Somewhere between the motorcycle rides and the plane flights, you start to get a sense of the
man behind the jazz piano.
I recently sat down with Paul Painter and got serious about trying to understand what makes him
tick. I asked about his history on the piano.(He started playing the instrument at age 7 and knew
he was going to be a musician at age 8.) I asked about his influences ( Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans,
Keith Jarrett). I asked when he started playing jazz. (He started in the early 1980s and has played
it almost exclusively since.) But after awhile, I got to thinking the answer to what makes Paul
Painter tick didn't lie in the answers to those questions. It's somewhere in the horizon when he
flies a plane; somewhere around the next corner when he's riding his Harley; and somewhere in
that next set of notes when he's riding a solo. It's that feeling that something is out there--
always out there--that is new and worth experiencing and worth sharing. I started realizing that
it's the things he said during the deviation from the serious conversation that gave me insight into
his music: Like when he talks about flying.
"It frees up your head." he said."You have to pay attention. You can't be thinking about a
million little things. You're in the moment. You have to take care of things right when they come
Ditto, of course, music.
I've come to believe over the years that it's Paul's curosity for what's ahead that destinguishes
his music from other performers. That and a desire to share not just what at times are very
intricate and intriguing melodic patterns he hears but an emotion he feels; An emotion that at
times evolves even during a solo.
"You have to rely upon the music to take you where it wants to go," he told me when we got
back to talking about music. "You're not in control, but you're part of something. It's a
transportation, an elevation from your normal life."
Like flying, maybe. Or riding a Harley.
I also started realizing that Paul has a tremendous desire to communicate with listeners. That's
not something you learn. It's something you're born with.
" I like to see people go through their emotions when I'm playing music," he said. "I've seen
people with tears in their eyes. I know at that point, they're living outside what they normally feel.
For me, that's what music is all about."
Paul has refined his music over the years, but I can still hear the man who emerged onto the jazz
scene in the early 1980s full of promise and passion and soaking up everything about jazz he
could get his hands on. It's clear after listening to his new CD,"In Flight," he has taken that
knowledge, melded it with his passion and is creating the kind of music only the true jazz masters
get to create.
Paul's new CD will tell you a lot more about Paul than I can with these words. The title to me, is
symbolic of where he has been with his music and where I expect him to continue to go. I'm just
glad I'm privileged enought to be along for the ride.