PRODUCT OF IMAGINATION RECORDS RELEASES EXCITING NEW ALBUM BY GUITARIST FRANCISCO PAIS
* Featuring Pais with Gretchen Parlato, Chris Cheek, Ferenc Nemeth, Leo Genovese, Peter Slavov & Damien Cabaud *
In the jazz world today, original songs with lyrics are rare treats. When jazz was at the height of its popularity and impact, the role of the vocalist was an important one, both lyrically and melodically. The opening track of Francisco Pais’s newest album School of Enlightenment provides the listener with a contemporary interpretation of an essential element in modern jazz— original, beautiful music that reaches the listener immediately and profoundly, through voice. The song “Early Shift” combines the musical vision of its composer and the imagery it evoked within the poet’s mind upon hearing it. Ann Bruno’s beautiful words are accented profoundly by the harmonic foundations upon which the poem has been built, and the music truly soars, lifted by singer Gretchen Parlato’s enchanting voice. This is but one of nine wonderfully imaginative and extraordinarily fresh compositions found on the record.
But not all of the music features voice. Several of the melodies are handled beautifully by accomplished saxophonist Chris Cheek who returns to Pais’s group and brings his own unique and recognizable sound to the music. Fresh off his own celebrated new album, drummer and bandleader Ferenc Nemeth, who has been Pais’s partner in crime for over 10 years, provides exotic, interesting and powerful grooves throughout. Pianist Leo Genovese also returns to the group, adding his own potent contributions to the band. Solid, swinging and commanding bassist Peter Slavov is featured on seven of the nine tracks while young and upcoming bassist Damien Cabaud rounds out the other two.
This music is a blend of so many unique styles. Moving from one track to the next, the listener is treated to driving swing, odd-meter bolero, trip-hop backbeat, and modern rock— all firmly rooted in jazz tradition. Pais’s versatility and mastery of composition are obvious in every original work presented, and his musicians are not only strongly aware of, but are truly invested in his artistic vision. Given how mercurial the music industry has been of late, Pais’s commitment to his ideas and musical philosophy is refreshing. In fact, he has gone so far as to release this album under his own label, Product of Imagination Records, in order to preserve that.
Beyond the content of the music itself is the impressive amount of time and effort put into the production. The quality of the audio is stellar and the attention to detail is impeccable. Of course this has come to be expected from mixing guru James Farber and master engineer Fred Kevorkian.
In Francisco Pais, one finds an artist with a burning desire to avoid stagnation— to continue progressing until there’s nowhere left to go. This album just represents a single chapter in what promises to be a long and interesting book. We look forward to seeing where he goes next.