Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Whisperings: Solo Piano Volume 1

Various Artists

Midnight Rain Productions

 2011

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Back in the golden days of Windham Hill and Narada Records, solo piano compilation albums were almost an annual event, and there are certainly a number of such CDs reviewed on this site. Sadly, both companies no longer produce new music- a sign of the times perhaps- but I was delighted to discover this wonderful album recently. ‘Whisperings Solo Piano Volume 1’ showcases the work of sixteen pianists, some of whom were familiar to me and others were complete unknowns.

The album opens with established and former Narada artist Wayne Gratz, with a lovely offering from his 2009 Piano-Heaven award-winning CD, ‘Two Views’ in the form of ‘Natalie's Song’. Wayne has a very distinctive sound. His music is incredibly easy to listen to, and very melodic and appealing to the ear. A thoroughly enjoyable piece (Wayne's album ‘Light, Land and Shoreline’ is also reviewed on this site).

David Nevue, the founder of Whisperings Solo Piano Radio (see panel, right) has contributed the heavenly ‘Eden Again‘, taken from the very appropriately named ‘Sweet Dreams and Starlight’ album (2003). Gentle, graceful music this most definitely is, and listeners are sure to enjoy sitting back and savouring the piece.

Another well known ex-Narada artist contributes the third track on this wonderful CD. David Lanz has been around the New Age music circuit for thirty years or so now, and the track ‘Lover's Tarot’ is taken from his 2006 outing, ‘A Cup of Moonlight’. David has in recent years experimented with some different styles, but those who like beautiful solo-piano music will find great solace in this piece.

The stellar tracks keep coming and coming with this album, and ‘Tears of Joy’ is certainly no exception. This delightful selection is from Joe Bongiorno's 2007 CD, ‘Somewhere Within’. It is a playful, optimistic piece and makes my fingers dance! No great surprise from this reviewer to learn that the album was nominated for the Whisperings' Album of the Year award in 2007. As an aside, it is worth pointing out that the crystal-clear quality of the piano in this CD is all down to Joe- for this album was recorded in his Piano-Haven (no relation to this site!) studio at his home in Seattle, USA. The piano used in all sixteen tracks featured on this CD is a Kawai RX-7 Grand Piano, and it has garnered quite a reputation for its quality of sound, with artists from all over the USA descending to Joe's living room for an unrivalled recording experience.

I knew of Louis Landon from his connection to Nicholas Gunn (flautist), and his contribution, ‘Seattle Morning’, has a lullaby-like opening and develops into a lovely piece as morning sets in and the natural world awakens. This is a cheerful composition guaranteed to put a smile on any listener's face.

In an album of such a consistently high standard, it seems almost churlish to pick out favourites, but I have to highlight the CD's sixth track, entitled ‘A Silent Tear’ by Joe Yamada from his 2001 album, ‘Heartfelt’. And heartfelt the composition most definitely is- it is simply exquisite! This is the music of sleeping angels. Almost minimalist in form, I could listen to this track over and over again. For the ultimate in relaxing music, this is your track! ‘A Silent Tear’ is apparently one of the most popular pieces of music in the history of Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, and has been at or near the top of the listener charts since the broadcast commenced in 2003- and it is not hard to see why.

‘Why?’ is a previously unreleased offering from Steven Cravis (2010). It is a catchy, busy piece of music with flourishes of notes. If the previous track was one to which to fall to sleep, this is your wake-up call!

I wasn't too sure what to expect from the next artist on the compilation- Scott D. Davis, as in the notes it describes him as the ‘rocker’ of new-age music and details how he has written a piano tribute to Metallica! However, I was pleasantly surprised, and Scott is restrained with his contribution of ‘Lament’ from his album ‘Pianotarium’. I enjoyed it very much.

Like the transformation of a chrysalis into a butterfly, so Christine Brown's ‘A Sunset's Promise’ develops. Taken from her Whisperings' Album of the Year nominated CD, ‘Promise’, I just adore the way this piece unfolds- a real joy. Recorded in 2009, this is destined to be a classic in the genre.

Track ten, ‘Awaken the Dawn’, is written by Stanton Lanier, and although I have his debut CD, this selection is actually from the 2008 follow-up, ‘Unveiled’. The album notes describe his music as extraordinarily peaceful and serene, and I cannot think of a more suitable description for this track. Stanton has learnt from the very best- all of his CDs have featured Grammy-winning musician Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill Records) as producer. This terrific piece is typical of Stanton's serene output.

Neil Patton contributes track eleven, ‘Water of Life’, and the watery theme should not be too surprising to the listener as apparently the composer spends many hours observing the water on the Oregon coast- it is clearly a great source of inspiration to him. The track is taken from his debut CD from 2007, ‘Impromptu’.

‘Angel of Bliss’ has a majestic sounding title to it, and this piece, taken from Christopher Boscole's 2007 album, ‘Angels’, certainly hits the spot. It's surprisingly upbeat.

The opening to ‘October Wind’ is in the style of Michael Gettel. The ensuing composition by Rebecca Oswald is a very fine piece of music. I was interested to read about the wealth of experience Rebecca has as a recording artist, producing music for solo instruments, chamber ensembles and orchestras, full orchestral pieces and even a-capella!

Tell me off if you must, but I have another favourite I must share with the reader. Michele McLaughlin's ‘Irish Rain’ is simply wonderful. I love the structure of the piece. The rain starts off gently, before becoming more intense. I feel the piano is the perfect instrument for capturing rain. The piece was born out of a visit to Ireland and, take it from me, there is plenty of rain there! This is happy rain though, not damp and miserable- there's an overwhelming sense of positivity to the music, as instilled in the people themselves- after all, tomorrow is about to be brighter, isn't it? There's lots of variation within the music- it is not repetitive in the slightest, perhaps suggesting that no two days of rain are quite the same over there. It's a great track (taken from the 2009 album ‘A Celtic Dream’), and well worth a listen. Michele's CD, ‘Out of the Darkness’ has just been awarded Piano-Heaven status.

The penultimate track is entitled ‘Present Moment’, and is composed and performed by Joseph Akins. I remember enjoying his 2007 album ‘Masterpeace’ (a clever variation of the spelling of the word) from which this piece is taken. As one would expect, it is indeed restful and perfect for the palette, with an appealing melody.

The honour of the final track goes to Greg Maroney. He offers a piece from his 2010 album, ‘The Journey’, entitled, ‘Prayer for the Planet’. It has a hymn-like quality, and it is almost with a sense of reverence that I listen to it. It is a lovely and most befitting way to conclude this exceptional CD.

If you enjoy soothing, melodic piano music, you cannot go wrong with this outstanding CD. There is something on here to appeal to everyone's tastes. The presentation of the CD is top-notch with an eight-page booklet detailing more about the music and offering brief biographies of the artists, together with further information about Whisperings and the Piano-Haven Studio.

In an often chaotic world, this CD is just what is needed to slow down and appreciate the finer things in life. I give it my highest recommendation. Roll on Volume Two!

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whisperings Solo Piano Volume 1

Various Artists

 

Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio

Click the Whisperings logo (above) to listen to free Solo Piano radio on your computer, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You will find all the artists featured in this CD plus nearly two hundred more.

 

David Nevue, founder of

Whisperings, Solo Piano Radio

 

 

 

Watch and listen to Joe Yamada performing ‘A Silent Tear’ by pressing the Play button below.

 

 

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Watch and listen to Michele McLaughlin performing ‘Irish Rain’ in the Piano-Havan recording studio by pressing the Play button below.