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Album Review: October
Donovan Johnson
Cover image of the album October by Donovan Johnson
Donovan Johnson
2011 / Boxhouse Music Co.
58 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
October is pianist/composer Donovan Johnson’s fourth release, but is a first for me. I love finding artists who have something a little different to say through the medium of music, and Donovan is just such an artist. Often more energetic than many recordings that fall into the new age/contemporary piano genre, I like the way Donovan has alternated the faster tracks with those that are quieter and more peaceful. Some of the pieces are solo piano and some are more orchestrated with percussion and strong rhythms backing the piano. The eleven tracks include the three-part “Islands of October Suite,” which effectively combines pop, classical, and new age elements. In addition to composing, teaching, and performing, Donovan Johnson owns and operates EnlightenedPiano.com, an internet radio station that features an international roster of new age pianists. He has been playing the piano since the age of two, and started formal lessons shortly after that, continuing into college where studied performance and composition.

October begins with “Summerland,” a joyful and energetic piece that swirls and dances to a lively beat - an enticing opening piece! “Forward In Time” starts out mysteriously with a single repeated note setting the tempo. This theme weaves in and out of the 6 1/2 minute piece, alternating with a contrasting second theme that features a smooth and graceful piano with strings. I really like this one! “Andromeda” picks up the tempo again with a driving percussion track behind the effervescent piano. The title track is more on the wistful, dreamy side with light percussion and atmospheric synth sounds behind the piano. “Forgiveness” is another favorite - a slow, graceful piano solo that comes from the heart. “Resilience” is a beautiful ballad, this time accompanied by flute and strings. The more classical “Islands of October Suite” begins with “The Island of Japan,” a dramatic piano solo with themes that range from very dark and spare to a lively and sparkling flow. The second movement is “Castaway Island,” again a piano solo. Donovan demonstrates some very impressive playing chops in this one! “Isle Du Massacre” sounds pretty grim, but the piece is anything but. In the first theme, the left hand plays a driving rhythm while the right dances all over the piano. The second theme is slower and less structured, and then the first theme returns, taking the album to a joyful and breathless ending.

October is a great find if you like spirited pieces mixed in with the more contemplative music (I do!). It is available from donovanjohnson.net, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
March 7, 2012
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