What the Winter Said
2013 / Overland Mountain Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
What the Winter Said is the third truly exceptional release from pianist/composer Kathryn Kaye, following her chart-topping Dreaming Still (2011) and Heavy as a Feather (2012). Will Ackerman again worked his magic as producer at his Imaginary Road Studios, and the line-up of stellar supporting musicians includes Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Ackerman (guitar), Gus Sebring (French horn), and Jill Haley (English horn). Three of the compositions are solo piano, and the other twelve are ensemble creations. Ten of the pieces are original, four are old and seldom-heard Christmas carols, and one is a lovely cover of an Ackerman composition. Both of Kaye’s previous releases became “Picks” on my site and were included as Favorites for both years. What the Winter Said is also a “Pick” and will likely be on the 2013 Favorites list as well. This album is beyond beautiful, performed in a graceful and understated way. Even though the theme is winter, it is not music relegated to the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s only.
The album begins with “A Rose in Winter,” a sweet and gentle piano solo that suggests a peaceful landscape and the silent majesty of falling snow. I love “Brightest and Best,” a beautiful Christmas song I hadn’t heard before. Bisharat’s extraordinary musicianship floats on a cloud one minute and soars to the stars another - he chokes me up every time! “Midwinter Lullaby” is an elegant yet earthy trio for piano, cello, and English horn. “Sky Full of Stars” is another favorite. Anyone who has gazed into a dark night sky away from city lights will be enraptured by Kaye’s pianistic expression of twinkling stars. Violin, cello, and bass create musical magic as they paint vivid sonic images of a brilliant night sky. The soothing yet melancholy “A Slow Walk into Dusk” is a poignant trio for piano, cello, and French horn. Changing the mood to celebratory, “The Arrival” conveys excitement and anticipation. The ancient “Carol of the Birds” is arranged as a dark and haunting duet for piano and cello - also a favorite. The title track is a incredible piano solo that swirls and sparkles yet remains soft-spoken and subtle - effortless piano wizardry! “The Huron Carol” is Canada’s oldest Christmas carol (written around 1642), and Kaye’s piano/French horn duet makes me wonder why this is a fairly unusual instrumental pairing. Somber and very stirring, it’s another favorite. Will Ackerman’s “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter,” arranged for piano and French horn, is a soft and gentle love song expressed with grace and subtlety. “Frost” is a sparkling piano solo that is more free-form than melodic, gracefully expressing a cold, still, beauty - superb! “Cumberland Mountain Hymn” brings this wonderful album to a close with an original folk-hymn for piano, accompanied by Tom Eaton on accordion and autoharp.
What the Winter Said is Kathryn Kaye’s third masterpiece (three out of three!). It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
October 8, 2013