CD review

Paul Edis Trio – ‘Snakes and Ladders’

Paul Edis Trio – Snakes and Ladders
(Self-released and available from Bandcamp. Album review by Adrian Pallant)

Pianist Paul Edis established himself as one of the leading lights of contemporary jazz and other genres in his native north-east England, over the past fifteen years or so – the instigator of numerous compositional, performance and recording projects (including duo, choral, orchestral and big band works), as well as working alongside artists such as Jon Faddis, Julian Siegel, Alan Barnes, Tony Kofi and Vasilis Xenopoulos. He is also an educator and promoter.

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Following his return to London in 2020 (where he studied), he has now released uplifting piano trio album Snakes and Ladders, with double bassist Andy Champion and drummer Russ Morgan. The eight original numbers are inspired by the swinging jazz tradition – especially the playing of US pianist Benny Green – and sparkle with authenticity.

Brisk Whiskers is carried on an incessantly shuffling rhythm, its title arrived at after Edis’s conducting of a performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert found the drum part to specify ‘whiskers’ rather than brushes. In contrast, the assured gospel saunter of It Ain’t Broke (unsurprisingly, also arranged for big band) suggests Dave Brubeck or Oscar Peterson, particularly through strong octaval/chordal melodies reminiscent of ‘The Duke’ or ‘Hymn To Freedom’, even offering evocative tremulant chords amongst the improvisations. Andy Champion also demonstrates the robust pliancy of a solo bass voice heard effectively in other line-ups such as the Graeme Wilson Quartet (also with Paul). The album’s carefree title track does indeed climb and resignedly descend, Morgan’s cymbals upholding its buoyancy; and irresistible bossa The Long Way Round (which, in another guise, includes Edis’s lyrics) features some lovely unison bass-and-piano phrases and Champion’s attractive solo lyricism.

For a couple tunes, Edis changes the ambience by grooving on Fender Rhodes. Of Mice and Men is initially reminiscent of Bob James’ ‘Angela’, though Morgan’s increasingly prominent rhythms forecast the gritty heights it attains; and Madeira, written straight after a precarious tour-guide journey around steep hills to reach Nun’s Valley, sambas with a palpable mix of alarm and exuberance!

Lucky Eleven, dedicated to Edis’s ever-supportive wife (it’s her lucky number and also references this 11-bar sequence), suggests the tenderness of Bill Evans, especially through the acoustic piano’s calming, sustained ‘Peace Piece’ intro and mood. To close, sprightly Lines – described as “a challenging bop head” loosely related to the chord structure of Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ – jives and rolls with abandon, and provides the sunny outlook we crave right now.

Joyfully straight-ahead, Snakes and Ladders is a real double-sixer!

Paul Edis at Bandcamp

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