is pianist/composer Jim Hudak’s fifth album, and his first release of all original material. Co-produced by the founder of Windham Hill Records, Will Ackerman, and backed by an impressive array of musicians that include bassist Michael Manring and violinist Tracy Silverman, this is by far my favorite of Hudak’s recordings to date. In previous reviews of his albums, I suggested that Hudak do a recording of his original music, so this release is a particular delight for me! The musical stylings are varied, with influences from many kinds of music, including new age, jazz, boogie/blues, folk, pop, classical, and even hymns. Hudak’s playing isn’t flashy, but his style comes from the heart with warm sincerity.
The CD opens with “Running Stream,” a piece inspired by hikes on the SF Bay Area’s Mt. Diablo and seeing where streams begin their long run down the mountain. Free, optimistic, and sparkling, this piece features a trio of piano, bass, and percussion - a refreshing start! “Wild Goose” begins with a poignant violin solo. Using the metaphor of a wild goose knowing when to fly and move on, this piece has a beautiful, bittersweet quality. The violin adds gentle washes of color and light percussion in the background enhances the feeling of movement and of looking back. I really like this piece a lot! “Now You Must Choose” is a duet for piano and guitar, with Hudak playing both - how’d he do that??? (Yes, I know!) “You Taught Me” is a gorgeous duet for piano and violin that is poignant and heartfelt. “Out of My Head” features Suzy Thompson on Cajun accordion - a very interesting and lighthearted addition to the piano and bass, and a combination that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. “I’m With You” is a standards-style piano solo - easy-going and elegant. “Bittersweet Passion” is a duet for piano and sax (Mary Fettig), another unusual combination that works well. “Steppes I” is a wonderful piano solo - my favorite track on this album. A little bit darker than the other pieces, it evolves into a bluesy boogie-woogie tribute to Hudak’s father. Great stuff! “Steppes II” is the same tune with a different approach. A bit jazzier and more improvised in style, bass and percussion add some sparkle to the mix - another really great piece! The CD closes with a short piece called “Song of Achievement,” which Jim wrote when he was twelve. It’s always fun to hear how composers started out!
is quite an artistic leap forward for Jim Hudak, and should bring a new audience to his music. It is available from jimhudak.com
, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Recommended.