2005 / Bob Dahl
Review by Kathy Parsons
Azure Skies, pianist Bob Dahl’s fourth album to date, is a most enjoyable combination of new age, smooth and not-so-smooth jazz, and classically-influenced solos and lightly orchestrated pieces. Eight of the ten tracks are Dahl’s original compositions, and the two covers are a great take on Paul Desmond’s classic “Take Five” and an exuberant arrangement of Dennis DeYoung’s “Come Sail Away.” Pairing energetic, upbeat songs with gentle, reflective pieces keeps the mood shifting and showcases Dahl’s various playing styles and musical sensibilities. I especially like his livelier jazz work, and his placing the “Mission: Impossible” theme in the middle of “Take Five” blew me away. More on that in a minute.
The CD opens with the light and airy “Sapphire Spring,” an ode to joy and freedom. This is one of the four tracks that include Dave Captein on bass as well as some light string washes for additional color. “Shades of Blue” turns from pastels to a darker color palette with an energetic piece that is jazzier than the first track. Dahl’s impressive fingerwork is effortless. Cool! “Natalie’s Theme” was inspired and composed on the day that Dahl’s daughter was born. A sweet and loving lullaby with minimal strings in the background, this is a very beautiful piece. I was listening to this CD in the car the first time, and when Track 5 started with only rhythm on muted strings, I was trying to decide if the piece was going to be “Take Five” or “Mission: Impossible.” A few second into the piece, it was obviously a very competent and enjoyable arrangement of “Take Five” with only piano and bass. As the improvisation progressed, I was really enjoying myself, thinking about what a great arrangement it was, when, about five minutes in, there was “Mission: Impossible”!!! It doesn’t last long, but what a brilliant juxtaposition! After that, “Within Her Reach,” a lovely, flowing ballad, is almost a comedown. A different place in the playing order might have been a good idea, as this is a really nice piece. “Bailey The Cat” is piano and bass doing a lively piece that is a tad mysterious. “Hidden Meadow Suite” is gorgeous. Inspired by a large field and a butte across from his childhood home in Oregon, this 8 1/2 minute track is soothing, but also has a calming energy that vast open areas seem to bring. Comprised of four movements sharing a common theme, this Suite and “Take 5” alone are worth the price of the CD! Don’t skip “Blueberry Jam,” though! Another improvised toe-tapper with piano and bass, this is a great way to close. More!
Azure Skies is obviously quite a mixed bag, full of fun as well as poignant moments. You might relax with this one, but you won’t fall asleep! Enjoy! It is available from CD Baby.
September 1, 2005