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Album Review: La Place Sur la Mer
Jon Mutchler
Cover image of the album La Place Sur la Mer by Jon Mutchler
La Place Sur la Mer
Jon Mutchler
2008 / Too Mutch Music
70 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
La Place Sur la Mer (The Place By the Sea) was conceived as a gift for pianist/ composer Jon Mutchler’s sister as part of her 30th wedding anniversary celebration. The title refers to a “magical” bed and breakfast inn in Port Angeles, WA (www.magicalbeach.com) that his sister and her husband own. The thirteen piano solos include seven original compositions and six covers of pieces that reflect Mutchler’s sister’s life and the spirit of her home. The music conveys a wide variety of moods and musical styles, and Mutchler’s arrangements are definitely out of the ordinary and quite intriguing (as well as very enjoyable!). Mutchler is the pastor of the church that he and his wife founded in 1988, and he has degrees in both classical piano performance and jazz studies, bringing to his music a wide range of influences. His recently-released “Still Prone To Wander” is full of musical surprises, as is this one. It is also much more playful and lighthearted, although there are serious moments. Even the cover artwork is unusual, and shows Mutchler sitting on his sister’s 1883 7’ Bechstein grand piano in the surf with orcas swimming nearby! Mutchler assures me that they didn’t actually put the piano in the water!

The CD opens with the title track, a piece that conveys the warmth and beauty of the place and its owners as well as the freedom and spontaneity it inspires. Mutchler’s arrangement of Seals and Crofts’ classic “Summer Breeze” is both darkly beautiful and comfortable. “Freshwater Bay at Twilight” is a bit more experimental, but is a perfect musical painting of a sunset on the beach, with the light dancing as the calm water keeps the rhythm - gorgeous! “Orca: Black and White” is a fascinating trilogy that begins with Bach’s Prelude in Bb Minor (chosen in part because orcas are more black than white and the key of Bb minor has more black keys than white!); the second movement is “Under the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” and includes sound effects made with occasional low notes and percussive sounds on the piano case itself - the feeling of depth and mystery is eery but wonderful; this segues into “Orcinus Orca,” which combines parts of the prelude with improvisation and gives the feeling of the majesty and power of these graceful animals. This is definitely one of Mutchler’s best compositions! Mutchler’s arrangements of “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Tara’s Theme” are very unexpected - intense rhythm gives both pieces an energy that you don’t generally associate with these poignant classics, but it works. “I Loves You, Porgy” is quietly elegant as well as deeply emotional. “Nadean” is a touching tribute to a beloved piano teacher. Apparently Mutchler’s sister was a real Beatles’ fan, and Mutchler closes the CD with a rousing version of “Here Comes the Sun.” His upbeat tempo and bouncy rhythm imbue this classic tune with unbridled joy and enthusiasm. Love it!

Not only is La Place Sur la Mer a great hour or so of music, but it makes me want to head north and visit the place and meet Mutchler’s much-loved sister! This CD is a lot of fun and contains some terrific piano playing! It is available from jonmutchler.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Recommended!
October 27, 2008