Into the Mist
Fiona Joy Hawkins
2016 / Blue Coast Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Into the Mist is Fiona Joy’s second album on the Blue Coast Records label. Produced by Cookie Marenco, the CD was recorded in the highest digital fidelity possible using a new format called Direct Stream Digital (DSD). The physical CD is an “Audiophile Edition” and is quite expensive, so unless you have really good equipment, downloading or streaming is a much more economical option. I have good speakers in my office and the sound quality using those speakers is remarkable, but I honestly couldn’t hear much difference in my car or in my wake-up alarm (admittedly very inferior play-back devices).
Into the Mist is a solo piano recording, and Fiona performs on a 7’ Steinway grand that dates back to 1885. As the title suggests, the music is impressionistic and flows freely without restrictions. Fairly consistent in mood throughout, the music is played at a relaxed and leisurely tempo that often suggests the slow, graceful movement of a dancer, water or foggy mists. Most of the ten pieces are new, but at least three have appeared on previous albums as ensemble pieces. Solo piano really suits Fiona’s elegant and sensuous playing style and I hope she’ll consider doing more of it.
Into the Mist opens with “A Walk in the Park,” an easy-going piece that evokes images of warm sunshine, children playing on a green expanse of lawn, and the simple joy of going for a long walk. “Moon Over the Lotus Pond” is very “misty” and fluid, suggesting the slow, graceful movement of dark water in the moonlight. There are hints of an Asian musical influence, but this piece is very impressionistic - suggesting rather than explaining the feeling of being in such a place. Next is a three-part opus, which is the centerpiece of the album. Part 1, “Into the Mist,” is a beautiful piece that is both haunting and poignant as well as somewhat more intense than most of the other tracks. Part 2, “Mist Rising,” is classic Fiona Joy with a softly flowing left hand and a more percussive right hand that crosses into the bass of the piano as well as playing in the upper half of the keyboard. The second half of the piece picks up the tempo with a repeated rolling chord pattern in the left hand and a dancing right hand that showcases Fiona’s mastery of her instrument. Part 3 is “Mist Before Dawn,” something I am quite familiar with here on the Oregon Coast! Again, very impressionistic and without hard edges, Fiona makes great use of the dampers and the low bass of the piano. “Through Cloud” suggests the effortless peace of floating slowly on a cloud, totally relaxed and worry-free. “Feeling Sunshine” is one of the older pieces, but sounds quite different as a piano solo. Energetic and joyful, it’s a nice contrast to some of the less-structured pieces. “The Void” is also classic Fiona Joy and has appeared on a couple of earlier albums. As a solo, the emotional impact of the piece is very tangible and direct - a lovely close to an excellent album.
If you like graceful, peaceful and emotionally-rich solo piano, be sure to check out Into the Mist! It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Highly recommended!
July 8, 2017
(as Fiona Joy Hawkins)