2023 / Alan Matthews
Review by Kathy Parsons
Seasons Change is the fourth album from pianist/composer Alan Matthews and is his most intensely personal album to date. Matthews' three previous albums were recorded with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios between 2017 and 2022, but Seasons Change was recorded at Clayton Studios in St. Louis on an "exquisite" (Matthews' enthusiastic quote!) Shigeru Kawai grand piano and was co-produced by Michael Silverman. The album is dedicated to Will Ackerman, whose "praise & critique have allowed me to become my best artistic self." I find Matthews' explanation of the differences in approach to the first three albums and this one enlightening: "All That I Can See was the end of music that HAD to be recorded... music whose essence was from an earlier me... part of the journey that HAD to be expressed... with a few pieces that begin to express the present moment... and music I WANT to make. What I didn't anticipate is my artistic self so quickly having ideas that I wanted to explore & express... I suspect a new brighter piano & much closer studio added to this sense of musical freedom... yes, SEASONS do CHANGE... and I embraced it and discovered some piano music I really love."
The fifteen original tracks on the album are all solo piano except one that includes some wordless vocals. There is more than enough substance in the music to savor many, many times, but this is also one of the most relaxing albums I've heard in a while. Warm, soothing, uplifting AND very relaxing - what a delightful combination!
Seasons Change begins with the title track, a poignant, sometimes dreamy and sometimes nostalgic expression of how life is constantly changing in new and unexpected ways. "Returning" could be about many things. Mostly lighthearted and buoyant, occasional changes from major to minor chords give the music a slightly mysterious tinge that I really like. "The Heart Endures" feels very reflective and soul-searching, moving slowly and openly, and allowing the music to evolve as it wishes. "Going Back" ponders why the past forever draws us to return. Wistful and dreamy, it's a beautiful expression of an eternal question. "If Only We Could" seems to be exploring unanswerable thoughts. The music is very simply stated while expressing deep emotion. "The Prayer" is a stirring conversation with God that asks questions, gives thanks, and ultimately finds peace. "Morning's Promise" overflows with warmth and the optimism that come with the start of a new day - definitely a favorite! "Nomadic" refers to Frances McDormand's role in Nomadland and how she loses her husband, job and town, leaving her searching for a new start. The piece is very questioning and sometimes feels desperate - as anyone would who found themselves in that position. "Over the Horizon" contemplates what is on the other side of the "dark foreboding boundary ahead," while anticipating a new, brighter world and a warmer season." "After the Music" refers to the time when "the last song is recorded, and the album complete, I'm left to contemplate if this will be the last." So far, that hasn't been the case, and if we're very lucky, Alan Matthews will be around a long, long time creating new music in his own unique style.
Seasons Change is a wonderful album from the first note to the last! It is available from Bandcamp as a download and/or a CD; from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes as a download or to stream, and from various streaming platforms including Spotify. Don't miss it!
August 7, 2023