Album Spotlight: “Solo on the Side” / Paul-Marie Barbier

Spotify algorithms get a bad rap at times, though I’ve discovered (or been recommended) some really beautiful albums through the years. The most recent being Paul-Marie Barbier’s Solo on the Side.

These pieces are humble and unassuming, yet full of harmonic beauty and ear catching melodies. Some even make you want to move your body with their odd time signatures, like Suzy (in 7/8), and the Samba-like Lay Down.

He knows his craft (having studied harmony, composition and jazz theory), yet chooses to distill the essence of a piece, rather than overstuffing it with extraneous harmonic color and showy scales up and down the keyboard. Any technical complexity (like that found in L’envol and Human Leather Shoes for Crocodile Dandies) is at the service of the music.

I appreciate how he does this distillation in Aftermath. The left hand plays a simple four chord progression (Ab, Fm6, C, Cm), revolving around the root (C). Over this, the melody descends, then dances around the E-natural (in the C chord) before landing back on the minor-third.

Paul-Marie Barbier – Aftermath

He does something similar—with the minor/major transition—in Wonderland. After some rolled chords in the treble, the piece falls into a bluesy B-minor progression (Bm, Em, G, A). Then seemingly out of nowhere he slips in a D# (momentarily changing the root to B-major), which adds so much color to the piece.

If you listen to the album, keep an ear out for how he incorporates chromaticism throughout. Since I haven’t been jazz trained, this hasn’t come naturally for me in my own compositions. Though this album is challenging me to broaden my creative palette a bit.

You can hear this in Lay Down, too, about halfway through where it starts to take a journey through other keys.

If you have time, give this entire album a listen. Every piece is beautiful. I think you’ll fall in love with it.

Solo on the Side, Paul-Marie Barbier – Album Cover

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