I had the pleasure of meeting John Nilsen at a Whisperings Concert last fall in Portland, Oregon. I wasn’t familiar with his music at that point, and really enjoyed his performance. He mentioned that most of his recorded music is piano and ensemble (mostly live musicians!), as is clearly demonstrated in this collection of thirteen pieces from most of his ten previous albums that go back as far as 1989, and two new compositions that happen to be solo piano. For the most part, I would say Nilsen’s style is more smooth jazz than new age, but there is plenty of room for crossing over into either category. Classical and folk traditions can also be heard as influences. In addition to piano, Nilsen plays synthesizers and guitar on most of the tracks. While most of the music is upbeat and optimistic, some of the pieces are more introspective - especially the piano solos and piano with one or two other instruments. The combination of styles really showcases Nilsen’s range, as a “best of” should do. It has also made me want to hear more of his albums, also something a “best of” should do.
“Dakota Rose” opens the CD with a light, sunny piece that exudes warmth and tenderness. Guitars, percussion, oboe, English horn, and bass accompany the piano, enhancing the lovely melody. “Before the Gorge” is one of my favorites. The strummed acoustic guitar adds a rhythmic folk touch to the feeling of wide open spaces and soaring through the air. “Lullaby” is a sweet, gentle duet for piano and guitar. “Promise of Tomorrow” is one of the newer solo piano pieces, and what a beauty it is. The flowing melody is warm and reassuring, and the mood is soothing. “I Wonder As I Wander” is a wonderful piece with swirling synth, cello, percussion, and piano - I really love this one! “Little Sweden” is a breezy little piece brimming over with happiness. The simplicity of the arrangement makes it even more appealing - joy set to music. “Night Garden” is another favorite, with its exotic rhythms and sense of freedom. Eric Tingstad adds his guitar magic to this great piece. “Mexico Azul” is a bittersweet little gem for piano and guitar. At just under two minutes, it’s perfect! “Secret Land” ends the collection on a quiet, peaceful note. Mostly piano, this elegant piece is deeply emotional and yet calming.
Well, I’m hooked! If John Nilsen is a new artist for you, check out the music samples on his website: johnnilsen.com
. CDs are also available from amazon.com. Recommended!