Pianist and synthesist Jim Pearce, who has composed and recorded music for more than 300 television shows, has released his first new age/neo-classical album, A Piano Story. Previously known for putting out seven jazz recordings, performing extensively in the jazz genre, and winning numerous award competitions, Pearce says with his new album he simply wanted to offer beautiful, melodic, “feel-good” music.
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Pearce says that while his jazz albums reflect influences from countless jazzsters such as Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Dave Grusin, the music on A Piano Story is more reflective of inspiration from film scoring (Thomas Newman, Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Alexandre Desplat, John Williams and countless others) and the Great American Songbook composers (Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.) with the occasional classical influence also surfacing.
Pearce has placed his music in many TV shows, and some of the highlights include “Saturday Night Live,” “The Voice,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Parenthood,” “The Mentalist,” “Empire,” “Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” “Blue Bloods,” “90210,” “The Affair,” “2016 Rio Olympics,” “Pawn Stars,” “The Tonight Show,” “American Pickers,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “Friends With Benefits.” In addition, Pearce’s music was included in the feature film “The Big Wedding” (produced by Lionsgate).
He also has been the recipient of many awards including Grand Prize/Jazz Category in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, First Place/Instrumental Category and several Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting Awards in the Great American Song Contest, and Finalist for Jazz Album of the Year in the Independent Music Awards. In addition, Pearce has been interviewed on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” show with Susan Stamberg.
More information about Jim Pearce, his music and his career, is available at his website (JimPearceMusic dot com). His CDs and digital download tracks from those recordings are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, and many others. In addition to his latest gently-instrumental album A Piano Story, Pearce’s other recordings (often noted for their tongue-in-cheek titles) are I’m in the Twilight of a Mediocre Career (which hit #1 on the prestigious JazzWeek Jazz Radio Chart), You Are An Edgy Visionary Seer, Never Open With a Ballad, Prairie Dog Ballet, Washington Square Park, Thirty Year Waltz and Bouncin’. On his jazz albums he occasionally sings.
“At the end of my jazz CDs I would always put one non-jazz tune in the neo-classical/post-classical style,” explains Pearce. “So with A Piano Story I finally decided to do an entire album of these little stories of music, like a compilation of soundtracks to little movies in your mind.”
The music on A Piano Story has several cohesive characteristics in addition to featuring acoustic piano. The most notable is the melodic content which really shows off Pearce’s ability to compose catchy, immediately-distinctive melodies. Additionally, most of the piano parts are augmented by hauntingly-lovely string sections (both bowed and occasionally plucking pizzicato). Scattered throughout also are bits of synthesizer sounds, cello, violin, percussion, cymbals, and woodwinds such as oboe, clarinet and bassoon.
Much of the music was inspired by movies, film scores and Pearce’s favorite film soundtrack
composers. For example, after watching the film “Moonlight” (an Oscar contender last year), Pearce got several structural ideas for instrumental pieces which he used in writing the slightly-bluesy “The Old Neighborhood” and “The Years Gone By,” both featuring rhythmic pizzicato strings. Other filmatic influences came into play as Pearce composed “Ecstatic Musing” (Thomas Newman), “Beautiful Moment” (John Williams) and “Clouds and Bicycles” (Johann Johannsson).
In several cases Pearce went for a classical sound — “Preludial Moon” and the waltz “Deep In Your Eyes.” Earlier in his career Pearce played a lot of standards in concert and admits some of that melodic sensibility occasionally creeps into his compositions. One outstanding example on this album is the original tune “You Are My Sun and Moon,” his heartfelt tribute to Richard Rodgers. Pearce states, “I have all those standards in my musical harmonic vocabulary from studying the Great American Songbook for so many years, especially that wonderful 1940s era.” On another piece, “Dark Mood Sets,” Pearce says, “I went for a somber, moody, film noir sound.”
On some of the other music Pearce went in other creative directions. Pearce describes the tune “Uplifting Piano” as “a piano choir with three pianos layered and overdubbed on it to give it a rich texture.” In addition to the many joyous and buoyant tunes on the album, Pearce also included a couple of slow, stately, reverent, thoughtful and emotive pieces such as “Hymn To Rain” and “Twilight Reverie.” “A Leap of Heart,” which has already been used on the powerhouse Latin TV channel Telemundo, is an uplifting composition reflecting a personal breakthrough or a romantic step forward.
Pearce, who lives near Atlanta, Georgia, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, where he also went to high school. He first took piano lessons in fourth grade, began playing guitar in seventh grade, and performed in school bands on trumpet, trombone and tuba throughout high school and college. Although he never stopped playing piano, he became a professional musician when he got a job playing trombone first at an amusement park and second with a rock’n’roll band. Soon he became a horn player with a top regional group, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, that took him on the road extensively. “We played colleges, frat parties, bars, Moose lodges, you name it.” Eventually Pearce began playing less horns and more keyboards, and began composing, so he sought out bands in Atlanta that played original material which led him to the group Sugar Creek (popular on the college circuit) and Source (which did some recording).
Pearce went out on his own and began performing steadily by himself on piano. “Although I did some original material, that was when I dived deeply into the Great American Songbook and studied and learned hundreds of standards.” In the early 2000s, Pearce began recording jazz albums of mostly original material, and expanded his performances to also include shows with his jazz band. Those jazz albums got extensive radio airplay and strong critical acclaim, and many of the compositions won a variety of awards.
“I love jazz, but with A Piano Story I wanted to explore slightly different territory. Jazz is often about the performance and virtuosity. New age and neo-classical music is more about feelings and atmosphere. The emotional content is crucial. With this music I am trying to express something on a pure level that will connect with people in an emotional way. I like the idea of elevating a person’s spirit with my music, or creating music that serves as a soundtrack for their life,” says Pearce.
“I’ve become increasingly obsessive about composing over the years. I now generally wake up and compose and practice most of the day, every day unless I have a gig to play, which I frequently do. I’ve written more than 500 tunes in the past few years in many styles. So A Piano Story grew out of this period of wanting to get some of my different music out into the world. Music is still constantly interesting to me even after 45 years of being a full-time working musician. I still have a lot to say with my music.”
Make sure to visit jimpearcemusic.com