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I'm In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career

The State of Jazz Lyricists 2010: Mose Allison and Jim Pearce
by C. Michael Bailey / All About Jazz

There exists a unique and storied subset of jazz artists who pen the most clever music and lyrics this side of Tin Pan Alley and way that side of modern-day Nashville. Besides Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg, who are in a class by themselves, are Mose Allison and Jim Pearce, who are also part of that rarefied class. That three of these four—all pianists and singers as well as composers—are Southerners should not be a surprise because the American South, with all of its inherent conflict, is the creative conscience of America.

Allison and Pearce are known for inventive lyrics, often self-effacing, propelled by solid, blues-oriented piano playing. This type of composition is a dying art, the marriage of the clever with the sublime. This is music that winks and nods and chuckles with the inside joke between performer and listener. Where Mose Allison's music is colored with earthy tones of rich soil and rural Southern red clay, pianist and singer Jim Pearce's reflects the shiny New South of his Atlanta home. His instrumental writing has a show-tune sophistication and harmonic acumen, and his voice has the earnest imperfection of a crack Tin Pan Alley lyricist, a slight lisp, that makes his singing genuine and irresistible.

Pearce is a Southern sophisticate, enabling him to compose and sing a self- deprecating song like "I'm In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career" alongside a superb instrumental ballad like "Here I Am Dreaming Rainbows." Where Allison's lyrics tend to the summer, dust-dry sardonic with a stab of danger, Pearce's are good natured and and largely without bite, like "It Ain't Fair:

"For you I'd jump through flaming hoops / scuba dive in onion soup.
Sail across the Seven Seas / Scale Mount Everest on my knees.
Ride a cycle on a wire / shoot Niagara in a tire
Fly a kite in a Hurricane / try and stop a moving train..."

How is that not infatuating?

This continues through similarly structured songs, "I Hates To Leaves Ya, But I Gots To Went" and "Sasquatch Is Falling In Love." Instrumentally, Pearce's compositions are equally happy and good natured. "Refried and Bona Fide" is a progressive "The In Crowd" sort of piece that defies its funky and creative title. Pearce is a full-bodied composer who can deftly write anything. Two sides of the same coin, Allison and Pearce have few musicians coming up behind them to continue this tradition of jazz vocal composition. Who is on the horizon?


I'm In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career
by Bob Gish/Jazz Inside NY Magazine

Here’s a cheerful, playful gathering of original tunes composed by Jim Pearce and featuring him on piano and select vocals. It’s all very witty and upbeat, relaxed and pretty in the best senses of the words. The band sounds fine, polished and rehearsed—each musician an expert in their approach to the songs and arrangements and in their air of professionalism. Pearce’s voice comes across as a bit reminiscent of Kermit and the Muppets or maybe Randy Newman and it’s quite charming as such. The title track zeros in on the flavor of the project—although the aspect of being on the downside of mediocrity is uttered with ironic overstatement. Nothing mediocre about the music, the musicians or for that matter - the tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) lyrics. “It Just Ain’t Fair” is an especially cute song with perhaps the cleverest lyrics of the bunch (notwithstanding “I Hates to Leaves Ya But I Gots to Went”), finding Pearce blissfully scatting away. Yet another clever set of lyrics is found in “Sasquatch is Falling in Love,” made all the more unique by the guitar playing of Ken Gregory.

One supposes that scarcity makes the heart grow fonder; however, more of Gregory would be much in order. In a sense Pearce speaks for countless small, more or less anonymous if not invisible musicians playing small-change gigs and serving as their own roadies, sound engineers, and managers. “Here I Am Dreaming Rainbows” features Pearce on the keyboard and Eric South on sax and Joe Gransden on trumpet—an instrumental track in testament to the group’s excellent talent and denial of any sincere claim to mediocre abilities. Herman Burney stands out forcefully and adeptly in an ear-catching bass solo with Paul Fallat providing the pulse. It’s a quiet and lyrical tune that again features South on Sax, playing a kind of stick to your ribs soulful solo perked up and underscored by Pearce’s sweet piano and Burney’s bowing finale. As is so often the case, the middle track, “Almost to Brazil,” provides a beautiful and calming arrival point, setting forth a bossa nova deserving of note by other musicians. Joe Gransden and Pearce trade honors on this particular version. Rafael Pereira’s percussion effects transport everyone into the Brazilian groove. If, perchance, another title were given to this project it might well be the title of the final tune: “Happy Keys.” Happy, happy keys, indeed!


I’m In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career,
Jim Pearce, piano and vocals
by George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon

You just gotta love it when, in a voice nobody will compare to Sinatra, Jim Pearce sings “to these rules I adhere ... won’t work for food or exposure or beer ... I’m in the twilight of a mediocre career.” This and others from a hip and swinging piano player (as proven on several instrumental selections) bring you a high five album. And just when you think they’ve covered every possible subject in lyric writing, Pearce brings us something called “Sasquatch Is Falling in Love.” You’ve heard of feel good movies. Well, this is a feel good CD.


