Favorite Icon, Full size
Album Review: First Day Back From Yesterday
Lenny Kaplan
Cover image of the album First Day Back From Yesterday by Lenny Kaplan
First Day Back From Yesterday
Lenny Kaplan
2010 / Lenny Kaplan
47 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
First Day Back From Yesterday is the solo piano debut of WA composer/teacher Lenny Kaplan, and what an enjoyable and varied collection it is! Consisting of six original pieces and four arrangements, the music ranges from smooth ballads to blues to standards, with each piece telling its own story in a unique musical voice. A lifelong musician, Kaplan plays a variety of instruments, studied at San Francisco State and The SF Conservatory of Music, and has had more than twenty years of teaching experience. Kaplan’s music has the ease of someone who is completely comfortable with his piano and allows it to do much of his speaking for him. First Day Back From Yesterday is an exceptional first album and a great introduction to Kaplan’s music.

The title track begins the album. A warm and melodic love song, Kaplan’s wife wrote lyrics for it about living in the “now.” Kaplan’s arrangement of “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” is a very pleasant surprise. Slower and more reverent than you usually hear it, with a lovely improvisation in the middle, this often-heard folk song takes on new meaning and grace. My favorite track is “Reunion (McMaster Family),” which is a musical depiction of an 80th birthday celebration and family reunion for Kaplan’s mother-in-law. In the liner notes, Kaplan says that his wife’s family is “full of larger than life characters,” and the piece is an assortment of musical themes based on various people, emotions, and events of the reunion. It’s fascinating to hear how Kaplan seamlessly binds such diverse themes into a cohesive whole. Great stuff! Alec Wilder’s standard, “Blackberry Winter,” has an elegant melody and Kaplan’s arrangement retains the jazz flavor of the period when the song was composed. “Kitchen Dance” is about “the confusing looking but well orchestrated chaos that precedes a great meal.” The piece is not as chaotic as all that, but the spirit of light-hearted fun makes it a delight. Richard Rodgers’ “My Funny Valentine” is one of my favorite standards (right after Gershwin’s “Summertime”!), and Kaplan’s dreamy arrangement is a beauty! “Nora” is a graceful and loving tribute to a close friend of the family - what an incredible gift! “Walking In the Garden With Hymn” is based on the Scandinavian hymn “The Great Amen” and also contains bits of Pachelbel’s Canon interwoven into several themes - inspiring! “Birthday Tune” was one of Kaplan’s first original pieces, composed for his wife - a warm and gentle closing.

First Day Back From Yesterday is a great choice if you are looking for melodic solo piano based on stories about life. It is available from lennykaplan.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!
March 29, 2010
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums