Posts Tagged ‘ Solo Piano Radio ’

Summer Suite, Vol 1 Reviewed by Bill Binkelman

Summer Suite, Vol 1  – Chad Lawson (piano) & Jim Brock (percussion)

Sometimes a recording comes along, accompanied by a description in a press release, setting a certain expectation in the mind of a reviewer. When I read that Summer Suite was, more or less, a series of live-in-the-studio improvisations between pianist Chad Lawson and percussionist Jim Brock, I was skeptical. I imagined the results would be either avant garde-ish noodling or just the opposite, i.e. mainstream tripe for which “vanilla” would be an exaggeration. I was, unexpectedly, thoroughly surprised and summarily delighted with this wonderful maxi-EP (32 minutes) when I played it the first time. Here was music that was both adventurous and intriguing, challenging the listener to “keep up” yet wholly listenable as mere entertainment. This being Lawson’s CD more than Brock (although the latter’s contributions cannot be over-stated), the real tip of the hat needs to go to Lawson, whose playing is all over the map in the best possible sense, with changes in mood, time signature, tempo, intensity and style flying by at a virtuoso’s pace.

The CD opens with the only “titled” track, the energetic Heart of a Lion, a speedfest of melody and rhythm that will get your blood racing if you are fan of fast tempo piano playing. The actual “Summer Suite” (comprised of nine tracks featuring running times from 4:02 to 1:14) follows, unfolding like a multi-colored flower unfurling its pedals to the sun. Part I offers a reflective, impressionistic piece which is sans percussion for the most part. Each successive part of the “Suite” flows into the next uninterrupted (the transitions are sonically invisible, though, so leap-frogging over successive tracks will not prove jarring). Part II picks up the pace, but only at times, with a more pronounced sprinkling of percussion, such as hand drums (I think I hear a djembe) and cymbals. Note that since this is a non-overdub recording, and there is only the one percussionist, you will not hear three types of percussion at once. Knowing this ahead of hearing it, I suspected the singular percussion would not prove “interesting” enough, but I was dead wrong. Brock always grabs just the right instrument to color Lawson’s lead melodies with an entertaining wrinkle, a helping of drama and impetus, or a flavorful embellishment. While I tend to toss around the term “simpatico” in my duo/ensemble recording reviews, when you take into account the improvised nature of Summer Suite, you can’t help but be mighty impressed at how the two artists never “step on each other.” When I read on Lawson’s website that the two had never previously played together at all, I was even more blown away at what the two had wrought on this recording.

As you listen to the other parts of “Summer Suite,” you should be able to discern the over-riding musical theme that Lawson has woven into the tracks, a theme which helps unify the recording as a cohesive whole, not just a bundle of separate, albeit like-minded, pieces. Whether one favors the subtle melancholy of Part VI, the wistful introspection of Part IV, or the upbeat cheer on the closing Part IX, Summer Suite is an enchanting listening experience. It was a smart move to have the tracks meld into one another, and the 32 minute duration seems to fly by in an instant, which is a true testament to just how good the music actually is.

Chad Lawson plans on releasing three more “seasonal” recordings, teaming with a different accompanist for each one. I am eager to hear what this promising and talented pianist has in store for “autumn,” “winter” and “spring.” I’ve never been a fan of all four seasons (living in Minnesota), but I may have to change my mind in that regard!

Rating: Excellent Excellent
– reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 10/8/2010

Seattle, WA Performance

I have posted a number of videos from my recent performance in Seattle, WA at the Piano Haven Concert Series hosted by the beautiful pianist Joe Bongiorno. The first piece is unreleased and therefore I have not attached the name at this time.  Once the new album is released (Summer 2011) I will make this piece titled.  Enjoy and thanks for watching.