Apéro Classics: Jim Pearce
«I'm In the Twilight of a Mediocre Career»

Der Titel von Jim Pearce's CD zeigt schon unmissverständlich an, in welcher Umgebung wir uns befinden: Der Pianist, Sänger und Songschreiber Jim Pearce lässt sofort an verwandte Schlitzohren wie Dave Frishberg und Bob Dorough denken. Und wie sie ist er ein hervorragender Pianist, und ein eigenwilliger Sänger, oder vielmehr ein «Diseur», falls es dies gibt. Jim Pearce's Songs sind ein ungetrübtes Vergnügen!


The swing and wit of Jim Pearce
by Jean-Claude Elias, The Jordan Times

AMMAN - There are many different reasons that make you want to buy a new CD. The artist may be someone you already know and particularly like, or a friend may have recommended the album, or perhaps you have heard excerpts from it on the web. Sometimes it is the CD’s cover art that is very attractive and that begs you “please, buy me”. In the case of the new disc by American jazz pianist Jim Pearce it is the title that did the trick on me. I could not resist buying an album titled “I’m in the twilight of a mediocre career.”

The previous album by Pearce was named “Never Open with a Ballad!” The sense of humour of the musician is one of the essential traits of his music and does not end with titles. It extends deep into the lyrics of his songs and in the very way he does his singing. In the song that bears the same title as the album Pearce goes: “My mother said be an engineer, I didn’t listen so I wound up here. I’m in the twilight of a mediocre career, won’t make much money, yet to these rules I adhere, won’t work for food, exposure or beer.”

Essentially Pearce plays mainline, straight swinging traditional jazz. His piano naturally holds centre stage and is accompanied by first class performers. Herman Burney is on acoustic bass and does a stunning solo on track 3, played with the bow. Paul Fallat does the energised yet very subtle drumming, while Eric South plays the saxophone and the flute and Joe Gransden the trumpet. Ken Gregory contributes nice guitar parts, Rafael Pereira brings on additional percussions and Robert Dickson plays the bass on track 5.

About half of the eleven pieces featured on the album are sung, the rest being instrumentals only. All the music and the lyrics are by Jim Pearce; this alone deserves unrestricted credit.

Traditional does not mean repetitive here. Before anything else, perhaps before even being a performer, Pearce is an amazing innovator, writing pieces that are inventive and original. In that sense the album truly shines. The American jazzman sings with a slightly nasal, hoarse voice, “chewing” half of the words, reminiscent of good old Leon Russel sometimes, and sounding a bit “cartoonesque” by moments. This is in no way the velvet voice of Michael Buble or the crooning sound of Frank Sinatra. Besides, Pearce does not pretend to “be a beautiful voice”.

Instead, his wit and his vocal phrasing, combined with exceptional timing and relaxed delivery of lyrics and notes, unmistakably manage to capture your attention and please you. You are just too happy to hear him play and sing. And yes, this is genuine jazz.

Listen to “I hates to leaves ya but I gots to went” (literally). It opens with a sweet, warm saxophone line, goes on with Pearce belting out more crazy lyrics, and then shifts into a pure jazz piano solo. It would be wrong to be distracted by the funny words and singing, and to overlook the quality of the music and the instrumental parts; they make real good jazz. The harmonies played by the flute and the trumpet are exquisite musical moments and show the craftsmanship of Pearce, as in “Just another spring song”.

Pearce’s piano style is classy and refined. It is, overall, soft and restrained, almost classical I would say. Yet, not every single piece on the album is traditional. “Refried and bona fide” shows the more daring, slightly more contemporary side of the artist. The piece is played with even more energy than the rest, with heavy, massive chords, an aggressive beat, and a bit of modern dissonance here and there.

“I’m in the twilight of a mediocre a career” is an interesting and very likable album. Pearce may be a better pianist and composer than he is a singer, but he makes jazz music that is attractive and original. He also strikes a good balance between traditional and innovation, guaranteed to please the listener.


Jazziz Magazine

Singing pianist Jim Pearce is incredibly hip, but please don’t tell him. It might ruin his woeful, hangdog charm, which stacks up favorably alongside witty songsters such as Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg and Mose Allison. On the title track to his sixth recording, the wonderfully titled I’m in the Twilight of a Mediocre Career (self release), Pearce almost genially accepts his place in the entertainment world. Teens aren’t singing along to his lyrics and groupies aren’t pelting him with undergarments, but he knows the score. (Don’t feel to bad for him, Pearce has found space on Jazz radio charts, won a number of songwriting awards and his music has been used in TV shows including Lipstick Jungle and Greek). The cat also happens to be a sophisticated musician and composer which can be discerned especially on the albums instrumental tracks. Take for example "Almost to Brazil" our selection which grooves to a sunny samba beat and features some exceptional playing, saxophonist and flutist Eric South, Trumpeter Joe Gransden and of course Pearce himself.


