Balm in Gilead
2006 / MBA Music Publishing
Review by Kathy Parsons
Balm in Gilead is pianist Marge Adler’s debut CD, and is quite simply the most fascinating and well-played group of medleys I’ve ever heard. Combining classical music, show tunes, hymns, and just about anything else you can think of, Adler is ingenious, clever, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny with her combinations and “layerings,” and yet all of the music fits together seamlessly and sounds completely right. A classically-trained pianist and award-winning music director for more than a hundred musical productions, Adler has even served as organist for the Cleveland Indians baseball team. She also plays harpsichord in a Baroque chamber orchestra, writes horn parts for Motown bands, and is a featured pianist/arranger/cabaret performer on public radio broadcasts. Her playing has the grace and naturalness of someone most at home in front of a keyboard, making this a standout CD from beginning to end.
The first medley is titled “In Evening Air (Prologue),” and contains a Bach prelude, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” and themes from “Appalachian Spring” and Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.” An utterly charming beginning, Adler’s quiet ease with these very diverse pieces piques the interest as it soothes the mind. “’Rock’ My World” uses a Bach sarabande and a minuet to connect “Lully Lullay” (“Coventry Carol”), “The Trees on the Mountains” from “Susannah,” and “Raisins and Almonds,” a Jewish lullaby. Very dark and Baroque throughout, this gorgeous and haunting medley is one of my favorites. “The Haze of Romance” is an elegant, heartfelt pairing of “I Loved” by Jacques Brel and “Faure’s “Apres un Reve.” “Dreamy and nostalgic, the two pieces complement each other perfectly. “Audio Filter” is an unlikely combination of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the Brahms lullaby, “The Anvil Chorus,” and “The 1812 Overture”! Plotted as revenge for the thumping bass from a nearby car while stuck in traffic, this piece is a bit of genius that makes me smile each time I hear it. “All Through the Night” is a wonderful combination of eight pieces from a variety of cultures and traditions, compiled from a search for common ground. Blending the title song, “Shalom Rav,” “Dona Nobis Pacem,” “Silent Night,” “Sheep May Safely Graze,” a Bach prelude, “Threefold Amen,” and a reprise of Copland’s “In Evening Air,” Adler has created the ultimate lullaby, full of tender grace and peace. The closing “bonus track” is “Non Sto Comportandomi in Modo Errato,” which is Italian for “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Fats Waller’s classic. Combined with a Chopin etude, and a little Mozart attitude, it’s a glorious way to end.
Balm in Gilead is indeed an auspicious debut, and is the most inventive collection of medleys I’ve ever heard. A delight for the ears and the soul, I highly recommend this CD. Check out samples at CDBaby.com and iTunes.com and prepare to be impressed!
April 14, 2008