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Album Review: Thirteen Tales
Brad Jacobsen
Cover image of the album Thirteen Tales by Brad Jacobsen
Thirteen Tales
Brad Jacobsen
2013 / Brad Jacobsen Music
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Thirteen Tales is Brad Jacobsen’s third solo piano album and although I really like his first two, I think this is his best so far. Inspired by stories by The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and folklore, the pieces are lyrical songs without words. As the father of three boys, I’m sure Jacobsen has had many opportunities to revisit these timeless tales through the eyes of a child, retelling them now with his own special musical magic. The album has a total of fourteen original tracks - the thirteen Tales plus a bonus track. Most of the pieces are very graceful, warm and positive, avoiding the frightening quality of many of the original tales - especially those by The Brothers Grimm. There are heroic themes, but beauty and kindness seem to be in larger supply than swashbuckling sword fights and ugly witches. This would be wonderful bedtime music for children of any age, evoking colorful images of fantasies and days gone by.

Thirteen Tales begins with “Winter’s Tale,” one of my favorites. It is easy to visualize the beauty of a snow-covered landscape and to sense the peaceful quiet that comes with newly-fallen snow. The piece also conveys a poignant sense of longing. “Sparrows” picks up the tempo just a bit with a gracefully flowing melody that is lighthearted yet substantial. “The Gray Woods” is more mysterious but not threatening. The music seems to describe some of the creatures that live within these woods - some very innocent and some less so. “What the Moon Saw” is another favorite. Somewhat darker and more intense than the first three tracks, it comes from a story by Hans Christian Andersen. Love it! “Red” is based on the melody for “Old Gaelic Lullaby” and hauntingly recounts the story of Little Red Riding Hood going through the forest alone while a hungry wolf waits. “The Restless Ones” is a lovely, bittersweet waltz that (for me) evokes images of Cinderella swirling on the dance floor with her prince. I’m probably ‘way off, but I like the images! “Water of Life” is serenity set to music. Jacobsen’s touch expresses light sparkling on water as well as a flowing stream - absolutely beautiful! “Wolf Trail” is also a favorite. The broken minor chords suggest the possibility of danger lurking, but we continue on our way. It’s interesting to note that when Jacobsen was recording, a passing storm contributed the sound of thunder in the background - perfect! “Vagabonds” is a tribute to the seemingly insignificant characters in folklore who often become the heroes of stories as well as their real life counterparts who can inspire us in surprising ways. The bonus track, “Jack’s Song,” came about when Jacobsen’s three-year-old son climbed onto the piano bench next to his dad and started singing about how much he loves him. What a sweet and touching way to end this wonderful album!

Brad Jacobsen is becoming one of my favorite pianist/composers, and Thirteen Tales clearly indicates why. It is available from www.bradjacobsenmusic.com, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
November 13, 2013
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Kathy's Favorites: 2013