2020 / Earl Johnson
Review by Kathy Parsons
Continuance is pianist/composer Earl Johnson's second solo piano album following his 2014 debut, Reflections and before his 2021 Dawn. Also a private piano teacher from the Los Angeles area, Earl started taking piano lessons at the age of twelve, played in the chapel band in both middle school and high school, and later studied Music Theory and Harmony in college. His music is intended to be soothing and relaxing, and often hints at his classical and jazz background. Where his Dawn album told a story without words (other than the titles), Continuance is a collection of fifteen original piano solos of different styles and moods from dark and introspective to lively and fun. It's a great album and I'm really enjoying getting acquainted with Earl Johnson and his music. Fellow pianists will be happy to know that there is a songbook available that has been reviewed on MainlyPiano.com, too. Downloads of all of the individual pieces as well as a digital songbook are also available from Earl's website.
Continuance begins with "As Time Passes," a piece composed at varying tempi from very slow and steady to livelier and freer - a very effective start! "Sky" is a favorite and is much more relaxed, suggesting the vast open space we all look up to (literally!). The almost mournful "Dark Heart" seems to reach out for understanding and then pull inward before the more hopeful final passages brighten the darkness a bit. "Galaxy" is a lively, spirited adventure traveling through space - what fun! "Illusions" beautifully expresses a sense of mystery and unpredictability. I love "Mouse Musette" with its playful and light-hearted main theme and graceful middle section. This one is really fun to play, too! "Into the Horizon" is more on the ambient side with gently flowing broken chords and a simple melody that moves from one hand to the other. "Light in the Night" has a more classical style that is elegant and stately. "Winter Waltz" is light and graceful, expressing both the beauty of the snow and ice and the fun of ice skating and playing in the snow - another favorite. (For some reason, it makes me think of Snoopy skating freely on the ice with his stocking cap on his head and Woodstock on his shoulder!) Listening to "Polar Ice" can actually give you a chill. Ambient yet crystalline, it is very beautifully descriptive. "Distant Spirit" is the first piece Earl composed after his father passed away and expresses the wide range of emotions that overcome us when someone close is gone. Having an outlet for those emotions is very healing and this loving expression will certainly help others to heal as well. "Field of Flowers" closes this excellent album with a peaceful vision of wildflowers moving with the changing rhythms of a gentle breeze - also a favorite!
Earl Johnson is a relatively new and very fresh voice in the very crowded field of excellent pianist/composers. If you have not yet heard his music, you are in for a treat! Continuance is available as a CD or download from Earl's website, and can be downloaded and streamed on Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and other streaming sites such as Spotify. Very highly recommended!
September 6, 2022