2002 / Decca
Review by Kathy Parsons
Finding Paradise will be a surprise for many of David Lanz’s longtime fans and should introduce one of my very favorite composer/pianists to a whole new audience in the smooth jazz category. Long known as one of the founding fathers and trail-blazers of New Age piano, Finding Paradise is Lanz’s progression from “heavy mellow” to “smooth age”. Not a huge leap, perhaps, but the music on this CD is much more collaborative than previous recordings, and while some pieces are introspective, others are joyful and full of the fun of making music. Lanz is joined on several tracks by Dave Koz, Mark Antoine, and Greg Karukas, and David Benoit arranged two pieces.
“Lost in Paradise” knocks me out every time I hear it. David played it as a piano solo in concert last fall, and it made my fingers itch (can’t wait to play it from the songbook!). I was delighted to learn that Charlie Bisharat (another of my favorite musicians) joined David on violin on this track. Bliss!!! Rhythmic and upbeat, David and Charlie throw in some heartrending passages that convey both the irony of being lost in paradise and the tragedy that paradise has been lost here on planet earth. At the peak of this piece, both musicians are absolutely soaring. What a blast it would be to see them play this song together! I think this is David’s strongest piece in years, and is worth the price of the CD by itself. But wait - there’s more! There isn’t a weak track on this CD. The first half of Finding Paradise is jazzier and more rhythmic, and the second half includes pieces that are more “classic” Lanz, so there should be something for everyone. The CD opens with “That Smile”, a sunny toe-tapper. The gospel-tinged “Walk on Water” was co-written with TV composer Snuffy Walden. In response to the events of 9/11, Lanz arranged Neil Diamond’s classic, “America”, to honor those who have come to this country seeking the paradise of freedom and in the hope that someday we’ll all be free. “Dorado” is another favorite. With its Spanish rhythms and haunting melody, this is both classic Lanz and a slight departure that really works. “Tears for Alice” is a signature Lanz piece reminiscent of “Leaves on the Seine” and “Return to the Heart”, which were both also composed for David’s wife, Alicia. This is Lanz’s tender musical side, and this piece tugs at the heart, as Lanz does so well! “Luna” is a beautiful, gently rhythmic piece that would be a wonderful slow dance. Dave Koz’s sax complements Lanz’s piano perfectly, making this a stand-out. “Theme From the Other Side” is a rather unusual but very elegant piece that I really like. It has a melodic line, but feels almost ambient and floating. Jeff Beals’ muted trumpet adds an otherworldly feel, and Jonn Serrie adds some of his distinctive “spacey” keyboard sounds. The closing track, “Love Lost...Love Found” is again classic Lanz, ending this excellent collection on a pensive, hopeful note.
I really think Finding Paradise is David Lanz’s best and strongest album to date, and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been following his impressive career since the early ‘80s. Give yourself a treat and experience the range of Lanz’s playing and composing styles. You can’t miss with this one, and may find your own little bit of paradise!
February 2, 2002