2012 / Calliope Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
American Romance is the second release from composer/pianist Bernard Weinstock. It’s been thirteen years since his debut, Evening, which was solo piano. This time, Weinstock’s piano is backed by guitars, drums and percussion, and strings (all actual musicians, not keyboards or synths). Like Evening, American Romance contains a dizzying assortment of musical styles that make it impossible to put this album in a musical category (a very good thing, I think!). Weinstock received his musical training at Juilliard and The Manhattan School of Music, giving him a strong background in classical music. He combines that and his extraordinary playing technique with jazz and pop stylings that make his music accessible to the less-trained ear while keeping more sophisticated listeners challenged and intrigued. To say that this music is “different” is an understatement, yet it is not so different to be off-putting. Quite a few of the ten tracks are very energetic, so this album is much more suited to focused listening than background or meditation music. I always find it very exciting to discover (or rediscover) artists who have the courage and vision to follow their own muses, and Bernard Weinstock is certainly one of those artists.
American Romance begins with “Back Again,” a light and breezy piece that starts out as a piano solo and adds percussion and other instrumentation as it develops. “Hollywood Romance” has its roots in classical music and classic movies for the first minute and a half or so until an electric guitar bursts in over the top of the strings and changes the mood (and the era) of the piece completely. The last section of the piece returns to the more classical beginning and ends quietly. “Sunday Morning” is a relaxed and carefree piece for piano, acoustic guitar, and percussion - pure musical sunshine. “The Western Plains” is graceful and gentle like a light wind blowing tall grasses - perfect for a film soundtrack. “American Beauty” is a gorgeous piano solo - flowing, expressive and just a bit melancholy; a favorite. “A Different Peace” is mostly solo piano (strings play the last two minutes of the 6 1/2 minute piece), and my favorite track of the ten. Lyrical and graceful, Weinstock clearly demonstrates his mastery of the piano without over-the-top keyboard theatrics. “Once Upon a Time” is another favorite. Upbeat and lively, piano and percussion make a fascinating duo and create an atmosphere that is whimsical and playful. “Better Days” closes the album in a darker mood. Piano and strings set a mournful tone, with electric guitar and percussion entering about half-way into the piece and changing it from a classical style to one that is more prog-rock - big, passionate, and very dramatic. It’s an amazing album!
American Romance is not an album that is going to appeal listeners who want meditation music or a quiet background for a dinner party, but those who are a bit more adventurous will love it. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.
July 4, 2012