2005 / Real Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Imagination’s Light was partly inspired by pianist/composer Kevin Kern’s childhood experience of sitting in a darkened room lit only by firelight, letting his imagination guide his fingers on the piano keyboard. Kern continues this tradition by dimming the lights in the recording studio and spontaneously creating the solo piano tracks for his recordings. Legally blind from birth, it is fascinating that darkness is such an important part of the creative process for this outstanding composer. That process and an incredibly lyrical Steinway Hamburg concert grand gave birth to a gorgeous, shimmering collection of the gentle and delicate pieces Kern is known and loved for around the world. The warmth and beauty of the piano is accompanied on several tracks by Mike Miller on acoustic guitar and Terry Miller on acoustic and electric bass. Several tracks are solo piano (always my favorites!), and the only weakness in this recording is the canned strings, which sound flat and mechanical paired with the clarity and sparkle of the piano and guitars. That’s a small thing in the context of the whole album, and the strings appear on only a few of the tracks where they are noticeable. Otherwise, this album is stellar!
The CD opens with a beautiful piece called “Remembering the Light,” which is mostly solo piano. The dreamy flow of the piano is contrasted in parts by the crisp but gentle acoustic guitar. The strings on this piece actually add some pastel washes that soften the piano a bit and further enhance the wistfulness of the piece. “Safe In Your Embrace” is more of a duet for guitar and piano, with the two instruments taking turns with the melody. “Pearls of Joy” is one of my favorites. A piano solo, most of the piece is played in the upper registers of the piano and is in a minor mode that tugs at the emotions. Poignant is putting it mildly, and I think this is one of Kern’s best pieces to date. One of the surprises on the album is an incredible interpretation of Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” The guitar has a very big part in this arrangement, with piano and acoustic bass creating the backdrop for Mike Miller’s exquisite finger work. The arrangement is simple, clean, and full of passion. Great job, guys! “Keepers of the Flame” is another wonderful piano solo. The melody is bittersweet and full of yearning. “Musings” again brings the guitar to the forefront, taking turns with the piano with the melody. It’s a gorgeous piece, but the background strings seem to weigh it down - the sensitive interaction of piano and guitar is perfect without the additional accompaniment. “Sweet Dreams, Helena” has a very Asian flavor, indicating that Kern’s overwhelmingly successful concert tours in Asia have had an influence on his music. The CD closes with another piano solo, “And The Light Is Forever,” which I also think is one of Kern’s most beautiful pieces ever. Soulful and reflective, the piece feels intimate and deeply personal as it reaches to the heart.
Imagination’s Light is Kern’s eighth album to date (not counting any compilations), and should delight his many fans worldwide. It is available wherever Real Music is sold - at most online outlets and many retail stores. Recommended.
September 20, 2005
Review by Kathy Parsons