2021 / Earl Johnson
Review by Kathy Parsons
Dawn is the third solo piano album from Earl Johnson, a pianist, composer, and private piano teacher from Los Angeles. The fifteen original piano solos on the album are built around a story that was created first in Earl's mind and then expressed in the music. Each piece represents one hour of time, starting at 3PM through 5AM the next morning. The only character in the story is the listener, and the journey the story depicts is one of isolation and discovery. The music is melodic and beautifully expressive as well as reflective and meditative, providing a relaxing escape from the stress and uncertainties of life.
Earl Johnson started taking piano lessons at the age of twelve. He played in the chapel band in both middle and high school, and then studied Music Theory and Harmony in college. Earl built his home recording studio in 2012 and released his first album, Reflections, in 2014. His second album, Continuance, was released in 2020, and Dawn in 2021. I'm really impressed with the very expressive nature of Earl's music and look forward to hearing more of it very soon! Fellow pianists will be delighted to know that there is a companion sheet music book that is available as a printed book or a download from Earl's website; printed books are also available on Amazon.
Dawn begins with "Last Soul," a very dark start to a story where you are the only person left. Very slow, mournful and questioning, the piece is played mostly in the bass clef of the piano. "Through the Trees" is a favorite with its sense of moving forward and setting out on an adventure. There is an interesting mix of emotions in the music - confidence as well as a bit of fear and uneasiness. "Bernard's Castle" is much lighter, telling of discovering a majestic castle along the way. "When The Fog Comes" is very descriptive of the way heavy fog envelops everything in its path, changing even the most familiar sights and sounds. I really like this one, too! "Forever Lost" depicts when the fog lifts and you realize that you have no idea of where you are. "Road of Secrets" has a soft, easy feel while it expresses a bit of mystery. I love "Enchanted Waters," a piece about discovering a large body of water with the moon reflected on the gently moving ripples - so peaceful and graceful! "Moonlight" becomes your source of light in the darkness, offering hope and a clearer sense of direction. The piece begins very softly with a strong feeling of melancholy and loss, but as the darkness gradually becomes brighter, so does the music - another favorite! "Final Hour" is about making the decision to move forward and following through with it - kind of a musical version of "it's always darkest before the dawn." The piece is very melancholy, expressing feelings of exhaustion and even defeat, trailing off at the end like a question. "Dawn" signals a new beginning and a fresh start - both literally and figuratively. As the sun rises, warmth and hope return, and the music reflects those feelings beautifully!
If you are not yet familiar with Earl Johnson and his music, Dawn is a great place to start! The companion sheet music for the album is also reviewed here on MainlyPiano.com. The recording is available as a CD or download from Earl's website. It is available to stream or download on Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes, and to stream on Spotify and various other sites. Highly recommended!
August 22, 2022