Paul Cornish is one of the special names that always catches our eye when it comes across the info board in any context.
Until WED night [18.SEP.2019], we hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing him as a leader and the fact that we would get to see him at this cool little anti-venue – Mr. Musichead on Sunset in Hollywood – and in the company of our family of friends from the local Los Angeles Jazz Scene.
Stepping into the gallery early, for parking, seats and the pre-show wine reception the event producers provide each week, we got out to the VIP section just in time to sit for an impromptu mini-view of sorts, for LeRoy the Jazz Cat’s online podcast that he does from a remote set-up at the Mr. Musichead gallery each week, just before the guest artists go on!
Apparently they couldn’t the person they had set up to speak and I happened to be handy.
I was given a really cool opportunity to talk a bit about the recent coming-out event for
THE NONSEMBLE, our most recent show [SUN.11.AUG.2019] – co-headlining Thandi Ntuli and Siya Makuzeni of South Africa for what would be the American debut of each of these immensely talented you ladies -as part of [UP]RISING at the Ford Theatres up in the Hollywood Hills.
.It was really cool and humbling to be given that few minutes of airtime and any platform we’re offered to share our ideas, ideals, goals and vision/mission is a super opportunity. Shouts out and hats off to the JazzCat, Fred, JustJazz.TV and to the good folks over at Mr. Musichead for living the cooperative, collaborative and improvisational culture of Jazz off of the bandstand and into the back of the house. Great dudes doing great things!
‘The Banned’ stepped to the ‘stage’ just a few minutes behind my [impromptu] mini-inner-view with LeRoy the JazzCat and I quickly found a great seat, sharing a table with a nice couple that were on their very first Mr. Musichead adventure.
Minutes later, a warm, good-humored and quietly charismatic Paul Cornish stood at the piano bench, he introduced and led his band with an easy and cool comfort, allowing the strongest individuals at the party to lead the dance at their various points of play.
A tremendous night of playing with a nice blend of written originals and nicely curated covers. Paul’s playing [which I have previously referred to as a ‘fluid staccato’] was well beyond par… almost exquisite – as ever.
Paul held court between songs with a set that included a nice assortment of originals and a couple of covers [including a strong arrangement of Benny Golson’s “In Walked Betty”].
There was a loose, comfortable quality to the playing and tunes. The music felt easy if not overly rehearsed and there was a synergy in the playing that went a bit beyond the surface. In Paul’s deadpan [and deadly funny] banter, we learned a bit about why The Banned played and unwound so well in tight tandems.
Several times, Paul took a few minutes to tell a little story of the connection between his bandmates and himself. A story of when, where and how he met each of them – except Jonathan Pinson… apparently, not either of those two remembers exactly what brought them together – although the camaraderie and musical connective tissue betwixt the two are clear and present.
Nearly everyone playing with Paul Cornish that night was alumni of the esteemed Thelonious Monk and/or Herbie Hancock institute, as is also the case – of course – for Mr. Cornish himself. During the introductions, we all learned the stories of the various auditions, programs, competitions and situations that had first brought Paul together with the various members if his family of friends onstage.
Paul – hailing from Houston, TX – ran off the names and some backstory on each composition: an early song in the set, “5 AM” came to him at – 5 AM. The story behind that being that magic hour, which can be the time of awakening for a long and productive day… and at other times, that same hour, 5 AM, often is the time that one can just be getting in after a long night of… living out loud. Another of his songs, “Titled” is so titled because he didn’t want to call it ‘Untitled’ because, as Paul put it – “… that’s just lazy”.
The Banned were formidable throughout, with Jonathan Pinson being a brilliant standout on Drums, as always. Upright Bassist, Emma Dayhuff was another co-star, playing with a lilt and coloring that sounded as if she might be plucking at a cello. I found my self sitting there on a number of occasions reminding myself to look for more of her playing and wanting to hear her music if it is out there. The talented Lenard Simpson held half of the online down on Alto Sax – playing his heart and wind out and taking on a few extended solos that really helped to make the show. His own themes and variations ran along easily with his bandleader and longtime friend, Cornish – which may be down to the fact that the two have known and played with one another since they were put together in a group to go through the long, crazy audition program for entry into the Herbie Hancock Institute [spoiler: they both got in and went through – playing together pretty regularly through and beyond graduation]. Jon Hatamiya was the Trombonist, when Paul found out that one of his favorite Camp Leads from musical camp would also be attending USC, he hit Jon up online and immediately set a plan that they should start playing together… and have they ever!
At just after midpoint in the show, Paul and the Banned brought out another friend, John Keek, who – [in spite of a swollen lip he joked about receiving from a bottle accident at work the night before] – guest-starred on both Sax and Vocals with an honest and earnestly soulful song of his own that Paul and the banned found strong enough that they wanted to support and present it as part of their show. Good move, great song and grand addition to a truly cool showing overall.
It seems that a couple of the Banned members have albums coming out soon – Jonathan Pinson and Jon Hatamiya both plan to release by end of the year and Paul is working on his material with a SUMMER GOALS EP release set for Summer 2020.
Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait that long for recorded material from this extraordinarily talented Pianist and pals!
Meanwhile, when and wherever we get the next chance to see Paul Cornish play, in any formation, we plan to be there and you might like to see him as well. We highly recommend it. Also, keep an eye on the schedule and doings of the Just Jazz cats. They are killing things in L.A. jazz these days – in all the right ways!