English Renaissance

Houston jazz keyboardist Paul English releases Beauty

How does English cope with the impoverished Houston jazz scene, its few underequipped and noisy venues, the flight of talented local players? Although it's a dubious advantage, this city doesn't offer many distractions to his composing. And if he were based in L.A. or New York, where all but a handful of well-established players have to survive by taking on limited supporting roles in clubs and studios, he couldn't enjoy the degree of artistic autonomy he has here. And, paradoxically, he may gain greater recognition as an actively recording and occasionally touring player based in Houston than as a permanent resident of some city boasting a richer jazz climate. Recalling a trip to Vienna a few years ago, where he was offered a regular gig (which he turned down), English notes: "When you come there from the States, you bring food to the table and you're treated like visiting royalty. But when you live there, you're fighting for the same scraps of food that everybody else wants."

Likewise, the performance at Stude Hall will be a special occasion, since the "all-star team" of players who are flying in from L.A. will bring rarely heard talent to Houston's scanty jazz table. English intends to give them the lavish treatment they deserve. About a third of the concert will consist of the subtle, calm, spare material from Beauty. The remaining pieces will show other facets of the leader's work, divided equally between traditional jazz numbers and original compositions.

Paul English celebrates the release of Beauty Saturday, February 5, 7:30 p.m. at Stude Concert Hall, Rice University, 629-3700. Tickets $20-$40.

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