Audiophile Audition
Robbie Gerson

This jazz is simply too much fun. As a purveyor of humorous jazz/blues songs, Jim Pearce might be compared to other renowned artists. That would be inappropriate, as Pearce only resembles himself. Certainly, he has some of the sophistication of David Frishberg, and a touch of Mose Allison rawness. But there is something original about his fragmented sketches of musical impressions. The multiple award-winning songwriter has reinvented the troubadour with modern jazz aesthetics.

Like most great storytellers, his life has its own idiosyncratic themes. As the tale is told, he dropped out of college to play at an amusement park. Broke and restless (great attributes for an aspiring musician), he formed a band and went on the road for nearly six years. Playing with regional bands, including Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs, The Catalinas and Sugarcreek on the Southland circuit, Pearce honed his technique and established a reputation as a ferocious performer. Weddings, concerts, festivals, clubs, nursing homes, and a gorilla funeral were all welcome gigs to this road warrior. Eventually, he would alleviate his touring schedule and record with his band.

I’m In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career is the most current release. Consisting of thirteen original songs, (vocal and instrumental), self-deprecating charm and crisp, jazzy swingtime alternate with ease. The title cut offers a jazz-waltz, autobiographical retrospective. Pearce’s voice will never be confused with Joe Williams, but his sarcastic ebullience is offset nicely by his breezy piano solos. The opening track, "Let's Run Away", is offered in the style of "Fly Me To The Moon". The steady, cool tempo receives a spirited trumpet solo by Joe Gransden, before it gets turned over to the animated piano run by Pearce. "It Just Ain’t Fair" gives the singer a stage for romantic overtone. This time, a tenor sax solo by Eric South frames the composition’s bouncy countenance.

The instrumental pieces are engaging as well. "Almost To Brazil" spins a relaxed, samba cadence with jazzy coloration. With a furtive downbeat, "Refried And Bona Fide" achieves a fusion trio sound with Herman Burney’s solid bass and Paul Fallat's crisp drumming. The finale, "Happy Keys" is a simple, jaunty piano opus that showcases the depth of Pearce’s harmonics.

Prairie Dog Ballet, released in 2006, utilizes the same musicians with different arrangements. The title piece has a post bop, horn chorus driving the melody. The jazzier feel is maintained on "Unknowable Blue". Tempo shifts, complemented by trumpet and tenor sax solos, cultivate a deeper aesthetic. A certain highlight is "One More Tomorrow" with a plaintive late-night acoustic resonance. Pearce’s piano play is both nuanced and lyrical in its eloquence. Fans of his idiomatic lyrics will not be disappointed. "Why I Haven’t Got You" (another hilarious rumination on love), "Gone Fishin" (a jump swing incarnation), and "Now That You're Gone" (more relationship angst) strike the perfect equilibrium of jazz spontaneity and humorous narrative.

These albums are well crafted and very accessible. Perhaps Jim Pearce is at the apex of his "mediocre" career.


Midwest Record
Chris Spector

JIM PEARCE/I’m in the Twilight of a Mediocre Career: A little self deprecating humor goes a long way and Pearce could be a stand in for his apparent hero, Dave Frishberg, with very little ramping up. A twinkly jazz piano man, he's got that Frishberg sound, vibe and vocal down so well, it’s easy to take him for granted, but if that was the case, his music wouldn't be turning up in so many places and gathering so many awards and recognition. Where Frish can get a little dense and wordy at times, a product of the times a lot of his classics were written, Pearce just cuts to the chase and really knows how to work those keys as well. Fun stuff for people out for a good time mixed in with their jazz.


Cashbox Magazine
Christopher Llewellyn

Jim Pearce
I’m In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career
The sound of a piano player making the ivory sing is always music to my ears. Jim Pearce's latest album is surely worthy of a spin, as he takes a multi-faceted journey into musical magic with "I’m In The Twilight Of A Mediocre Career."

A virtual potpourri of musical styles, Pearce’s latest is a refreshing shift from the cookie cutter world of modern music. Rarely, if ever, does an artist share such a diverse catalog of instrumental work on an album, and Pearce does this with style.

"Almost To Brazil" is my favorite song on the album. A musical pilgrimage into the dawn of jazz, it recreates the sound of the genre at it's infancy. This track is a sure thing for the charts.

The works of modern jazz are paving the way for future musicians to make their own mark. Jim Pearce’s latest is a promising effort from a musical professor eager to show others how to make the most of their talents. Give "I’m In The Twilight..." a listen soon.


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