A Grand Love Affair
2015 / Gary Clark Productions
Review by Kathy Parsons
I first became acquainted with Gary Clark and his music back in the later 1990’s when I was writing for the print version of Wind and Wire, and although most of the music I review is original compositions, there was always something very infectious and joyful about Clark’s arrangements of pop music, standards, and film and theater music. Clark’s last release was his Christmas album in 2002, so I was very excited to hear that he was back in the studio with a new album. A Grand Love Affair is a collection of twenty-three solo piano arrangements of mostly well-known songs and standards that are sometimes combined into medleys, making the song total closer to thirty! Clark’s playing style is showy and confident, but never at the expense of the melody or the music itself. A Grand Love Affair clearly demonstrates that Clark hasn’t missed a beat in the past thirteen years, picking up right where he left off with a bit more depth and maturity. A few of the pieces appeared on earlier albums, but theses are all newly-recorded on a Steinway concert grand piano.
There are too many songs to comment on all of them, but I’ll mention a few favorites. The opening medley of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” “I Love a Piano,” and “Let Me Entertain You” sets the easy, upbeat tone of the album with nimble fingers and a big smile. The sweetly innocent combination of “Over the Rainbow” and “When You Wish Upon a Star” is wistful and dreamy. “The Girl From Ipanema” was a huge hit in the 1960’s and has become a popular jazz standard. Clark’s arrangement is bright and breezy with a touch of elegance. “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” expresses deep emotion with passion and heartfelt poignance. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” is one of the most-recorded pop songs ever, and Clark’s gentle arrangement makes it fresh and new again. “To Where You Are” is a more contemporary ballad made popular by Josh Groban. In Clark’s hands, the song is just as moving without the words because he really makes the piano sing! I love the song “Sway” (and Clark’s arrangement!), which was originally a mambo instrumental piece from Mexico, made famous in the US by Dean Martin. “Moon River” is another old favorite made new again - dreamy and gently flowing. “Disafinado” is another classic jazz standard from Antonio Carlos Jobim, given an energetic and passionate treatment. The closing track is a deeply emotional version of “America the Beautiful,” played slowly and gracefully - a wonderful end to a great comeback album!
A very big “welcome back” to Gary Clark and here’s hoping this is just the beginning of a new musical era for him! A Grand Love Affair is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
October 25, 2015