Reviews 02-08-2010

Music Reviews 



Chasing Tornadoes

by Patrick Gorman

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Chasing Tornadoes is the anxiously-anticipated follow-up to Patrick Gorman’s amazing solo piano debut Sounds From the Wishing Well (2005). The legendary Will Ackerman again acted as producer on this album, which was recorded at his Imaginary Road studios in Vermont. Gorman is a self-taught pianist as well as a drummer, and it is interesting to note that when he recorded his first album, he had not listened to other contemporary pianists such as George Winston, David Lanz, or Philip Aaberg, making his style unique and without the influence of other artists in the genre. Gorman’s music is exploratory, but isn’t discordant or without a rhythmic pulse. The music is definitely on the dark, moody side and is intensely personal and expressive yet accessible to most listeners. I find Gorman’s music compelling and very pleasantly addictive, so I hope it won’t be so long between albums next time.

Chasing Tornadoes begins with “Hollow,” a darkly mysterious and turbulent piece that overflows with passion while drawing the listener in from the first notes. “Lines in the Sand” is a bit more flowing and free-form while conveying powerful emotions. “Chaturanga” is a bit lighter and more playful while still dark and mysterious - one of my favorites. “Impromptu” goes very deep within and feels much like an intimate dialog; I hear hints of Philip Aaberg here and there (always a big compliment!). “Shades of You” is another favorite. A haunting minor key waltz with several evocative themes, I love this one! “Birds of Paradise” makes effective use of the damper pedal to create echoes and a feeling of vast atmosphere. The notes are spare with quite a bit of open space, creating an image of peaceful solitude. “Scorpio Rising” is also very tranquil - perhaps a graceful slow dance. “Properties of Midnight” has a calm, rolling motion with a simple, elegant melody - very warm and contented. “Fields of Roma” closes the set with a lovely, gentle piece that trails off with a sigh.

Chasing Tornadoes was well-worth the wait and is an album that reveals new things every time you listen to it. It is available from and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Myths & Legends

by Michele de Wilton

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Myths & Legends is the debut release from pianist/composer Michele de Wilton. As the title suggests, the thirteen piano solos were inspired by tales of yore - some well-known and some more obscure. A classically-trained pianist, de Wilton’s influences are varied, but she has always especially loved musical storytelling. This music is intended to be relaxing and soothing to both children and adults, and makes a very unobtrusive backdrop for quiet activities for listeners of any age. deWilton’s beautiful and impressive website ( has illustrated summaries of each of the stories, giving listeners an idea of what inspired the music. Although many myths and legends are violent and turbulent, most of the tales on this album are about love, passion, and yearning.

“Salt River” is the first of the legends, and refers to a river outside Cape Town, South Africa that flows into the ocean. The rolling rhythm of the left hand captures the spirit of the ebb and flow of the waters as they converge. “The Ice Maiden” is a Norse tale about a frost “giantess” who enchants the god of sunshine and rain. Threatened with an unbreakable spell, she consents to marriage, eventually falling in love with her new husband. The music alternates between icy aloofness and warm contentment, reflecting the emotional range of the story. (There is a music video of this piece on YouTube as well as de Wilton’s site.) “The Lady of Shallot” is a tragic tale of unrequited love, and I really like the musical telling of this story. “The Vigil” honors women throughout history who waited patiently for their men to come home from war or the sea. A dark loneliness runs through the music, but it isn’t without hope. “Hymn of the Hills” is a favorite. Mysterious and majestic, it suggests images of faraway places and times. “Waltz For Gerda & Kay” is another story about The Ice Queen. The slow waltz tempo and simplicity of the piece create a chill and a feeling of despair. “Voyage of the Argo” is dark and solemn, reflecting the danger of the mission of Jason and the Argonauts as well as the knowledge that they would probably not return. The left hand maintains a rolling motion that conveys the movement of the ocean. “Sea of Sunset,”  based on a poem by Emily Dickinson, is simple and elegant - almost magical. “Nursery Rhyme for a Starry Sky” is a light and playful ending to this very enjoyable musical journey.

