Myths and Fairy Tales
2015 / Glenn Stallcop
Review by Kathy Parsons
Myths and Fairy Tales is a solo piano album freely improvised in a cabin in the woods near Ash Fork, AZ by pianist/composer/double-bassist Glenn Stallcop. The music was recorded over a three-day period in October 2009, but was only recently released (9/1/15). The five pieces are about the “lovely and fanciful Little White Lies we tell our children and ourselves. They fuel our dreams and aspirations, our passions and fantasies. Some become an inspiration; some become an impediment. Many are beautiful; none are real.” The titles are fanciful, reflecting their inspiration, and the music is very free and unstructured, sounding and feeling more classical than jazz.
Glenn Stallcop is an active and versatile composer who has published more than seventy-five compositions. Originally from Seattle, WA, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Washington in 1976 and a Master’s degree in Music from Arizona State University in 1993. The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra has performed nine of his orchestral works and his music is performed by symphonies, festivals, chamber musicians, and youth orchestras around the country. At the keyboard, Stallcop has been active in classical music, jazz, free improvisation and the performance of his own music. After playing classical piano and rock music in his teens, he turned to improv in the 1970’s and has performed almost exclusively in free improvisation, both as a soloist and in groups, ever since. Dreamcatcher, his 1998 CD of solo piano improvisation, was nominated for a Grammy in two categories.
Appropriately enough, Myths and Fairy Tales begins with “Once Upon a Time.” Sometimes dreamy, sometimes darker and full of longing, the harmonies are complex and often dense, but Stallcop’s expressive playing communicates well. “Long, Long Ago” is nostalgic and bittersweet, and quite a bit of it is played in the lower half of the piano. “Happily Ever After,” perhaps the biggest fairy tale of all, is very open, free, and exploratory. It is also the longest of the five pieces at over 11 minutes, giving it plenty of time to evolve and tell its story. “Myth of Self, Myth of Same” is also quite lengthy at 10 1/2 minutes, taking the initial musical idea in several different directions that are sometimes quietly introspective and sometimes more turbulent. The last track is called “Rapunzel Turns Ninety,” a title that initially seems humorous. However, the piece is not lighthearted, but more serious and reflective, perhaps depicting Rapunzel sitting in her tower thinking about her life and how long it has been since someone has come to visit her. Not so funny at all!
If you are looking for some moderately challenging solo piano music, this is a good choice. If it is melodic and soothing that you seek, I suggest listening to some samples first. Myths and Fairy Tales is available as a CD or as a download from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Full-length samples are available on Stallcop’s website.
November 15, 2015