Johan Bakker’s second collection of original piano solos is an interesting group of improvisations and composed pieces. The Dutch composer is mostly self-taught, but his playing has an earnestness and sincerity that is compelling in its simplicity. The pieces are mostly linear in that there are few chords on either hand, but that simplicity is part of the charm. Most of the pieces have a melancholy feel to them, but none are what I would consider dark or really moody. None are really joyful, either, so the album holds a fairly consistent mood throughout. My biggest criticism of the album is that on a few of the tracks, the piano doesn’t sound like it’s quite in tune and, as a pianist, that bothers me. On his website, Bakker cites comparisons people have made of his playing and composing style with David Lanz, George Winston, and Philip Aaberg. The only similarities I hear with any of those three is that they all play the piano. Lanz is much more pop, Winston is more folk, and Aaberg is one of the best pianists on the planet. Bakker’s pieces are fairly unstructured and seem to flow with a rubato feel and frequently-changing or non-existent time signatures.
“Whisper” sets the mood of the CD with a gentle sense of urgency. “Little Dance” is described in the liner notes as “a small waltz meant to help you doing the daily dish washing faster than usual”, but it has a tragic quality that doesn’t seem conducive to doing dishes. It’s a lovely piece, but sounds like a sad little dance done alone in a room full of long shadows. “Tolerance and Emotion” is possibly the most powerful work on the album - it seems almost conversational, yet is full of passion. “Gentle Melody” and “Breeze” are my favorite pieces on this CD. Both are in minor keys, and have a poignant flow that I really like. They seem to be especially heart-felt, and perhaps a bit more structured than some of the improvisations. “Plain Swing” is a bluesy little surprise. It would have been a shame to have left off “Extra Recording” , as it also has a sweet poignance with a bit of Spanish spice.
is currently available from Johan Bakker’s website at http://members.tripod.lycos.nl/JohBakker/index.html