2012 / Mainya Music Entertainment
Review by Kathy Parsons
Reconstructed is a new “best of” anthology of Isadar’s (non-Christmas) solo piano CDs from the past twenty-one years. What sets this album apart from other anthologies is that Will Ackerman (owner of Imaginary Roads Studio and the legendary founder of Windham Hill Records) chose the sixteen tracks and produced the album. Isadar re-recorded all of the music at Imaginary Road on Ackerman’s extraordinary Steinway B grand piano. The majority of Ackerman’s productions (that I have heard, anyway) include an impressive group of back-up musicians, but Reconstructed is strictly solo piano. Being very familiar with Isadar’s music, I really appreciate Ackerman’s selections for this album. It gives a great overview of Isadar’s various composing styles from the dreamy “Love Chaconne” to the upbeat and playful “Where the Wild Things Are.” Six of the eight tracks from Active Imagination are included, but are somewhat shorter than the original recordings. Four tracks come from The Journey (2000), four from Near the Edge of Light (1990), a bonus track from Scratching the Surface (2006) which is also a best of collection, and a “summarized” track from The Purple Heart (2003).
I first became aware of Isadar and his music with Active Imagination in 1999, and he has continued to be one of my favorite artists over the years. One of the most versatile and creative artists I know, it was with genuine delight that I hosted an Isadar house concert here two years ago. I was even more fascinated with his music watching him play live. Of all of his releases, I think Reconstructed captures the spirit of his live performance best. His playing contains a good deal of improvisation, keeping the music fresh and vibrant no matter how often he plays it. Yet, it isn’t that different from the recordings or sheet music, so we have the best of both.
“Summer Nights” is a wonderful opening track. Warm, relaxed and flowing, it is an elegant “hook” to draw you into the album. “Throwing the Dice” is a longtime favorite with its shifting rhythms and “off the cuff” feel. “End of the Line” is a gorgeous, melodic ballad that shows Isadar’s soulful side. The rhythms and interplay between the hands in “Active Imagination” have always fascinated me, and this take is spectacular. The Purple Heart CD is a 55-minute improvisation dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack. This summary track beautifully captures the feel of the album in a much shorter format. “Where the Wild Things Are” is another longtime favorite. Short and jazzy with just a touch of funk, I love playing this one, too! “Uncertainty” is a dark and moody soliloquy of sorts - love it. “Waiting” is very soft-spoken and graceful with a feeling of anticipation. “Love Chaconne” is an Isadar classic with its repeated pattern in the deep bass of the piano and improvisatory, somewhat percussive right hand communicating from the heart. “Voice of God - Thanksgiving” ends the album quietly and peacefully, inviting many repeated visits to this great album.
If you are new to Isadar’s music or a longtime fan like me who has most of his many recordings, Reconstructed is a must-have. These fresh new versions of old favorites are wonderful, and the piano sound is perfect. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby, and I give it my highest recommendation.
June 8, 2012