You're the One
2017 / BH Arts
Review by Kathy Parsons
You’re the One is the third full-length album from pianist/keyboardist/composer Brian Hagen. Like his previous releases, the album is a combination of original piano solos and classical pieces - seven of each. The fourteen tracks are varied and include dreamy love songs, a bluesy piece, original compositions that are happy and sad, and familiar and not-so-familiar classical pieces (some of which Hagen arranged for solo piano). During the recording process, Hagen realized that an unplanned theme was emerging in the music - a theme about the many different ways that love can affect people. The overall mood of the album is one of joy and the happiness that love can bring, whether it comes from a romantic relationship, family or friends. Balancing the emotions, there are also a few pieces that express heartbreak and sadness as well as empathy for a stranger’s grief. Brian Hagen has been playing the piano since he was a very young child. He was classically-trained and studied classical music and jazz as a music major in college.
You’re the One begins with the title track, a wonderful piece that Hagen wrote to celebrate the day he and his wife met, experiencing love at first sight. Buoyant and light-hearted, it sets the joyful tone of the album. “By the Limpid Stream” by Burgmuller has a beautiful flowing quality that makes me wish it was longer than 70 seconds! Borodin’s “Nocturne” was adapted from his String Quartet #2 and expresses a peaceful contentment that is soothing and relaxing. Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words are some of my favorite classical piano pieces and “Contemplation” is one that I dearly love. Hagen really makes it sing (without words!). The “Andantino” movement from Diabelli’s Sonatina Op. 168 is bittersweet and poignant, tugging at the heartstrings. Hagen’s “Lonesome Road” started out as “some rather scattered piano noodling one night many years ago.” Part pop ballad and part blues piano, it’s a favorite. “Afternoon Waltz” is light and playful. “Let It Flow” has an especially interesting origin. Hagen happened to share an elevator with a teenage boy who had just learned that his grandfather was dying. Trying hard to control his emotions, the young man broke down, shaking with grief. At a loss for words, the encounter ended before Hagen could find anything comforting to say. Instead, he went home to his piano and this piece poured out in just a few minutes. The emotional depth of the music really touches the heart - my favorite piece on the album. “Autumn Afternoon Homecoming” is a smooth jazz piece about the love that family and close friends can share, and was inspired on a beautiful autumn day while thinking about fall treats and hayrides. “Sunflower” emerged while improvising on a piece by Oscar Peterson and expresses an infectious happy mood - a great ending to a great album!
I really like the versatility of Brian Hagen’s music and the way he easily moves from classical to jazz forms in both his own compositions and his interpretations of other people’s music. This is a really nice album for active listening and will also do well in the background. You’re the One is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Recommended!
February 20, 2018