Painting the Sun
2008 / Shanachie Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
One might think that after all of the recordings David Lanz has released over the past twenty-five or so years, he would start running out of musical ideas. He told me a few years ago that when he moved from Seattle to a quieter area in Washington State, it was with the idea of slowing down and possibly retiring, but since that time, Lanz has produced some of his very best music. I recall saying that the music for Living Temples was perhaps his best work, but I think he has topped even that album with Painting The Sun. Here, Lanz has returned to his solo piano roots, free to follow his muse and bring to life music that corresponds with who he is now rather than ten or even twenty years ago. This is Lanz’s first release with Shanachie Records, and the recording and cover artwork were completed before he presented it to them. They requested no changes, so this is David Lanz at the piano in its purest form. Introspective and sometimes meditative, this new music is perhaps the least commercial album Lanz has released. That doesn’t mean it isn’t accessible - it is very accessible - but some of the pieces are a bit darker and more exploratory. I’ve played this CD over and over, and hear new things each time. It is also very easy to visualize David Lanz sitting alone at his piano, completely oblivious to the rest of the world, lost in his musical thoughts. I LOVE THIS ALBUM!!!
The title track begins the CD in Lanz’s very distinctive style - graceful and elegant with his velvet touch on the piano keys. “Spanish Blue” is more improvised and is stunningly beautiful. Very, very slow and hushed, its color palette is dark and rich. “The Enchantment” is one of my favorites. The opening theme is a minor key waltz that is woven in and out of the piece. The second theme has more of a soul-searching kind of feeling, going deep within - gorgeous! I think my favorite track is “Her Solitude,” which is very spare but so poignant and emotional. Interesting and unusual chords as well as the use of deep bass notes on the piano make this a really compelling piece. David Lanz has always enjoyed interpreting some of his favorite songs from the 1960’s, and this time he has included his take on Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,“ a huge hit for The Byrds - a great arrangement! The three-part “Sanctuary Rose” is also exceptional. “Evening Song” is quietly reflective and still, melodic yet free. “Midnight Reverie” is also a favorite. A little livelier and more spirited than most of the other tracks, it is colored with a tinge of mystery. “Daybreak Flower” slowly opens and unfolds with grace and beauty. The closing track, “Sleeping Dove,” is an arrangement of a Native American lullaby - gentle and oh so peaceful. What a great album!
This has been an incredible year for piano music, and Painting the Sun is sure to be on many favorites lists, including my own! I give it my highest recommendation.
September 8, 2008
Review by Michael Debbage