Unreleased – unreleased (Releasing Summer 2011)

Reflections – from Set on a Hill

Daniel’s Theme – unreleased (Releasing Summer 2011)

Set on a Hill– from Set on a Hill


Summer Suite, Vol 1

It’s finally here. Summer. The season of lemonade, sunburns, bicycles, kiddie-pools, hot dogs and my favorite; ice cream. Oh how I love the ice cream. Häagen-Dazs has this flavor called Caramel Cone that I literally will run somebody over for. I’m not kidding, seriously. I will not hesitate. If it’s the last one, I’ll pull a Karate-Kid and sweep the leg. Buy it, and then ask for my mailing address. This will PROBABLY be the only time I’d make it public to a complete stranger. So good. So good. Here is the link again Yum.

Where was I? Oh yes, Summer. So, as I have mentioned earlier I have had this idea going through my head of an album consisting only of a piano and percussion. I know, it’s odd. I haven’t heard anything like it before either and I didn’t know if it would actually work. But, I thought I would at least give it some thought. In my close proximity lives a percussionist by the name of Jim Brock. His resume is only trumped by his beautiful spirit and ease of smile. To say he’s an artist of the percussion is a very grave understatement. I knew that if I wanted to execute this album idea, it had to be someone of Jim’s caliber. Someone that would think like Jim in a sense of allowing more space than noise. Of listening instead of speaking incoherently. Someone like Jim who would rather create a beautiful bed of sound rather than wait for those 2 or 3 seconds to through in a “lick” if you will. As you’ve probably already guessed, I stopped looking for someone like Jim, I humbly called and just asked.

We met on my birthday (March 26….I like ice cream, review previous paragraph if you need ideas) with neither of us knowing what to expect. We hadn’t rehearsed, hadn’t even talked about what we would do. I walked in feeling a wee bit of “oh crap-ness” what am I doing wasting everyone’s time, being that I hadn’t even written anything specifically for the occasion. Jim set up his entourage of noise makers while I sat at the piano and we just looked at each other. “Well” we both said without a word “now what?”.

What proceeded to take place is something that I thought could have happened, if two minds were of the same thought. And it did. I like space in my music, Jim likes space. I’d rather listen than talk (ask anyone who knows me and they’ll agree wholeheartedly). I played through a melody or two and then we decided let’s at least get something on tape (digitally speaking) and just go from there. We started with what are now tracks 2-10 on the EP. It starts with Jim creating sounds of the ocean with occasion birds (if you will) coming sparsely into the background. All percussion, all piano, nothing else. I then proceed to play exactly what in my mind was a release. A complete departure from Set on a Hill.

Before the recording, the only verbiage I gave to Jim was “Celebration”. Set on a Hill was recorded in a time of great struggle and hardship. That album sounds that way because it is exactly what I was dealing with then. With Summer Suite, Vol 1, it was time to rejoice, to celebrate new life. Not only in my life but also in knowing that my wife and I were (are) expecting our first child. This was a whole new chapter and I wanted to emulate such exuberance. If you notice, there are moments where you hear Jim clapping throughout the piece. Afterward, Jim told me the claps were that of rejoicing. He totally got it. I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.

So, here it is. Officially released today, June 21st the first day of Summer. I hope you enjoy it. It’s the first of a series that I intend to do, each volume being with a different artist, or perhaps just by myself at the black and whites. I’ll post the links below where it can be found. It’s only $3.99 as a download, or $5 for the actual disc. Stickers and t-shirts coming soon (if interest continues).

As always, thanks for reading. God bless.

What’s Around the Corner

So I’ve had this idea for months now.  Piano & Percussion.  That’s it, nothing else.  Technically the piano is a percussive instrument so it makes complete sense.  In my town there is a renowned percussion that I’ve had lingering in my head ever since I downloaded this idea from the Gracious Lord above (thank you Lord).  So, the other day Jim Brock & I had some free time to explore.  We started with a theme and then just let the tape roll (well…digitally speaking).  This is a quick glimpse of what is to come.  I hope you enjoy!  cheers, chad.

