2021 / HeartEarth Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
At Ease is pianist/composer Craig Urquhart's eleventh album of original piano solos and is a continuation of his lifelong exploration of emotional expression through tonal harmony. The nine pieces on the album were composed in 2020 in the midst of a world-wide pandemic as well as political turmoil in the US and other countries. Craig's belief that music can heal the heart and soul as well as make us better people "by experiencing joy, sadness, longing and emotions that can be conveyed through sound" is the basis for the music, which reaches out to the listener with total honesty and sincerity. One of my favorite artists for many years now, Craig Urquhart's music is uniquely his own with roots in his extensive classical training as well as influences from around the world and, of course, life itself. As has been true of most of his previous albums, the music on At Ease is deceptively simple and without flash, relying on heartfelt expression to communicate the meaning and message of the music - a very powerful and profound listening experience!
At Ease begins with "Pastoral," a piece that summons images of rolling green hills and the healing power of being in nature - very peaceful and relaxing. This piece was actually written as a 70th birthday present for Craig's brother and reflects back to simpler and easier times. "Lamentation" was composed in memory of a close friend and expresses the deep sadness of losing a loved one as well as honoring a life well-lived. The notes in the lower bass of the piano are very dark and mournful, but the slow, open melody offers hope and consolation. The emotional impact of this piece is stunning. The title track is much lighter and is a warm and uplifting reminder that we all need to step back once in awhile and realize that we have much to be grateful for. "Soaring Swallows" pays homage to evenings spent on Craig's balcony in Berlin, watching the swallows flying free and "above the fray." Delicate, peaceful and very graceful this piece offers a soothing massage for the mind. "Smooth Sailing" floats effortlessly, without a care in the world - a sunny daydream set to music. "Winter Ocean" is my favorite piece on the album and reminds us that even in the darkest times, life can be beautiful. The gently-rolling rhythm suggests the peaceful ebb and flow of a very quiet ocean as well as the shimmering silver-gray color of the water. Gorgeous! I really like "Arrival," too. A celebration of the joy of reaching inner peace or the comfort of the embrace of a friend, it reminds me how much I miss hugs! "Adieu" is a sad reminder of all that we have had to say goodbye to over the course of the past year or so - friends, family, political innocence, a sense of being safe and knowing where to turn for truth. There is comfort in sharing that experience, and Craig's wonderfully expressive piece gently lets us know we are not alone. Is there anything cozier than a fire in a fireplace on a cold night? That soul-warming experience is beautifully expressed in "By The Fireside" and brings this excellent album to an "easeful" close.
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Craig Urquhart's music and At Ease is no exception. It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify.
April 10, 2021