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Reviews 01-12-2005

Montana- A Love Story

by George Winston

George Winston's website

“Montana - A Love Story” is George Winston’s tribute to his home state, and contains an eclectic grouping of piano solos coming from a variety of sources. The only real surprise on the album is that only five of the seventeen pieces are Winston’s original compositions, but I doubt that his fans will be disappointed. From the beginning, Winston has called himself a “folk pianist” rather than “new age,” and quite a few of the tracks are folk or traditional songs that Winston arranged as piano solos. Winston has again included a piece by fellow native-Montanan Philip Aaberg, a pianist Winston greatly admires and respects (who doesn’t???). Most of the pieces are melodic and graceful, with the possible exception of Frank Zappa’s “The Little House I Used to Live In,” which is more discordant and abstract - can’t say that I like that one much. Winston mentions in his liner notes that he is playing a lot of solo piano dances, and he includes some of his favorite pieces from those as well. Several of the tracks have a strong Asian-influence - an interesting development.

My favorites in this collection are pretty varied. “Thumbelina” comes from Mark Isham’s soundtrack for the classic children’s story. Gentle and quiet, this is a lovely opening. I really like “Billy In the Low Land,” which is a variation on an American fiddle tune. It is easy to picture Montana’s vast open spaces and to feel the peace and contentment of a simpler country life. “Valse Frontenac” is a traditional waltz from Quebec, and is a sweet and sincere piece full of charm and simple elegance. I prefer Philip Aaberg’s recording of “Nevertheless, Hello,” but Winston does this great piece justice. “The Twisting of The Hay Rope” is a joyful ancient Irish piece with a beautiful melody. “You Send Me,” a slow-dance arrangement of the Sam Cooke classic, works well as a piano solo. “The Mountain Winds Call Your Name” is one of the originals, and much of it is played on plucked piano strings - a technique Winston has relished for a long time; it’s an interesting piece. My favorite track is “Music Box” by Rentaro Taki, a haunting little piece with a bittersweet melody. I also really like Winston’s arrangement of “Goodnight Irene,” an easy-going waltz composed by Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) in the early 20th century. The final two tracks are loving tributes to two of Winston’s cats, both very tender and sweet, and full of Winston’s distinctive open spaces.

George Winston has truly become a legend in his own time, and has had a strong influence on many pianists and other musicians. “Montana - A Love Story” is a continuation of his tradition of gathering pieces from a wide variety of sources and making them his own. Winston’s many fans will love this album! It is available from and many retail music outlets.

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications



by Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown's website

“Incandescence” is Chuck Brown’s third solo piano release, and his ninth album to date. Comfortable working in many styles and genres of music, Brown’s piano style is easy and relaxed without resorting to ear candy. Some of the thirteen tracks are piano only, and others have string arrangements by Steve Bashaw. Brown also adds embellishments on electric guitar, bass, electric piano, and drums. Several of the pieces were composed as songs with lyrics, so there is a very strong sense of melody. The music is intended “for those who are gong through tough times due to illness, loss of loved ones, or any other type of personal pain,” providing a warm and soothing respite. More reflective than melancholy, the music contains feelings of hope and comfort - like a nice long musical hug.

All of the compositions are very easy and pleasant to listen to, but “Majoring In the Minors” really stands out for me. More rhythmic and upbeat than the other tracks, I find myself going back to it again and again. The title refers to the shifting from minor to major modes, not baseball! I also really like “Dark Matter,” a somber and somewhat mysterious piece that is more orchestrated than most of the tracks. Mournful and deeply moving, it’s a real beauty. “Early Morning Snowfall” opens the CD, a light and gentle piece full of warmth and comfort. The title track shimmers with a tranquil flow. “Misty Dreams” is an optimistic piano solo, serene and delicate, that seems to reassure that everything is going to be okay. “Sweetness and Light” is also warm and sunny with a lovely melody and gentle strings in the background. “Hearts Stronger Than Steel” was composed a couple of days after the 9/11 disaster, and is a tribute to the heroes who sacrificed their own lives to save others. The melting of the steel beams brought the buildings down, but “not the noble hearts of these heroes.” The electric guitar and rhythm track intensify the piece, but seem just a bit out of place in the context of the rest of the CD. It’s a powerful and emotional piece, just not as soothing and peaceful as most of the rest of the album.

“Incandescence” is a very enjoyable listening experience, and can be purchased from,, and The cover artwork is also exceptional!

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications


Dolphins: A Message of Love

by Frederic Delarue

Frederic Delarue's website

“Dolphins: A Message of Love” is quite simply one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard in a long time. Frederic Delarue’s third album of original instrumental works is stunning in its richness, passion, and joy. Using Korg and Kurzweil synthesizers/keyboards/ samplers, Delarue has created vibrant, inspiring music, and some tracks feature the sounds of dolphins and the ocean. Several pieces are piano-based and some feature wordless vocals that give them a very ethereal sound. I really like Delarue’s first two albums, “Voyage of the Soul” and “Soaring With the Angels,” but think this is by far his best work to date. “Calming” and “soothing” are words that come to mind, but the music goes beyond that, as it can be listened to many times with full attention without getting “old,” and yet is very effective in the background. There aren’t many albums where I thoroughly enjoy every track, but I love this one! Delarue truly composes and plays from the heart, and his sincerity and emotional depth are compelling.

