This debut solo piano album from Craig Casey is very impressive, indeed. Classically trained as a child on into his first year of college, many influences from a variety of sources are apparent. The stylings from one piece to the next are varied, and allow us to witness what an excellent pianist Craig is - from the turbulent “Mataafa Blow” to the soothing gentleness of the closing “Lullabye”, we are treated to a full range of pianistic styles. This is the kind of album that reveals itself with repeated listenings - accessible, but still a bit of a challenge. I wouldn’t call this “standard new age piano” - “contemporary classical with jazz touches” is more like it. Quite a few of the albums I’ve heard recently sounded like they were trying to “be” something specific (the best for meditation or the most relaxing, etc.). The Opening
feels like music for it’s own sake - pure and honest.
My two favorite selections from The Opening
- “Mataafa Blow” and “Rain” - are quite different from each other. “Mataafa Blow” refers to one of the worst storms to hit The Great Lakes region in the last century. Many lives and ships were lost, and Craig wrote this piece to describe what it might have felt like on the deck of a ship during this storm. Dark, powerful, and agitated, the rhythms are intoxicating, and I would imagine that this piece is great fun to play! “Rain” was composed one afternoon while watching the rain roll off the roof and onto the pavement, imagining that the pavement was a keyboard and the droplets were creating the melody. The middle section of this piece has some powerful chords, but the beginning and ending sections are a lovely counterpoint in the upper registers of the piano.
All of the compositions on The Opening
are strong and worthy of mention, but, for the sake of space, I’ll go through a few. “Elan” opens the CD with joyful enthusiasm. This piece and “Skipping Stones” are the most light-hearted pieces on the CD - full of fun and innocence. “Elizabeth’s Song” reminds me a bit of Philip Aaberg’s open spaces and passion. “Spice” has a very Spanish feel and style - dark and sensuous. “Cathedral Open” is a swirling bit of musical sunshine - free, joyous, dancing. “The Opening
” feels almost conversational - an open dialogue with a close friend, perhaps.
Excellent from start to finish, I highly recommend The Opening
to those who enjoy piano music with depth and complexity as well as strong emotional content. It is currently available on Craig’s craigcasey.net