Out resident jazz expert Tony Andrews writes …..
The primary incentive for me to write these reviews for this magnificent website is to help redress the balance between those who achieve shear musical genius and the musical mediocrity currently hyped up by the craving for “Celebrity Status”
We seem to be obsessed by being a Celebrity and once this status is achieved then ….. talent or ability becomes of secondary importance.
One truly talented musician who although very successful in his field has escaped being held as a Celebrity is Paul Higgs. He shares one thing in common with the famous film and musical about the pioneering woman Ford strikers as both he and they were both “Made in Dagenham”.
At a young age he started showing signs of musical brilliance. He started playing the classical guitar at 9 and the piano at 11. At 14 Paul was a member of The National Youth Jazz Orchestra and at 22 in the pit for 42nd Street in Drury Lane. Singing sensations such as Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Nancy Wilson and Lulu have all benefited from his musical excellence. As Musical Director of The National Theatre he created some magical moments to accompany many plays and similarly for The Royal Shakespeare Company.
When I first heard Pavane what stuck me first was the sheer brilliance of the musicianship. If I had not known the source of the musicians I would have been convinced the band were all superstars from the US jazz stable. I did in fact play the CD to a number of jazz experts and implied this was a new US super group. They never doubted this for a second!
When I revealed that the musical genius behind the band - and the compositions - was “Made in Dagenham” they were shocked.
Pavane is one of those CDs which is categorised as Jazz/Classical Crossover which - although accurate - almost detracts from the fact that it is beyond categorization, fundamentally magical music.
Paul is not only an amazing pianist but equally as adept on the trumpet and he plays both on Pavane. When this work is performed live obviously Paul cannot play both and chooses to play trumpet with Chris Ingham on piano. I have seen Pavane performed live three times and every time it has been as fresh as ever.
Two mature lady jazz fans (not easily pleased either!) at The Out to Lunch series of concerts at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea confirmed that Paul Higgs was the most musically creative trumpet player they had ever heard in 40 years of attending jazz concerts, praise indeed.
Pavane has 11 tracks and trying to pick a personal favourite is virtually impossible for me as each track has a distinctive and individual quality. The rest of the band are equally gifted musicians with talent above the norm. Many of the tracks are featured on You Tube, if you want to experience this musical masterpiece right now; the link is shown below.
It’s only fair to say that from hearing Paul accompany many singers on the piano that he has to be in the top 5 Pianists anywhere. Why? Because of his ability to work with the singer to create a musical magic so rare these days. This is in contrast to the many pianists with such ego that puts their playing (which is so important to them) to the forefront to the extent that they overshadow the singers talents whereas surely they should be augmenting them.
Pavane is not only a joy to listen to musically but for those with High End Hi-Fi it really is a treat of recording excellence and outshines many CDs recorded by those well known Hi-Fi related Record Labels who in this context will remain anonymous.
Re-reading this, have I gone ‘over the top’ in my praise? No, I don’t think so. Here are a couple of comments from other admirers:
‘Artistic Crossover Jazz at its Best.’ I have seen Paul Higgs perform live many times and he is an amazing talent on the Trumpet and equally as stunning on the Piano. This is a strange combination but who cares when the musicality Paul produces on both instruments is so good. This CD is a delightful excursion in to what is known as crossover Jazz with Classical music. In these days where so many CDs are so contrived and predictable finding a gem such as this lifts my spirit and restores my faith in music. The musicianship is faultless as is the arrangements and recording. It is impossible to pick any one track as the stand out as all tracks have equal merit. The perfect CD for serious listening or getting distressed in the car. Go and Buy it.
‘Exquisite CD’ This is possibly the most beautiful CD I have ever purchased. As others have said, it is the sort of music that you listen to over a glass (or more) of wine, or possibly at an evening meal time. Quite the most exquisite music I have heard in a very long time. If you even think that you might like music that is a perfect mix of classical and jazz, then this is the perfect CD for you. Paul Higgs is without doubt one of the most talented musicians of our time. Thank you for this amazing CD.
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