Myths & Legends should give Michele de Wilton’s musical career a very strong launching! It is widely available at local as well as online music retailers. Check it out!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Valentine Court

by Rich Batsford

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Valentine Court is the debut solo piano album by British pianist/composer Rich Batsford.  The twelve tracks are a very interesting mix of gentle melodic pieces and pieces that are much more dramatic and edgy. For the most part, the quieter pieces are on the first half of the album, and then Batsford shows another side of his musical personality in the second half, pulling out all the stops. The variety of styles of playing and composing give a fascinating sampling of Batsford’s musical range and very impressive playing chops.

Valentine Court begins with “Lyndall,” a piece dedicated to Batsford’s partner. Short, delicate, and very graceful, it’s a beautiful opening. “So Steve” is a bit more experimental, with an abundance of swirling notes on one hand and a simple melody on the other. High-energy with lots of movement, I really like this one! The title for “Sensawunda” is a take on the phrase “sense of wonder,” and is slower and very mysterious. Most of the first half of the piece has both hands in the treble clef, but about halfway into it, the left hand ventures down into the bass, creating a much rounder and more sensuous sound - a lovely and intriguing piece! “Namaste” is also a favorite. Quiet, elegant and flowing, it has an understated energy that soothes and comforts. I also really like “Jewel,” a lovely vignette with a delicate middle section that could have stepped out of a dream. “The Cello Song” is sometimes performed with a cellist, but this version is a piano solo. More experimental than most of the previous tracks, the melody is in the bass of the piano while the other hand plays a repetitive rhythmic pattern in changing chords. It’s a bit challenging, but also very interesting. The first half of “Completion” is much more upbeat and edgy, with pop/rock-influenced themes and rhythms. A soothing interlude enters in the middle of the piece and then returns to a variation of the first half - a real pianistic workout! “Ralph’s Trip to the Orient” is played mostly on the black keys. The left hand has the melody while the right plays a lively figure with an Asian flavor. Next, we hear a door open and close and then nothing for six minutes - the artist and the audience are “Just Sitting.” I was amused the first time through the album, and then found the long break somewhat annoying. “Chazzawakka” is something of a musical frenzy, giving the album a high-powered ending. Whew!

Valentine Court is a very promising debut! It is available from Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Give it a spin!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions



by Scott Shumaker

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Anachronicity is Scott Shumaker’s third release to date, following Prisoner of the Shadows (1997) and Old Vienna (2004). A mostly self-taught pianist, Shumaker’s music has strong classical influences yet keeps its feet firmly in the present. The musical stylings on the eleven original tracks are varied and range from light and playful to dark and edgy, taking us on “a melodic journey through an interesting day.” I love the changing moods and the music itself keeps blowing me away, so I will make Anachronicity my first “Pick” of 2010. It truly is a joy to review albums like this one that communicate such a joy in making and playing music!

We begin this “interesting day” with “Morning Fog,” a somewhat mysterious piece that has no hard edges and never stops swirling - an inviting opening that hints at the musical delights that follow. “First Light” is very gentle, peaceful, and hushed, and conveys a sense of optimism for the new day. “Thinking of You” is a tender, heartfelt love song. “Frozen Sun” is one of my favorites. The opening theme is almost mournful and achingly beautiful. As it develops, a second theme enters that has a the left hand deep in the bass of the piano and is much more playful. The themes alternate, ending with the graceful first theme. I hope Scott Shumaker has plans for sheet music for this one! “Medley in F” has a flowing almost Baroque quality and lots of nimble finger work - beautiful! “Country Ride” is perhaps the most classical piece of the album - charming! Going somewhat darker, “Nightfall” is more introspective and searching. “Moonlight Lullaby” is calming and soothing, as a lullaby should be - lovely! “Dead of Night” is a reprise from Prisoner of the Shadows. It’s a great piece, but the sound quality is a little harsh - possibly due to a different piano from the rest of the album. I love “Dream Waltz,” the closing track. It starts out as a flowing minor key waltz, gaining momentum as it goes and adding some playful bass clef passages that add a touch of humor. This piece also sounds like great fun to play. Sheet music?? My fingers are itching again!

Anachronicity is a great choice if you like piano music that is contemporary yet has classical structure and form. I have thoroughly enjoyed reviewing it and hope to hear more from Scott Shumaker in the not-too-distant future! Anachronicity is available from CD Baby.

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions