2022 / Daniel Chadburn
Review by Kathy Parsons
The past 2 1/2 years have been challenging in so many ways, but a very bright side to this has been that many artists have been home (rather than touring) and have been creating some of the best music of their careers. It's been a real joy to be a small part of the process of getting the word out about some of this music, but I have to say that one of the best of the best is Dan Chadburn's Always. I've been reviewing Dan's music since his 1998 debut, Solo Piano, and he has performed in my house concert series many times (usually as a fund-raiser for our local Oregon Coast Humane Society), so my expectations for his new albums are always very high. Still, I am absolutely blown away by the heartfelt beauty and soulful nature of Always. Yes, it's THAT good! The twelve tracks include eleven original piano solos and an original arrangement of the folk classic "O Shenandoah," which just happens to be one of my favorite songs. The album was recorded and mastered this past April at Piano Haven Studio in Sedona, AZ on Joe Bongiorno's impeccable Shigeru Kawai concert grand. Joe also engineered the album, which is flawless.
In a single sentence, this is what Dan hoped to create with this music: “In recording Always, I wanted to create a collection of pieces for solo piano that celebrates the unfailing resilience of the human spirit, the steadfast courage of the human heart, the eternal existence and mystery of the human soul, and the remarkable, spiritual synchronicity of them all.” Those are some very lofty goals, and Dan succeed well with all of them.
Always begins with the title track, a piece that was improvised in concert as a remembrance of the mother of a member of the audience who had recently passed away. Warmth and empathy flow from each note, from one heart to another. The rhythms of "Uncharted Waters" feel like being in a boat on a large body of water, not quite sure where you are or where you're going. Melancholy, but not really sad or fearful, it is a beautiful expression of embarking on something new, not sure of what's next. "O Shenandoah" is a wonderful arrangement of the song that Dan performed for the virtual concert to benefit our local Humane Society last year. Love it! "Turning Point" actually goes back to 2011 and is deeply emotional as well as reflective. I can't imagine anyone not being touched by this incredible piece. "Minuet" is bright and sunny and seems to express a love for life. "Uncertainty" and "The Wishing Well" were both composed in April 2020 when Dan was sick with Covid. Both pieces are an expression of hope as well as of wondering what the future will bring. "Sacred Breath" was improvised in the recording studio and went directly onto the album. Quoting Dan: "As I played it, I remembered sitting with my Mom in the hospital in 2019, and watching her take some of her last breaths as she began her transition onward. To witness such sacred breath was both profoundly beautiful and sad at the same time." - an incredibly moving piece. "Final Curtain" was actually improvised at a concert in my living room in August 2019 and is the perfect ending to this heartfelt and superlative album.
Always is available on Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes. It is also available from streaming sites such as Spotify. CDs and sheet music are available from Dan's website (the sheet music book is also reviewed on MainlyPiano.com). I give Always my highest recommendation!
July 29, 2022