New Age Retailer

I am happy to announce that renowned music reviewer, Bill Binkelman, took the time to listen to Set on a Hill and had some very favorable things to say.  With his expertise of listening, I take not a vowel or consonant for granted!  This is in the March issue of New Age Retailer Magazine!

Set on a Hill

One of the latest releases from Imaginary Road studios, Set on a Hill is a solo piano release from newcomer Chad Lawson.  From the opening introspective minimalism of “will” to the non-cliched whimsy of the closing “A Goldfish Named George,” it’s obvious that producer Will Ackerman is not exaggerating when he states “This is some of the best music I’ve heard in years.” Lawson is clearly an artist to keep an eye on, and Set on a Hill marks the emergence of a budding new talent in contemporary solo piano music.  – Bill Binkelman

Album of the Year!?!

The date (then): February 1st, 2010.  Whisperings Solo Piano Radio announced that Set on a Hill was officially their Album of the Year!

The date (now): February 3rd, and it still has yet to sink in!  First, a little history.  I was extremely surprised when I originally sent the album to founder David Nevue last year.  I really didn’t hear too much from him (being that he is a full time concert pianist, father, husband, worship leader, promoter of solo piano music and, most importantly, all around good guy) which was understandable.  He reviews an average of 100 cds a year.  When was the last time you actually LISTENED to 100 cds from start to finish?  Exactly!

I eventually saw a posting on a social network where he not only added songs from ‘Set’, but also nominated it for Album of the Year.  For me, that was more than anything I had ever even anticipated.  If you read about the creating of the album, you’ll understand that it was purely a necessity in the making.  It wasn’t to “make it big” (whatever THAT may be) or to advance my name into a new audience, but because I had wanted to sit down at a piano and play the music that I was longing to exhale.  It was an act of worship and of catharsis.

All of that to say, the February 1st date quickly approached and I had truly placed it out of my mind. Mainly because I didn’t want to even role play the “acceptance speech” that I would present to my wife over the flowers & Twix bar (my fav) that she would eventually reward.  I love my wife.

But there were SO many really, really talented pianist and really, really beautiful albums that were nominated.  I thought one in particular was going to take the crown without question.  (Which is also why I placed it out of my mind by that point.)  It’s just SUCH a beautiful album and I was ever so happy for this person to have the express route to Cloud 9.  Although, hindsight I would of never gotten the King Size Twix bar…..hum.  “Chad, FOCUS!!” (Sorry).

When I got the news from David, I was absolutely dumbfounded!  I cannot even begin to express my feelings.  In my career behind the 88’s, I have had some wonderful highlights.  However, I must say this is by far was the Top.

You’re the top!
You’re the Coliseum.
You’re the top!
You’re the Louver Museum.
You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You’re a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare’s sonnet,
You’re Mickey Mouse.

(Cole Porter – You’re the Top)

So, even though Set on a Hill was awarded Whisperings Album of the Year, I would like to do something different.  I want to honor and recognize those who were also nominated.  Because if you dig deeper, this is what you’ll find out about the Whisperings Community.  It’s exactly that; a community.  It has not the competitive spirit or that of “who can outplay the other”, but of encouragement, of sharing and doing what we love to do; create.  We’re each different, both at the piano and away.  But at the end of the day we simply want to expose solo piano to the listening world.

So, without further ado, here are the nominations for Whisperings Album of the Year 2009; click each name/title to view additional information about each artist.  You never know, you may find yourself a new favorite.

Christine BrownPromise
Keith Martinson
Mario L
opez SantosPeriplos
Chad Lawson
Set on a Hill
Barry WalshThe Crossing
Christopher BoscolePresents of Angels
The O’Neill Brothers
Songs of Faith

And while Whisperings‘ founder David Nevue is not nominated (conflict of interest? No idea. He should be though), please visit his website and on iTunes.  What he is doing for the solo piano community is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

So there you go.  Please, support these artists.  Especially if they are in your local region.  Whisperings has artists from every corner of the globe so there is something, somewhere for everyone.