2016 / Stan Berger Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Piano Sketches is the third album by pianist/composer Stan Berger and the second that I’ve reviewed. Most of the thirteen original pieces are solo piano, and a few have some light (mostly strings) keyboard enhancements. I thoroughly enjoyed Berger’s previous album, Winter (2013), but I love Piano Sketches! Some of the music has strong classical influences, a few pieces hint of older standards, and others are sweet gems unto themselves. Berger is obviously a pianist who really knows what he’s doing, keeping it simple when it serves the music best, but he obviously has the playing chops to express whatever he wants to say at the piano in any style he chooses.
Piano Sketches begins with “Good Rain,” a dreamy ballad that’s the perfect accompaniment to looking out at the rain from my office window. The rain in this piece is gentle and refreshing, not a torrential downpour, evoking pleasant daydreams and images of a romantic slow dance. Berger mentioned to me in an email that “Freedom Song” was given that title because “it was an election year and it has a bit of patriotic flavor to it.” Light strings enhance the energetic, flowing quality of this lovely piece. “Bella” has the warm yet bittersweet feeling of a romantic movie theme - dreamy! “Snow Waltz” also evokes beautiful, graceful images with gentle string washes behind the lyrical piano. “Les Fleur” tells its gentle story simply, honestly and without a lot of embellishments. “Tenderness” is a sweet love song that seems to smile as it tugs at the heartstrings. “Through the Treetops” has a light, playful feeling that makes it easy to imagine flying through the air up over the trees without a care in the world. I hate heights, but I’d love to try it if it feels this good! “Passion” is my favorite track and I keep playing it over and over. Recalling the emotional power of the Romantic composers, this is one of the most affecting piano solos I’ve heard in awhile. Sheet music, please! “Since I Met You” plays homage to some of the standards from the 1930’s and includes some marvelous piano flourishes that make the piece sparkle. “When Love Is Gone” also reminds me of some favorite piano pieces from the Romantic era - my other favorite, although I like ‘em all! Heartfelt and very poignant, I’ve hit the “replay” button on this one a lot of times, too! “Shooting Stars,” the closing track, is a bit of surprise, and a very happy one at that. A lively, swirling dance with Celtic roots, it all but spins right out of the CD player! Joyful and buoyant, it’s a delightful end to an excellent album!
I’ve heard so many great piano albums this year, and Piano Sketches holds its own with the best of them! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
December 14, 2016