Jeff Bjorck’s follow-up to his debut, Pure Piano Portraits
, is stunning. The first night I listened to it, I had to keep stopping what I was doing to listen with more focus, and I found myself repeatedly saying “Wow!”. The earlier “Portraits” is an excellent album, but the artistic growth and emotional depth in Panoramas are amazing! A clinical psychologist, researcher, and professor at a theological seminary in southern California, Jeff’s understanding of the human psyche as well as his own deeply spiritual nature come through with a bold confidence and assurance that is lacking in a lot of so-called new age piano recordings. Many artists claim that their compositions are emotional and soothing, but one can sometimes feel an intentional manipulation - the sense that a piece was composed with the idea of being “emotional and soothing”, as it were. When the real thing comes through, as it does with Panoramas, it is a profound and compelling listening experience. These eleven compositions come from such a deeply personal place that you know that Bjorck is opening and sharing his soul with us.
As he did on his first album, Bjorck frames his original compositions between his own arrangements of two of his favorite hymns. I was not familiar with the opening hymn, “Oh, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” - what a powerhouse! There is such an emotional charge to this piece that I was amazed that it was not an original. The hymn obviously holds a very profound attachment for Bjorck, and I am very moved each time I hear it. “Holy, Holy, Holy” closes the album, and is also deeply personal, having served as the processional at Bjorck’s wedding. Several of the original pieces were inspired by experiences in the southern California desert - “Joshua Trees” describes the majesty of these strange trees with an almost hymn-like reverence; “Soaring Mesa Cliffs” gives a breathtaking feeling of what it is like to fly over the desert as a hang-glider; and “Desert Cloudburst” is a gorgeous depiction of how quickly the weather can change in the desert from quiet and peaceful to a drenching downpour. “Sculptor of the Sky” is Jeff’s first musical collaboration with his wife, Sharon; the piece lovingly describes their shared amazement with the beauty of clouds. The remaining pieces are tributes to very special relationships in Bjorck’s life. “Day Without Sun” was composed in 1977, after losing his only uncle to cancer - sad and poignant, but very loving. “Remembering Gramma” is a sweet waltz. “Porch Swing Summer Night” is a lazy, peaceful, homey kind of piece. “Your Love Has Made Me Fly” is a joyful and exuberant love song to a beloved wife and best friend. “The Homestead” is cozy, warm and very content.
As a piano teacher who listens to solo piano for a living, it takes something very special to knock me out, and this is it! One of my favorite albums for the year 2000, it will continue to be a favorite for years to come. I give Panoramas my highest recommendation! It is available from www.amazon.com and www.purepiano.com