You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer
Pianist/singer Jim Pearce's records inevitably draw comparisons to those of fellow ivory tickling wordsmith Mose Allison. The fact that both are genre-bending virtuosi with dry as champagne humor, who play the same instrument is where all similarities end.
The whimsically titled You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer is quintessential Pearce, replete with his characteristic mixture of levity and thoughtfulness. While Allison's trademark is his blues-drenched and folksy raconteurstyle, Pearce's is more urbane, and his lyrics refreshingly absurdist at times and irreverently satirical at others.
"Even Big Monsters Love Music" features such amusingly off the wall verses as:
"The blob's physique lacks definition
He digs tunes, played with precision
Bebop makes the jelly dude move
Bird and Diz put him in the groove."
Guitarist Ken Gregory adds a boppish flair to the song with his complex and crisp sound. The title track, on the other hand, is a witty parody with words such as:
"Jam in the middle with a bass saxophone
Bring on the lectrified sarrusophone
Microtonal clusters and twelve tone rows
Minimalist bluster, anything goes."
Closing the tune are bassist Herman Burney's intricate and edgy strings, backed by Pearce's bluesy vamps and drummer Paul Fallat's driving beats.
There are also more solemn moments that, nevertheless, are delivered with pleasant repartee and plenty of brio in Pearce's warm, husky baritone. "My Last Parade in New Orleans" is about his own funeral, but the sound is far from funèbre, with exuberant rhythms and cleverly constructed clarinet and trumpet solos. Meanwhile, the lighthearted "Old as Dirt" is a lament about the woes of aging that is simultaneously wistful and droll. Pearce's flowing piano tone also bears hints of melancholy.
The instrumental pieces are equally delightful and intriguing, often emphasizing the musical exchanges amongst the members of the core trio. "In The Evening" is a crepuscular ballad where the piano's lilt, the whisper of brushes on trap drums and the clean, walking bass lines create a sublime group improvisation that remains close to the structure of the melody. Pearce exhibits his contemplative side and classical influences on the gentle and sophisticated sonata, "Open Plain." His strong sense of swing, meanwhile, is showcased on the cool and pastoral "Another Waltz for You," featuring reed player Eric South's idyllic flute and trumpeter Joe Gransden's lyrical horn.
Pearce's seventh release as a leader, You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer is an engaging and well-rounded portrait of this uniquely talented songwriter, vocalist and pianist at his mature and creative peak.
Jazz is serious music: so serious that sometimes it becomes a labor of such intensity that the composers and performers fail to have fun making the music. Vocalist/pianist/composer Jim Pearce specifically makes it a point to have fun, before getting serious (as serious as he ever gets). Gratefully in the mold of Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg and Mose Allison, Pearce specializes in bright melodies and clever lyrics, a modern throwback to Tin Pan Alley reclaiming clever lyrics from the great unwashed of country music, the current keeper of cagey words with snappy music.
Pearce's talent attack is on two fronts. He is a superb pianist and composer who solos against his compositions with a startling clarity, revealing an embarrassment of creative riches. The opening "You Pick Me" sings and swings with a goofy swagger that endears immediately, a quality lacking in so much music. And then there are Pearce's lyrics. "Old As Dirt" shows Pearce's lyrics chops in the sunlight on the back porch, considering old age:
"I'm old as dirt / fried like bacon / what golden years my knees are achin' / senior citicide, paleozoic / I'm fossilized prehistoric.
Got liver spots and ortho shots / for—get—a lot—eat prunes—by the box / mean and grumpy / sad and frumpy / grey-beard elder my butt is lumpy..."
The title tune is a clever, tongue-in-cheek, left-handed compliment lamenting ample talent lacking ambition. The song bounces around an open 4/4 and mentions Schopenhauer, Mahler and 12-tone clusters in the same song. That is a nice touch. "Even Big Monsters Love Music pits King Kong against Broadway:
..."and King Kong loves ballads real slow / he sings the pretty parts way down low. / He's just a guy that digs fine art / so, give him the songs by Rodgers and Hart...
Even big monsters love music / it's soothing to the savage beast / even big monsters love music / gobbling up an audio feast..."
