The Still Point of The Turning World is an achingly beautiful, impressionistic album that washes over you like a wave of emotion and wells up from places Wordsworth deemed “too deep for tears.”
That sentence should read as a strong indicator that this solo album release from Paul Edis is unlikely to be like any previous recordings released by this highly respected jazz pianist. The album was conceived and written during the imposed period of isolation known as lockdown: this is an album of reflection and introspection.
‘Dig Deep’ is the first of nine tracks (seven compositions are by Paul) and is arresting in its simplicity. The tune is classical in style and, to me, sounds like a gentle conversation between the left and right hand. There is little in the way of musical flourish but there is so much space in which the notes hang before moving on. Jerome Kern wrote ‘Nobody Else but Me’, which is an apt title for the circumstances in which Paul, like many of us, found himself for much of 2020 into 2021. The tune is bright and upbeat, which I took as a comment on the idea that lockdown was a time in which we could try new things because we had the time and could. I like that this is played by a soloist: I could focus entirely on the melody and really appreciate this well written number.
‘Muddle Through’ is a slow blues inflected piece. On first hearing I was reminded of a great blues tune entitled ‘Walking the Blues’ by Willie Dixon and I think it is the pared back approach to the compositions that form that link for me. Like much of the music on this album it is the apparent simplicity of the writing that is the strength of The Still Point of The Turning World. I found ‘Detour Behind’ to be one of the more reflective tracks – and the title certainly suggests that this is about looking back. This is one of those pieces of music that will be personal to each listener as they use Paul’s music to look back and take stock on where they have come from and, perhaps, what can change as a result of doing so.
‘Cluster Fluster’ is “simultaneously soothing and stirring, rapturous yet relaxed, at times the melodies almost appear to become subservient to the mood” (Press release pack). There was something about this track that I found a touch unnerving but not unpleasantly so. Like other tunes on this album there is time and space within the theme to allow the listener to absorb the notes and consider what they mean to them at a personal level. ‘Start Over’ has a similar effect as the previous tune but as the melody is lighter and the tempo has been picked-up my thoughts too were lifted. There is a wonderful balance between the jazz and classical influences in this piece and could well be the stand-out track for me.
‘Will-O’-The Wisp’ has all the lightness that might be associated with the sprite that carried the wisp of light that led travellers astray, but I think in this case we will take the literary interpretation of hope that leads us on. This tune is full of cautious optimism with the right hand providing the hope while the left hand plays the notes of caution. The penultimate track of this album is ‘Hypnotized’ and it is the number that on initial listen through grabbed my attention for its sheer beauty – beyond that you will have to listen to your own responses to the music.
Jean-Paul-Égide Martini wrote the final track, ‘Plaisir d’amour’. This is a song based on lost love:
Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment, chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie The pleasure of love lasts only a moment, the grief of love lasts a lifetime.
The music, the tone, the playing all perfectly match the sentiment of the poem on which the tune is based, and it is a fitting composition to end what is a stunningly beautiful, introspective, and reflective album.
This is not an album that should be defined by genre. I did not really get why this album had such an impact on me but the liner notes from Paul may give some clue:
I found solace in this unexpected solitude, reconnecting with the piano and a creative outlook that at times felt a bit like being a teenager again. This rediscovered sense of artistic ambition and creative fearlessness have fused with a newfound confidence and self-belief in what I do. Put simply, I don’t think I’m trying to prove anything to anyone anymore. I have things I want to do and to say, and I am happy if people want to listen.
That I believe defines contentment and contentment is what I felt when I allowed myself to connect with and get lost in this album: Thank you Paul Edis!
1. Dig Deep. 2. Nobody Else But Me. 3. Muddle Through. 4. Detour Behind. 5. Cliuster Fluster. 6. Start Over. 7. Will-O’-The-Wisp. 8. Hypnotized. 9. Plaisir d’amour
The Still Point Of The Turning World releases on CD and limited-edition heavyweight vinyl through Lateralize Records on 10th September 2021.