2017 / Alan Matthews
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Ineffable is the debut recording by pianist/composer Alan Matthews, and what an impressive debut it is! Produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton, and recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, the eleven original tracks are a combination of solo piano and piano with ensemble featuring several of the fine musicians who often appear on Ackerman’s productions. Immersed in music from a very young age, Matthews became an accomplished trombonist as well as a pianist fluent in jazz as well as classical music. In college, Matthews applied and was accepted into medical school. “Med school is an easy place to perfect playing by ear. After studying all day my eyes were done. I would retire to the music room and play the piano in the dark...night after night. I was listening intensely to George Winston and Pat Metheny, among others… and I also began expressing my own ideas musically.” The music on The Ineffable (defined as “incapable of being expressed in words”) leans to the emotional, expressive side, but it is obvious that a lot of deep thought went into the music as well. I know I’m projecting, but what comes across to me in the music is that this is a person who is emotionally available to others, but is also very comfortable alone with his own thoughts. I’ve read several articles that marvel that a medical doctor could be a truly exceptional musician as well, but I know several medical professionals who are excellent musicians, and what a wonderful way for them to be able to process the more troubling aspects as well as the joyful successes of their difficult profession!
The Ineffable begins with “Moira’s Song,” a beautiful and poignant duet for piano and sax (Premik Russell Tubbs). “No Words Remain” features the always wonderful Charlie Bisharat on violin and the haunting (wordless) vocals of Noah Wilding. Reflective and expressed with elegant simplicity, it’s a favorite. “The Resigned” is an introspective piano solo that could have been composed (or improvised) late at night by the light of a candle. Honest and direct, it’s another favorite. “The Conversation” is intimate but also more animated and somewhat “jazzy” with light percussion (Jeff Haynes) and cello (Eugene Friesen) - I love the way it just trails off at the end. Dreamy and melancholy, “The Second Goodbye” expresses a variety of emotions as an evocative piano solo. One of the longer pieces on the album (a little more than seven minutes), it has plenty of time to tell its story without feeling rushed or leaving anything out. “Strange To Me” clocks in at almost 10 1/2 minutes. It begins as a piano solo, gradually adding other instruments as it evolves: cello, violin, bass (Tony Levin), percussion, and vocals all add their own flavors to this smooth jazz blend. As its title suggests, “Wistful” is light and gentle, and Jill Haley adds her soulful English horn to the piano to create a bit of musical magic. “You Don’t Know What Day It Is” is a very expressive piano solo with a quiet grace that seems to convey compassion and empathy - love it! The album closes with a solo piano reprise of “Moira’s Song” - a memorable closing to a really great album!
The Ineffable is a stunning debut and I can’t wait to hear what Alan Matthews has coming up in the future! The album is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
September 12, 2018