As good as Pearce's lyrics are, his musical composing is equal or better. Half of You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer is made up of instrumentals...smartly constructed and effectively performed. "Western Skies" and "Another Waltz for You" are notable for their invention and musicality. You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer is a fine follow up to I'm In The Twilight of a Mediocre Career ( 2010), and exists as the promise of more such music.
A quirky pianist/songwriter/vocalist.
When you combine bits of Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough you get a quirky pianist/songwriter called Jim Pearce. Although not nearly as well-known as any of those previously mentioned figures, Pearce nevertheless exhibits some of those sensibilities that could place him in that category as evidenced in his self-produced release You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer.
His lead track “You Picked Me” is a perfect apotheosis of all those qualities that could make his lyric-writing and bouncy piano- playing rank up there with those great names. ”My Last Parade In New Orleans” gives Pearce a chance to delve into his own mortality with humor, supported by a great New Orleans-sounding group with Ken Gregory doing a nice turn on trumpet. The pains of aging are given a humorous and witty reading with “Old As Dirt”.
The title track “You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer” gives full range to the vocal chameleon that is Pearce, with a song style that full of flippancy and wistfulness. Each of the vocal tunes that Pearce spins out is replete with suave lyrics and cool rhyming couplets, that all go to add to the playfulness of the compositions.
The instrumental offerings are in no way diminished compared to the vocals, as the band is a tight-knit group with a wonderful rapport. Pearce’s piano playing is exuberant and demonstrates animated suppleness. Whether the group shows its musical integration with the ballad “In The Evening” or on the swinging “Another Waltz For You”, there is a high level of invention and sparkling partnership.
This is a hip release from an under-appreciated songwriter/vocalist/pianist.
You Are an Edgy Visionary Seer; Jim Pearce, piano and vocals.
by George Fendel / Jazz Society of Oregon
You’ll have no problem differentiating Pearce’s rough-hewn voice from, say, the pipes of Vic Damone. But Pearce, in his own way, gets it done with some very hip, clever and often downright humorous writing. He accompanies himself on piano, and is way more than just capable. You’re gonna get a kick out of tunes like “You Picked Me,” “Old as Dirt” and my personal fave, “Even Big Monsters Love Music.” You may want to roll the dice on Pearce. I think you’ll come up a winner.
You Are an Edgy Visionary Seer - Jim Pearce
by Ed Kopp / Jazziz Magazine
More than ever, jazz seems to take itself way too seriously. One small piece of evidence: the fact that humorous singer-songwriters like Jim Pearce are far less numerous than, say funny folk singers. Pearce, 60, is a generation younger and much less famous than Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough and Mose Allison-- but he's just as funny. The Atlanta-based artist's seventh release is another winning mix of clever vocal tracks and varied mainstream instrumentals.
Like the aforementioned threesome, Pearce writes hilarious tunes in a Tin Pan Alley Style, swings on piano, and sings in a less-than-perfect voice. In fact, his vocals have been compared to Kermit the Frog's. But when you're aiming for funny, a funny voice is effective. What's more, Pearce's lisp and Southern drawl mesh well with his self-effacing persona.
Pearce's lyrics are often self-deprecating but never abrasive. Take "Old as Dirt," in which he recites a litany of evidence that he's in decline: "I'm old as dirt, fried like bacon/what golden years? /my knees are achin'." He's even more sardonic on the title track, poking fun at conservatory composers who write unlistenable works that still earn them "awards by the slew." Best of all, "My Last Parade in New Orleans" is a second-line romp sung from the perspective of a recently deceased cadaver.
Pearce's longtime cohorts--trumpeter/bassist/guitarist Ken Gregory, bassist Herman Burney and drummer Paul Fallat -- provide competent backing, with additional players sitting in on a couple of tracks. The leader's straight-ahead piano drives most tunes, including the best instrumentals, which stick in your head almost as long as the vocal cuts, "Western Skies" is an irresistible heartland melody and "Lost Love Found" is a wistful, classical-leaning ballad.
Edgy he's not, but Jim Pearce is truly an entertaining jazz artist who deserves a wider audience.