Paris, an artist whose diverse musical career has spanned more than four decades. This is the fifth album of Paris’ that I’ve reviewed, and I have to say that this album shows what an amazing musician he is much more than his previous releases. When I reviewed his 2014 The Heart of Christmas, I felt strongly that Paris’ truest and most natural musical voice is in jazz and Joy of Jazz underscores that feeling. This album bubbles over with joy and you can almost hear the piano grin as Paris’ fingers dance all over the keyboard. So, although the title is about as unassuming as you can get, I can’t think of a better one. In the liner notes, Paris says, “This light jazz album was fun for me to do. I hope that you feel the joy in this music and that it brightens your day and brings a smile to your face.” If it doesn’t, an attitude adjustment (or a long vacation) is strongly suggested! All fifteen piano solos are originals and quite a few jazz sub-genres are represented – blues, boogie, smooth jazz, funky, slinky, stride and just generally good-time music. Melodic and accessible, it is suitable for a wide range of musical settings. I have especially enjoyed it in the car where I could listen intently while cruising on Highway 101.
Joy of Jazz begins with “Holden,” a beautiful ballad with a gentle rhythm and feelings of tenderness. As the piece evolves, it builds strength as well as playfulness, becoming bluesy and fun and then quieting again – a great opener! “Avery” begins with a sparkling intro that leads into a great bass line that lays a solid foundation for the rapidly-moving right hand. I love this one! “What a Story” is expansive and flowing – much smoother and more graceful. “Island Dance” takes us to the warm tropics with cool drink and a party attitude. Just try to sit still! The first part of “Child’s Play” has a more classical tone – Mozart or Haydn at their most animated – and then becomes jazzier and more contemporary in rhythm and chord structure. Great fun! “Monday Morning Blues” hints at “God Bless the Child” and then goes in an entirely different direction – dark and funky. I LOVE “In Da Pocket” – pure piano blues and a knockout! Sheet music, John? “Everybody Needs Love” is light and breezy with a melody that could support lyrics but doesn’t need to. “Who Am I” is dark and reflective – soul-searching set to beautiful music. It’s a piece that evokes images of a pianist sitting in the dark by the light of a candle, playing his or her heart out. “JP’s Boogie” swings the spirit back up to full-tilt – another exuberant favorite! Paris makes it sound so effortless! “Whirling Dervish” is the pianistic equivalent to a big fireworks display – a real tour de force! “Joyful Strut” is part country hoe-down, part rock, and part classical. I’m sure that makes no sense, which is a good reason to check it out! What a fantastic ending to an outstanding album! Sure to be a favorite for the year!
John Paris has definitely hit his stride (pun intended!) with Joy of Jazz! I give it my highest recommendation! It’s available from JohnParisMusic.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.