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Album Review: 88 Keys
Carl Schroeder
Cover image of the album 88 Keys by Carl Schroeder
88 Keys
Carl Schroeder
2006 / Carl Schroeder
41 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
88 Keys is 24-year-old Carl Schroeder’s fourth CD release to date, but his first exclusively solo piano recording. With an impressive set of musical credentials already, Schroeder is a young artist with a unique vision and voice. Most of the music on this CD leans more toward contemporary classical than new age (whatever that means anymore), but is mostly very accessible, ranging from smoothly melodic to more experimental and edgy. Schroeder composes a lot of music for high school and college bands and orchestras, and that feeling of a larger scale is apparent in the complexity of the music, but Schroeder is an accomplished pianist who obviously feels very much at home with the instrument. Also passionate about American history and politics, several of these pieces are about American events and places, sharing ideas about these things without ramming a specific message down anyone’s throat. I’m very impressed with Carl Schroeder’s work, and expect that he will be an artist who continues to rise in stature as his work evolves.

“Mississippi River” begins the set in a uniquely American style. Painting a musical picture of this country’s longest river, the piece is strong and powerful, but not hurried or turbulent. “Jenny’s Song” is much quieter and more delicate. Full of love and tenderness, the delicate melody is played mostly in the upper registers of the piano. When it comes more to the center of the instrument, the piece adds a contrasting strength to the almost fragile high notes. “Birmingham” is a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoughtful and reflective, a quiet strength and dignity permeates the music, creating a very impressive musical portrait of one of this country’s heroes. An occasional phrase from “We Shall Overcome” highlights one of Dr. King’s trademarks. “Fenn’s Theme” is very melodic but also very passionate - a favorite. The title track is a fascinating experimental piece that uses every key on the piano only once. “Memories From the Hill” is a very effective series of musical vignettes that range from sweetly melodic to menacing and very abstract. An 8 1/2 minute work, it’s quite a tour de force that covers a lot of musical territory without seeming at all fragmented or overly ambitious. The pieces flow seamlessly from one theme to the next no matter how different from each other the individual themes seem. “Christine’s Lullaby” is a gentle tribute to the youngest victim of the 9/11 attacks. “Snowflake Song” and “Wisdom” are lovely pieces adapted from an original two-movement choral work - very peaceful. “Switch Track” closes the album with one of the “bigger” works that is almost cinematic in its scope. Bravo!

As you can see, there is a wide variety of playing and composing styles on 88 Keys, and Carl Schroeder does them all exceptionally well. Samples of his music are available at carlschroeder.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Very highly recommended!
November 22, 2006