Alphabet Girls 1
About J. Paul Slavens and his Alphabet Girls It's been 12 years since J. Paul Slavens last captured the whims of his virtuosic brain on a solo record. And even then, he gave away every single one of the 350 copies that hadn't melted in the heat. Absolutes is a collection of Slavens' classical piano compositions - the Dallas Observer gave him an honorable mention on it's list of the best local albums of 1998, saying the album "benefits from having to please no one but it's maker." During his hiatus from traditional solo performance, North Texas has come to know Slavens as chief of request takers and a pleaser of discerning crowds. As host of The Paul Slavens Show on KXT 91.7, Slavens plates a feast of eccentricity for his participatory followers, who tune in for Grizzly Bear and hear Frank Zappa or vice versa and listen on. And at neighborhood bars like Dan's Silver Leaf and performance spaces like Grapevine's Palace Theatre, those requests have come in the form of song titles written on napkins by audience members under the influence. Slavens stretches them into whole songs, spilling them over his keyboard as he goes along, backed by a nimble cast of musicians that includes Jeff Barnes of the Grammy-winning Brave Combo. Alphabet Girls Volume One, recorded by the same engineer that manned the sound booth at Dan's for Slavens' residency (Justin Collins, The Echo Lab), marks the composer's reentry into regular performance of premeditated original material. Most all of the 14 jazz-infused pop songs - "Abigail" through "Marian" with "Naomi" stowing away as a bonus track - were finished in one or two takes. And the string and horn parts performed by the likes of Buffy Jacobs, Tamara Cauble and Ross Gasworth were composed on the spot. Who are these Alphabet Girls? They are teases, mostly, with piano chords bouncing like ponytails upon exit. There's "Abigail," the cool cucumber who turns into a hot tomato, and "Hazel" the tipsy drinking buddy. "Gertrude" is wordlessly sultry, clothed in ragtime. Robert Gomez serenades "Daisy" on guitar. The femme fatale "Lucy" fails to answer as Slavens begs her to end it if it's over. "Marian," the real woman of the bunch - named for Slavens' mother - closes Alphabet Girls Volume One proper with a flurry of strings. Slavens chases these ladysongs with the same spark native to his spontaneous compositions. The result is a record that channels the magic of right now through an homage to pursuit of the great song, a ride Slavens' fans have taken with him for more than 20 years. What people are saying about J. Paul Slavens "He's a serious musician and recording artist, a rare bird who bridges the distance between mastery of an ultra-clean technique and gut-level artistic expression." Denton Record-Chronicle, Best Individual Performer, Best of Denton 2009 "With his soothing voice, Paul Slavens sounds like your standard National Public Radio personality. But Slavens is so much more. He's a composer, an improv musical comedy genius (his Monday night residency onstage at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton is becoming legendary) and, best of all, a go-to source for locally produced songs and long-forgotten gems. He comes to his knowledge rightfully as the former frontman for the jazz-rock combo Ten Hands, an act that once graced the stages of Deep Ellum." Dallas Observer, Best Radio DJ, Best of Dallas 2008.