Site review by ramesh March 4, 2008
|This is a lovely disc of lyrical short original compositions, performed primarily by the composer-pianist. Mainly in a jazz or jazz/popular idiom, this SACD can be confidently recommended to fans of jazz, popular, folk and new age music.
The 'audiophile disc' has received plenty of deserved derision for presenting in stunning sound music either of dubious worth, or classical/jazz standards utilising performers who mightn't otherwise have obtained a recording contract. The SACD era has seen many small labels, primarily in the classical domain, which have proven this contention wrong. The Norwegian '2L' label for me has consistently produced demonstration quality recorded piano sound from a variety of venues. This release is no different. It is to be hoped that many audiophiles will hear this SACD and perhaps use it as a test disc in place of the many rather strange music selections one hears in hi-fi shows!
Ola Gjeilo has a website : http://www.olagjeilo.com
This young [ b 1978 ] Norwegian studied classical composition at the Royal College of Music, London, gained a Masters in composition at Juilliard and is based in America. This SACD comprises 15 compositions ranging from 2 to 5 minutes in length. It is clearly aimed at the North American market, with titles such as 'Snow in New York', the upbeat and catchy opening number; to 'the Hudson', 'Manhattan', and 'Madison'; and a stylised Manhattan skyline sans the WTC on the back cover. There are also cameos for the violin, cello and flugelhorn [ a wider bore instrument than a trumpet with a darker, more plangent tone ].
Despite his European ancestry, Gjeilo is one of a large number of young composers rigorously trained in one of the great American conservatories, who have eschewed the hypercomplexity of contemporary academic classical compositions which have never found favour with the wider public. Listening to this tonal music, played with typical jazz swing and cadential closings, it is almost impossible to detect any influence of European 20th century art music. If one wanted to select a Norwegian metaphor, some of the melodies and general form could be considered as middle period Grieg 'Lyric Pieces' for piano, transplanted across the Atlantic with an unassuming jazz workover. The couple of flugelhorn and piano pieces are reminiscent of simplified Burt Bacharach-style pop arrangements.
Repeated listening to this disc for the past three months has been a pleasure. The compositions do repay multiple hearings, and also make good late night listening with friends. The ordering of the 15 pieces isn't random, but has some internal logic which gives a satisfying psychological progression.
The disc was recorded on a Steinway model C in a Norwegian church. The piano tone has great harmonic richness without being over-reverberant. It demonstrates the huge advances made in digital recordings of the piano from the shallow brittle sound of many early 1980s keyboard atrocities. The sensation of live performers in one's listening room is tangible.