The CD opens with the sound of the surf, dolphin “clicks,” and heavenly voices. Ambient, floating sounds set the tone of the album, creating a sense of peace and tranquility. “Ballet of Light” is playful and free, with a simple piano melody and lovely string washes. “Sincere Communion” is a gorgeous piece, again piano-based with strings, voices, and soothing ambient sounds; it almost feels like dreaming on a cloud. “Marie de la Mer” is a lovely piece that must have been inspired by the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria.” Heavenly! The first part of “Revelation” hints at a very slow Pachelbel “Canon,” and evolves into a very quiet and meditative piece that tugs at the heart while soothing the mind. Other titles include “Calm In My Spirit,” “Splash of Joy,” and “Angels of the Sea,” suggesting correctly that this music is peaceful, joyful, and deeply felt. In addition to the twelve tracks that were inspired by the dolphins, the CD includes two bonus tracks, “Dance of Love” and “Rejoice,” which feature more of a “dance mix” feeling with rhythm tracks and an upbeat, fun, spirit.

Sure to be on my Top 10 for 2004, “Dolphins” is available from and Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications


As Years Go By

by Brenda Warren

Brenda Warren's website

“As Years Go By” is an intensely moving exploration of the depths of the soul. Deeply emotional and introspective, one senses the healing process of fully expressing oneself is taking place as we listen, healing our own wounds as we go. It has been ten years since Brenda Warren’s previous solo piano recording, which was acclaimed worldwide. She has been writing songs with lyrics in the meantime, but felt it was time to come back to her roots in solo piano. Lucky us! Eight of the eleven tracks are solo works, and three are accompanied with strings or synth. The improvisational elements in the music give it a sense of freedom to develop and explore.

“Blue Island” is one of the more upbeat tracks, and opens the CD with a swirling and sparkling feeling. I had the pleasure of seeing Brenda Warren perform some of the tracks from this album live, and “Remembering You” is so emotional that it still deeply effects her every time she plays it. The mournful cello and violin accompaniment adds even more depth to the feeling of loss and remembrance. This is an amazing piece. “Sitting On A Star” is a bit lighter in mood. Dreamy and gentle, one can feel the peace of sitting on a star, watching the wind, moon, and other stars. “Waterfall” reminds me a lot of Janie Horton’s fluid, melancholy music. Very improvisational in feeling, this piece is both peaceful and evocative. “Ancient One” is one of my favorites. Dark and mysterious, this is an ensemble work with piano and string quartet. It reminds me a little of the theme from “Requiem For a Dream,” with an unsettled mood and a lot of inner turmoil. I like this one a lot! “Moonlight” is another favorite. Dark, but very peaceful, it is both flowing and graceful. “Goodnight” follows “Moonlight” almost as a continuation of the mood. “In the Light Again” is another beauty, full of hope and moving forward.

Brenda Warren has produced a stunning collection of piano solo and ensemble works with “As Years Go By.” It is available from and Song samples are available at

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications


The Best of George Skaroulis

by George Skaroulis

George Skaroulis' website

“Athena - The Best of George Skaroulis” is an eight-year retrospective of this artist’s most impressive body of work. The sixteen tracks include four never-released pieces, so even if you own all of Skaroulis’ previous albums, this is still a must-have. Known for his evocative blending of piano and keyboard as well as traditional Greek musical idioms and contemporary piano stylings, the title track is a bit of a surprise with its Yanni-like big sound. The song was originally released on “Return to the Homeland” in a somewhat different format, and that version is also included on the album. This track includes piano, a beautiful violin part played by Paul Mercer, percussion, and additional keyboards. Rhythmic and celebratory, it is very Greek in style and sound. A great start! The only piece on the CD that isn’t original is Skaroulis’ lovely arrangement of “Hymn to Liberty (The Greek National Anthem).” Presented as a piano solo, its simple melody is haunting. “Goddess” is another new track, and is one of Skaroulis’ most beautiful pieces. A melancholy piano is accompanied with Jairaj Swann on electric bass and Alex Wolf on guitar, along with elegantly interwoven synth parts that give it an ethereal quality. “The Dance” clocks in a less than a minute, and demonstrates that less can truly be more - a perfect solo piano vignette. I also really love “Return to Patmos,” a reflective and haunting piano piece with synth strings washes that actually enhance the piece. “Voice of the Ancients” is the fourth of the new pieces, and includes a male voice speaking in the background behind shimmering string and synth sounds. Another vignette, it’s an interesting interlude. Other titles include “Numinous,” “Reflection,” and “Hopes and Dreams.” All of the tracks have obviously been carefully and caringly selected, and there isn’t a weak track on the album. If you are new to George Skaroulis’ music, this is an outstanding introduction to his work. One of my favorite artists, Skaroulis deserves a much wider audience. “Athena” is available from and Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications


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