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Album Review: The Naked Piano: Light & Dark
Gary Girouard
Cover image of the album The Naked Piano: Light & Dark by Gary Girouard
The Naked Piano: Light & Dark
Gary Girouard
2012 / Galileo Music Corporation
56 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Light & Dark is the fourth installment in pianist/composer Gary Girouard’s The Naked Piano series. The series was started in 1990 to celebrate the purity of solo piano - no accompaniment and no editing. Girouard explains: “From the start, this project was all about capturing the uniquely beautiful qualities of an acoustic piano - sort of like a 'tribute' album. The decision was made early on to use as little technology as possible and to avoid edits or synthetic effects. The idea was to create a collection of compositions that would highlight the timeless nature of the piano (and life) by writing about such universal themes as love, family and nature. By focusing on emotionally-charged and expressive themes, the intention is to provide you a 'natural escape' from an often-hectic world. The Naked Piano is meant to invigorate your mind, while soothing your soul.”

Light & Dark is especially poignant because it was inspired by Girouard’s wife’s battle with breast cancer. It was also motivated by the challenges of finding light and hope during dark times, so the mood of the music varies widely. Having been there myself, I can attest to what a roller coaster ride of emotions the experience is. Are there three more dreaded words than “you have cancer”? They shake you to the core, but then you have to find your way and give it your best fight. It’s a really wonderful thing that Girouard could empathize, experience, and share this journey so clearly and beautifully via his music. Recorded at Joe Bongiorno’s Piano Haven Studio, the piano sound is impeccable.

Light & Dark begins with “Bright Angels,” a sweet and optimistic piece that has a bittersweet tinge. “Grey-Eyed Morn” is much more introspective - a favorite. “Golden Chariot” feels like a very dark soliloquy - working through difficult and painful emotions at the piano - a very powerful piece and another favorite. “Streaks of Light” is a return to a more hopeful and optimistic outlook - very tender and delicate. I also really like “Aurora’s Bed,” an emotionally-charged piece that ranges from gentle reflection to much stronger feelings that, once they are expressed, fade off to a sigh. “Herald of the Morning” seems to convey quiet acceptance and the hope of a fresh start. “Heal” signals a return to the light and relief that things are getting better. “Love’s Light” is almost celebratory, with bits of Pachelbel’s Canon woven into the melody. “Rising In the East” is amazing. It begins (and ends) peacefully, becoming more intense and turbulent as it develops - another wild emotional ride that rings so true. “Leave the Light On (I’ll Be Home)” brings the album to a close, refreshed, stronger, and ready to move forward.

The Naked Piano: Light & Dark is truly exceptional in every way, and I recommend it very highly. It is available from nakedpiano.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.
November 28, 2012