2004 / HeartEarth Music
Review by Michael Debbage
It was a rare overcast day in Southern California, the perfect climate to review the new music of the mellow madman Craig Urquhart. This is the follow up to the solid Evocation and Urquhart once more evokes reflective and understated moments with his graceful and eloquent piano work. The music continues to be embroidered with sadness and sobriety, yet also embellished with style and sophistication, layered with a touch of hope.
Much like its predecessor, Streamwalker does not take the open road to viable commercialism. Craig continues to walk down the road less traveled using the less obvious melodies, draping it with his trademark lamentations, and yet never lacking in self-assurance. This makes the listening experience more demanding. And while the rewards are not immediate, with the patience of Job, the results are worth it.
That said, Craig does a magnificent job with the sequencing of the tracks, opening and closing the album with the most optimistic songs of the album. "Morning Eagle" starts us off with the word picture of a soaring eagle hanging in its balance as it glides on firm but gentle winds. The playful title track that closes out the cd is also one of the albums more sanguine moments. However, "The Awakening” also comes close with the deep and lush performance that we have come to expect from Craig. Written as a birthday gift to his friend and mentor Leonard Bernstein, he is not the only recipient who receives joy from this particular birthday present. This is a vulnerable moment bringing back memories of the early days of David Lanz. It is here along with hauntingly beautiful "Flow On" that we really see the flowing melodies that Craig is ever so capable of playing.
This approach is polarized when compared with the minor key arrangement of the jazzy "Jazzed". Unfortunately, the keys are so odd that this is the one track that prompts the skip forward button. Nevertheless, it is a brave exploration of another genre. Speaking of bravado, check out the ambitious "Thanksgiving" that clocks in at over 8 minutes. Opening with chords reminiscent of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" featured on The Sting soundtrack, the song has several movements that are given many spatial moments. It certainly has a more impressionistic approach that has the feel and technique of the improvising master Michael Jones. The track may be long-winded but it is certainly enduring in more than one way.
Otherwise, Streamwalker can be considered another success story in the life of this original piano man. With just him and his keyboard, Craig Urquhart continues to evoke themes of reflection with his simplified sophistication. If you enjoyed Evocation there is no doubting that this tributary of songs will be equally pleasing.
April 4, 2004
with Michael Slattery