Back to the Start
2014 / Matthew Gardner
Review by Kathy Parsons
Back to the Start is the debut solo piano album by British pianist/composer Matthew Gardner, and what a promising beginning it is! Often inspired and “influenced by the extraordinary moments of ordinary life,” Gardner studied music at Dartington College and has worked as a professional musician since graduating with a speciality in composition. With a variety of theatrical experiences both on- and off-stage, Gardner has developed a flair for the dramatic that carries over to his melodic and very accessible music. In addition to composing, teaching and performing music, Gardner works with amateur theater groups and choirs. I was intrigued by the mention in the liner notes that the album was recorded “in a shed in a garden in Devon.” Apparently Gardner has established his studio in his late father’s piano workshop, but I’m happy to say that the album certainly doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a garden shed!
Back to the Start begins with the title track, a piece with an infectious energy and strong sense of optimism. With passages that are quieter and more reflective, it seems that Gardner is opening his heart and telling his story in the most expressive way possible. As its title suggests, “Lost” is somber and introspective, looking within for answers and direction. “New Beginnings” has a beautiful delicacy and passionate tenderness that make it one of my favorites - one of those pieces that makes my fingers itch! “Endless” comes straight from the heart with a flowing, conversational melody and emotionally-charged spontaneity. “Old World Movie Star” expresses poignant feelings of nostalgia and fond, romantic memories. “The One’s They Leave Behind” is heartbreakingly sad, conveying deep, painful loss. “If You Could See” is truly a song without words, leaving it to the listener to discover what those words might be (if there were any). The emotions within the piece are vivid and passionate - another favorite. “Retrospective” is one of those pieces that makes me visualize a pianist sitting at his or her piano late into the night, probably by candlelight, going deep within and playing pure truth with the music that freely emerges. Oh wait, there’s one more! There is a bonus thirteenth track called “Encore” that gets more flashy and dramatic than most of the other pieces - a great finale!
Downloads of Back to the Start are currently available from Bandcamp and Matthew Gardner’s website (links in the sidebar). It will be more widely available shortly, and I’ll update the links when that happens. Recommended!
April 14, 2015