Key of Sea
2006 / Tickled Ivory Studios
Review by Michael Debbage
There are two schools of theory as to why 2006’s Key of Sea has been overlooked to date. The first theory is that the album was way under promoted and the second theory is that this reviewer was clueless and has only just managed to get on the bandwagon. Even if the latter is the correct selection then we are about to make up for that three year oversight. Simply put, Key of Sea is one of those cross pollinating albums that is not only experimental and intriguing but also exquisite and invigorating. Buried in classical themes and arrangements, Jennifer Thomas also brings beautiful warmth to her music that is countered with melodies that will enrapture your heart.
Clocking in at just less than 52 minutes, Key of Sea has a total of thirteen tracks, five of which are adaptations of other composers though personalized by Jennifer with her own variation of the theme. In fact, the album begins with one such arrangement via her take on MacDowell‘s Piano Concerto No.2 courtesy of her interpretation entitled “A Beautiful Storm”. The song begins slowly as Jennifer continues to work the entire range of her piano, complimented by sweeping orchestrated strings. The song is moody and intense and is a very impressive opener. Equally as remarkable is her interpretation of J.S. Bach “Cello Suite No.1 in G Major” courtesy of “Suite Dreams”. This song also features fellow artist and mother Carolyn Southworth on violin and it is utterly breathtaking. Turn up the volume to fully enjoy this beauty.
But Key of Sea is not just about Jennifer’s interpretations of someone else’s music. Pay close attention to her own compositions and you will quickly note her gift of composing her own material. Skip forward to “Will’s Song” that is both reflective and rambunctious with its delicate piano work countered by her colorful orchestrated string arrangements. Equal to the task are the extraordinary “Old Movie Romance” and “Pure” that focus more on Jennifer’s top draw piano work that is skillful, precise yet fluid and warm. Much like her peer William Joseph, she has the keen sense and ability to present her gift of playing with a sense of warm affection and adventure. This is best heard on the thunderous “The Tempest”, though at times its seductive qualities would suggest renaming it “The Temptress”. Either way the results are sensually sumptuous.
Key of Sea represents Jennifer Thomas’ debut album, yet from the sleeve photography, production to the astonishing musical contents, her freshman offering are more in line with a veteran who has been creating music for years. Thus, her immediate problem will be how to follow up with this stellar debut. Apparently, she has just released a collaborative effort with the equally talented artist Carolyn Southworth entitled The Lullaby Album. Word on the street indicates that her follow up effort is just as breathtaking and fresh as her debut Key of Sea. Needless to say one can only expect many more brilliant musical moments from this relatively newcomer Jennifer Thomas.
June 6, 2006
with Carolyn Southworth
Review by Michael Debbage