All That I Can See
2022 / Alan Matthews
Review by Kathy Parsons
I can't imagine a better album to lose yourself in than All That I Can See, the third album from pianist/composer Alan Matthews. Peaceful, warm, and gently uplifting, it works its magic with full focus as well as an enhancement to other quiet activities. Where Matthews' first two albums (The Ineffable, 2017, and Denial's End, 2019) were a mix of solo piano and piano with other instrumentation, this one is all solo piano. Recorded at Imaginary Road Studio, the album was produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton and also generated this glowing comment from Will: "You've always sounded like you, but this is where your mature voice is clear and singular...this album is brilliant." No small praise from someone who has worked with some of the best musicians in the world!
Also a medical doctor, I'm sure the three years since Matthews' previous album have been particularly challenging. The introspective and meditative qualities in these eleven original pieces suggest (to me, anyway) that some of this music was created late at night while letting the piano work its own healing magic. What a lovely gift it is to be able to pass this music on to others both for their own musical healing as well as for beautiful, heartfelt music to savor and enjoy!
All That I Can See begins with the title track, a quiet celebration of the wonders of the mind's eye and all that it sees and remembers. Open and freely expressive, it lets us know right away that this album is going to be something very special! "Endless Beginnings" is a beautiful piece that ponders that we are forever at the beginning, starting over again and again. While there is repetition in the main theme of the piece, each variation is a little bit different - much like the variations in our lives. After experiencing the Van Gogh immersion exhibit, Matthews discovered that "the world out my window on a breezy autumn day sounds ... differently." "Falling Colors" became the musical expression of that view and sound - peaceful yet vibrant, colorful yet quiet. I'm sure that "Embracing Gray" could mean something different to many people, but for this Oregonian, it feels much like another cloudy day that leaves you feeling just a bit melancholy and longing for the sun - a favorite! "On a Whim" is light and playful - another favorite. "A Quiet Walk" has an easy, unhurried pace that is steady, but allows for pauses to "smell the roses" or enjoy whatever is encountered on the way - smooth and relaxing! "Finding the Feeling" takes us on an exploratory journey in search of something within. A variety of musical themes and ideas are woven together to create a tapestry of emotions and feelings. "Ode to Why" is an intriguing title and the piece explores the idea of "life's unending search.... Perhaps the quest itself is the only answer." Both graceful and thoughtful, the piece fades out at the end, bringing the album to a warm and peaceful close.
All That I Can See is beautifully expressive from the first note to the last. It is available from Bandcamp, Amazon, and Apple Music/iTunes. Very highly recommended!
May 6, 2022