Paul Joseph is leading parallel lives.
After a lifelong journey through jazz and classical music, the prolific Oceanside-based composer/pianist is finally comfortable pursuing both idioms side by side. The result is fresh, vibrant and enthralling music that walks the line between the intricate melodies of classical and the ear-bending modalities of jazz.
For his upcoming concert at the Long Beach Public Library on Oct. 17, Joseph will allow his classical side to take over when he presents a full 90-minute program of original compositions called "Classical Music for the 21st Century."
"It's been nearly a decade," said Joseph of his last immersion into classical music. "But I haven't moved away from jazz. These are two parts of me, for the first time, running parallel. I've gone through both identities, but one at a time. Now I'm going through them together."
Predominantly self-taught as a musician and composer, Joseph's holistic view of music allows him — even forces him — to be more of an innovator and less of an imitator. It's his love of both the "logic" of composition and the "emotion" of improvisation that led him to his self-described "Chamber Jazz."
"It's well documented that Bach and Chopin were great improvisers," Joseph said. "Jazz and classical really are the same process. Good improv should have a logic to it. On the other hand, good composition should sound spontaneous."
Sunday's concert will feature several of Joseph's shorter compositions, as well as some longer excursions, including his centerpiece "King of the Mask," which was adopted by choreographer Beth Jacoby for a performance of her Dance Visions dance company.
Around the same time Jacoby approached Joseph about using "King of the Mask," library program director Edie Kalickstein approached Joseph about bringing his classical work back to the library after several visits with his jazz band over the years.
"I had applied for a grant that called for composers of all original work," said Kalickstein. "I submitted Paul's work and we got the grant. He's done so much good, original work. 'King of the Mask' is mesmerizing."
As for being mesmerized himself, the independently-minded Joseph would not cite a single musical figure as a direct influence. Instead, Joseph gets his inspiration in the same places so many Long Beach residents do – down by the water.
"I love the Baroque period," Joseph explained. "I love what Coltrane and Miles do. But I'm not influenced by other jazz piano players. I ride my bike to the beach and on the boardwalk almost every day. The sound of the ocean. The wind in the trees. The birds singing. That's my inspiration."