In Peckham In Spring he brought us a sax-led acoustic jazz quartet, in a refreshing and diverse CD – ‘Auspicious in the extreme’ The Times. ‘A highly desirable record….definitely recommended’ Jazz Journal International.
Then with The Dance, a shift from acoustic to fretless electric bass saw Paul present us with his gigging band, and some of the upbeat Latin, African and Celtic influences that they were deploying live, as well as his characteristically heartfelt intimate soundscapes.
With Duos, Duets and Duels, it’s been stripped down to just two instruments – piano and double bass. Paul is joined by the young and prodigiously talented pianist Phil Merriman, to create a exciting, moving and varied programme of jazz duets.
‘Memorable melody, evocative tonescapes, artful rhythm arrangements, unobtrusive virtuosity’ Jazz Views
‘Ear-catching melody . . . consistently engaging.’ Jazzwise
‘Such variety and attention to detail in the writing that you barely register the absence of other musicians.’ Sussex Jazz Mag
‘Hints of far-reaching improvisation.’ Musician
Piano and double bass are instruments fundamental to jazz, in very many of its myriad incarnations. I was very keen to explore some of the potential soundscapes and stylistic high-ways and by-ways available with the two instruments unaccompanied by any others, and informed to a greater or lesser extent by what has gone before.
There is a freedom that arises as a bassist when there is no drummer, but also a re-definition of the significance of the bass’s function. The decay envelope of the bass notes, the rhythmic shape they create as they are attacked and fade away, becomes the primary unit of propulsion, along with the choice and timing of the rhythmic patterns. And without a drummer the nature of that propulsion can be tweaked and played with at any point, in a very independent way.
And for the pianist as well, a lot has to be implicit, rather that explicit, especially rhythmically, and the sense needs to be communicated that we are merely providing glimpses of a much bigger picture, that we are merely displaying the tip of the iceberg. Except, of course, in the most intimate moments when the two instruments gently murmur together whatever it is they are discussing.
The songs we have recorded here on Duos, Duets and Duels, I have written over the course of several years, with the recent addition of a few new ones just for this recording. I have tried a variety of structural approaches, from no improvisation at all (Bigfoot), to some very free soloing (The Smile of Your Shadow), to playing over specific material for each instrument (First Glance), to a standard song format (Polaroid). Forms evoked include modified blues (Yesterday’s Blues), country rock (Colorado), diatonic miniaturism (Thank You).
I have a particular affection for the folk tinged tune Ambling Away. It came into my head fully formed, and so the process of performing and recording it has been for me a slightly different one, than for the tunes I worked hard on to get into shape. It’s been like meeting a stranger with whom you have an instant rapport, and then gradually getting to know them.
This tune has a strong stylistic and melodic connection with its dedicatee, Charlie Haden, an inspirational musician for so many people, not just bassists. I toyed with a few approaches to the music, including playing it on a bass set up with gut strings to try and match the sort of tone and touch Charlie was known for. In the end, though, I stuck to the same approach to sound that I used with the other material, though respectfully declined to solo!
Phil Merriman – Piano
Phil Merriman is a versatile and hugely gifted pianist, composer and arranger based in London. He has worked in many musical styles, with such artists as Alice Zawadzki, Aref Durvesh (Sting), Brendan B. Brown (Wheatus), CeCe Peniston, Dawn Robinson (En Vogue/Lucy Pearl), and Shola Ama. Perhaps a particular highlight has been recording duets with jazz giant John Taylor.
Phil is also in demand as a music educator, and co-directs Be Creative Music, a groove and songwriting workshop company. A former recipient of the Ed Burrell Prize for Performance, Phil teaches piano in London, Sussex and at the University of York.
Paul Kimber – Double Bass, Composer
Paul Kimber was born in Northern Ireland and studied double bass with Barry Young and Tom Martin. As an orchestral bassist he has held co-principal positions at ENO and the LPO, and currently shares the section principal job at the Royal Opera House. He has also appeared as guest principal with most of the orchestras in London.
He has played on hundreds of film, TV, library, CD, sampling and jingle sessions, from Harry Potter to James Bond, and Dad’s Army to Downton Abbey.
Paul has had a long-standing involvement in jazz performing and writing, having recently completed a five-year run of a weekly duo residency in London’s west end with guitarist Nick D’Oliveira, played many gigs with his own quartet, and released critically acclaimed albums. He has also appeared alongside many jazz notables including Tony Coe, Nikki Iles, Jean Toussaint and Troy Miller.
Paul doubles on bass guitar, performing in jazz, studio, musical theatre and orchestral settings.
As a double bass soloist Paul has appeared in a variety of venues, including London’s Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Halls, and the Royal Opera House’s Crush Room. His ‘3 Miniatures’ for double bass and piano, have been published by Recital Music.
Other writing projects have included compositions, and many arrangements and orchestrations, commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, BT Scottish Ensemble, Kidenza Childrens’ Concerts and Ragdoll Worldwide.
Album design by Jonathan Kearney
Cover image by Judith Kimber Photography