The Heart of Frida
2016 / Sonic Doppler Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Heart of Frida is the second solo piano release from Starr Parodi, and what an incredible album it is! I was lucky enough to have Starr appear in a house concert here a couple of weeks ago and she played quite a few of the pieces from the album. To say that I was mesmerized with her performance would be a huge understatement, so I wondered if that same magic would come across in the album - it does! Inspired by the life and art of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the album includes nine original tracks that began as improvisations and two covers of classic rock tunes that are given a truly original treatment. Starr’s debut album, Common Places, was named Album of the Year in 2008 by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, and I have no doubt that The Heart of Frida will appear on many “best of” lists and awards for 2016 - including my own! This is masterful solo piano that is deeply expressive and emotional - compelling listening that reveals new sonic colors each time you hear it. Don’t let it disappear into background music - crank up the volume and let it envelop you in the beauty of true artistry. Yes, it’s that good!
The Heart of Frida begins with the title track - a stunning piece that overflows with sadness, strength, and resolve. Delicate yet passionate, the simplicity of the rolling broken chords in the bass brings out the poignance and complexity of the gorgeous melody. Wow! “When Doves Cry” is one of Prince’s best-known earlier songs, and is a favorite of Starr’s. Frida Kahlo and her husband, artist Diego Rivera, were often referred to as “the elephant and the dove,” so it fits right in. There are some really interesting sounds in addition to the piano, and those sounds were created with the piano using filters and delay. “The Elephant and the Dove” explores the relationship of Frida and Diego and their often stormy life together. The contrasting themes are remarkable and are seamlessly interwoven throughout the piece. “Hardly Touching” is another favorite. The title refers to artistic inspiration and how when it happens, one’s feet hardly touch the ground for the joy of it. Gracefully-flowing and delicate, the simple and heartfelt melody goes right to the heart. “Overture of Color” was originally created as an orchestral sketch that was performed (by an orchestra) in tribute to one of Frida’s paintings. A full palette of musical colors is expressed at the piano with passion as well as understanding. And then there is Starr’s arrangement of “Nights In White Satin,” one of my favorite songs ever. This track also includes additional sounds created with the piano using delays and filters in layers. The dreamlike quality of the song reminded Starr of Frida, and her arrangement is one of the best I’ve heard of this Moody Blues classic. “Sun and Life” is named for one of Frida’s paintings and is a gentle waltz with a lighter mood than some of the other pieces. “The Lightness of Frida” explores an idea of what Frida must have been like as a child. There is a feeling of innocence and sweetness with complexity and darkness simmering below the surface. Starr closes the album with an almost seven-minute meditation on “Hope” that she calls “a thought to end with.”
Wow! What an album! I give The Heart of Frida my highest recommendation! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Don’t miss it!
August 28, 2016