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CD REVIEW - JAMES PEARSON
Swing The Club: 2009
Label: Diving Duck Recordings
James Pearson, piano, Sam Burgess, bass, Chris Dagley, drums.
James Pearson has become one of the UK’s leading jazz pianists in a remarkably short period of time. His first album, The Best Things in Life are Free, set the scene and was a perfect introduction to his formidable talent.
His style is refreshingly straightforward. He doesn’t play ‘angry’ jazz, or ‘hip’ jazz or ‘edgy’ jazz or ‘jazz rock’ or ‘jazz fusion’. His style is purely and simply steeped in the very best traditions of mainstream and modern jazz. In both the gigs at which I have seen him perform over the past two or three years, there have been numerous references to Erroll Garner, for whom he obviously has considerable regard.
This album builds on his first recording which was a masterpiece of haunting ballads mixed with stirring and powerful efforts. Swing The Club is a mix of over three hours of live performances recorded at Ronnie Scott’s at which James Pearson has had a four nights a week residency for the past three years or so.
His style has developed as a result. The range and dynamics of his music have grown and he is now very much the complete jazz pianist, with his dazzling runs and mesmeric arpeggios. He would make a superb solo performer should he ever choose that route. At times, there is a fine dividing line between jazz and classical music in his jazz offerings.
This album includes a number of surprisingly contemporary numbers. Beatles’ numbers, such as Lady Madonna and Here There and Everywhere, rarely heard in the jazz idiom, are both given the comprehensive ‘James Pearson’ treatment. Perhaps the most surprising is Simon Smith and his Dancing Bear!
Alongside these are some old favourites. The opening to Cherokee is almost military as his piano stomps out the melody before releasing itself into the improvisation. Caravan and The Very Thought of You, the latter a perfectly constructed ballad, are further ‘standard’ offerings.
This album makes compelling listening for mainstream jazz fans. We are fortunate to have such talent as James Pearson.