The Long Goodbye
2018 / John Paris
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Long Goodbye is very different from John Paris’ previous releases. Known primarily as a jazz pianist/composer, this album defies specific categorization and is likely John’s most personal recorded music to date. The album is “dedicated to caregivers everywhere!” and the music was inspired by John’s experiences as the caretaker for his wife who has been slowly slipping away over the past ten years or so due to the devastating effects of dementia. Quoting the liner notes: “Watching your loved one regress is a painful experience. Yet there is an exquisite beauty in the pain born from the deep abiding love for this wounded angel that fills one’s heart.” The fourteen original piano solos are sometimes dark and intense, while others are more reflective and even playful, but it is that “abiding love” that flows from every note that makes this album a very special tribute to a beloved “wounded angel.”
The Long Goodbye begins with the title track, a haunting piece that starts with a simple but poignant, mournful melody. The left hand keeps a very steady rhythm throughout that feels like the movement of time. In the middle of the piece, the mood shifts to a more upbeat tone before turning dark and intense and then returning to the opening theme - heartbreaking. “Heart of Gold” could easily support lyrics, but communicates its own special love story directly from one heart to another. “Eternal Night” really feels like the jangled stream of thoughts and emotions that run like an electric wire through your head and body on a night when sleep just won’t come - an amazing piece! “There Was a Time” is a beautiful reflection on happier times - gentle, sweet and very tender. “Everywhere I Look” begins quietly, gradually building to become a spirited dance of joy. It slows near the end and seems to be trying to regain the happy spirit of the middle of the piece. “Wounded Angel” sadly conveys loss and a quiet despair. “Surrender” can mean a variety of things, but in the case of this piece, I think it means accepting that something is completely out of your control. Deep sadness is conveyed, tinged with frustration and resignation. My favorite piece on the album is “Sweet Love,” an intensely passionate expression of a love that can be stretched to its limit but will never break. I also really like “Portending,” probably the closest to a jazz piece on the album. It seems to be seeing the signs of what is coming while trying to accept and deal with it. The varied themes express the mix of emotions that come at uncertain times like this. “River of Life” also goes through many thematic changes - much like life itself. Sometimes bubbly and effervescent, sometimes rocky, sometimes deep and sometimes shallow, sometimes calm and other times turbulent, it’s a beautiful look at the flow of life. “Long Ago and Far Away” is by far the longest track (a little more than 7 minutes), taking an unhurried look back at better times and remembering the person who gradually became a wounded angel - powerful! “Going Home” looks optimistically to the time when the painful burden of suffering will be gone - a bittersweet ending to a remarkable album.
Thoughts are with John and Sandy Paris in this difficult journey. The Long Goodbye is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.
October 22, 2018