2016 / Bill Whitfield
Review by Kathy Parsons
Serenity is the seventh solo piano album from pianist/composer/arranger Bill Whitfield. With twenty-four tracks and a run-time of 74 minutes, this is a major project! Twenty-one of the pieces are original compositions, a few of which have appeared on earlier albums, and three are covers (“Theme From Schindler’s List,” “Summertime,” and “Satin Doll”). Whitfield’s playing style is elegant and understated, focusing on the beauty of the melodies rather than flashy showmanship. He describes this album as "a musical journey of peace and relaxation, a melodic restoration of mind, body, and soul.” Whitfield’s primary intention with his music is to bring comfort and inspiration to his listeners, so the rhythms maintain a fairly even pace from piece to piece and there are no crashing chords or jolting discordances to break the easy flow of the music. This album gently slips into the background to provide a lovely accompaniment for a quiet meal, working or studying, reading, unwinding or any activity where beautiful piano music is a welcome addition. It is also very easy to get lost in the music while listening with eyes closed. Warm, soothing, uplifting, and even healing, piano music is often the perfect antidote to the stresses of daily life, so if that’s what you’re looking for, be sure to check out the online samples!
There are far too many pieces on this album to write about all of them, but I’ll pick out some favorites. “Rhapsody’s Star” begins the album. Warm and gently optimistic, it sets the mellow mood for the album. “Reflections” expresses the warm glow of happy memories. “Never Forgotten” is a bit more wistful and dreamy. “Redemption” beautifully conveys the feelings of warmth and even relief that come with forgiveness. “Serenity” floats on the air with grace and heartfelt emotion. “Mystique” is the title track from Whitfield’s 2015 release and is still one of my favorites of all of his pieces. Gracefully flowing and bittersweet, be sure to listen to this one! Gershwin’s “Summertime” is one of my all-time favorite standards, and Whitfield’s arrangement is quite different from any I’ve heard. The melody is there if you really listen for it, but it’s more of the dark, sultry essence of the classic that comes out on this track. Whitfield’s arrangement of “Satin Doll” cheerfully ups the tempo a bit, but not too much. I love the poignance of “Illusions” and how it seems to be reflecting on being fooled by someone who was thought to be special. With its bluesy harmonies, “Blues Walk” is an interesting contrast to some of the other tracks, but still fits in perfectly with its slow tempo and quiet demeanor. “Twilight” brings the album to a peaceful, relaxing close.
Serenity is a breath of fresh air in these turbulent times. If you need a little soothing, Bill Whitfield’s music should do the trick! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended for a gentle 1 1/4 hour of solo piano music.
December 21, 2016