It's hard for a jazz musician to garner recognition in an era of music industry indifference toward unknown artistsand the genre as a whole. Musicians like Jim Pearce forge ahead anyway, producing uncompromised, original music. Never Open with a Ballad is a well-conceived showcase for the multi-talented Atlanta-based pianist, vocalist and composer.
Pearce delves into the piano with outstanding technique and a firm modern jazz conception. The beauty of Never Open with a Ballad, however, lies in Pearce's composing. Covering an impressive array of grooves, his tunes combine hip changes, strong melodies and, refreshingly, a sense of humor. From the progressive nature of the brooding "Not This Not That, the slippery 3/4 bounce of "Spectacular Orange Array, the lively propulsion of "Cleebo's Samba and the bebop twists of "Debbie Marie, Pearce presents well-developed themes that swing hard. "Clouded Canyon, the closing track, stands out as the least swinging of all, yet is a beautiful, contemplative solo piano performance.
Pearce is more than willing to let the members of his ensemble, especially trumpeter Joe Gransden and saxophonist Eric South, take center stage throughout the session. Gransden patiently manipulates the middle range on "Barely Touching, a harmonically clustered ballad with an overtly lush melody, and displays well conceived bebop lines on "Cleebo's Samba. South has a smooth tone with just the right amount of aggression to match the eclectic nature of Pearce's music. His gutsy tenor breathes life into the title track, and his solo excursions on "More and More and More and "Left Coast are swinging and inventive. Bassist Herman Burney and drummer Paul Fallat shift stylistic gears effortlessly and provide a rock solid foundation.
Never Open with a Ballad is a delightful collection of modern jazz performed by an outstanding collective of sympathetic musicians who are truly deserving of wider recognition. Pearce proves himself a highly adept leader who approaches every aspect of his music with vision and integrity.
Never Open with a Ballad; Spectacular Orange Array; The Things I
Jim Pearce: piano, vocals (3, 5, 7, 10); Herman Burney: bass; Paul Fallat: drums; Eric South: saxophones, flute; Joe Gransden: trumpet; Rafael Pereira: percussion (4, 6).