Wayne Gratz has been one of my favorite pianist/composers since I discovered his music in the late 1980’s. Many years and about nineteen albums later, Gratz continues to produce some of the most peaceful and relaxing piano music out there. Safer Places
is a collection of fourteen original piano solos and ensemble pieces that feature Nancy Rumbel on English horn and Paul Fleury on cello in addition to Gratz on piano and keyboards. Dedicated to Wayne’s parents, the cover of the CD refers to this as “piano ensemble music to enhance tranquility” - and that it is! I listened to it while on a long drive recently, and found that the music slipped into the background when I needed to give full attention to the road, but became a very pleasant traveling companion when I could focus on the music as the miles rolled by. Of course, it is best to savor the beauty of the music without distractions, as this is far from “fluff” music or ear candy, but it also provides a very warm and gentle backdrop for other activities.
begins with “The Bridge to Ponce,” a graceful duet for piano and English horn plus keyboard enhancements. Warmth and contentment flow from the music, setting the mood for the rest of the album. “Supermoon” is much more atmospheric and ambient, this time featuring piano and cello. Its 7+ minute duration gives the magic plenty of time to soothe any stresses and cares away. “A Time For Reflection” is dreamy and meditative, and at eight minutes, allows the mind to wander in any direction it chooses while the soul relaxes and lets go. “Even With the Rain” is a favorite. A soulful duet for piano and cello, emotion is expressed with every note. I also really like “Views in the Candlelight,” a lovely piano solo with atmospheric keyboard accompaniment. Very ambient and still, it is easy to imagine soft, hazy images in flickering candlelight. “Life in Real Time” is a slow, spare piano solo that suggests the freedom of an improvisation - another favorite. “The Simple Life” is the most light-hearted track - a piano solo that conveys the joy in keeping things uncomplicated (not an easy thing to do!). “Skipping with the Fireflies” is another lengthy piece that soothes with a magical aural touch. Piano and keyboard create a calming mood of tranquility and peace with occasional accented notes that suggest the fireflies of the title. “Distant Light” is one of the more melodic and structured pieces on the album while remaining effortless and free. This gorgeous piano solo is my favorite track and I have my fingers crossed for sheet music! Gratz saved the title track for the last, and it’s a light and happy piano solo that brings this wonderful album to a close.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of Wayne Gratz’s music or a newbie, you will find much to love with Safer Places
. Offering the best of both the ensemble and solo piano genres, this is one of Wayne’s best albums yet. It is available from waynegratz.com
, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!