The Wisdom of My Shadow
2016 / Vision Quest Enterprises, Inc.
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Wisdom of My Shadow is the fourth album from pianist/composer Lisa Downing and I think it’s her best work to date. There is a fascinating variety of musical styles in the fourteen tracks, but they are unified by the common theme of self-discovery and taking a journey into those parts of ourselves that are mysterious, hidden and powerful. Seven of the tracks are new, original piano solos and there is a bonus track from Downing’s previous album, A Delicate Balance; four pieces are solo piano covers of pieces that have had a special meaning for Downing; and there are two collaborative multi-instrumental pieces with special guest artists Al Jewer and Andy Mitran, and Amethyste and Gunnar Spardel. All of the music is passionate, personal, accessible, and very beautiful. Downing’s exceptional playing technique and expressive touch come from the core of her being - as well as many years of practice! The CD version of this album has a number of “goodies” that include the stories behind each of the pieces, a full-color booklet that tells more about the guest artists, the artist whose painting graces the cover of the album, and more. I have little doubt that The Wisdom of My Shadow will be on my list of Favorites for the year!
The first three tracks on the album comprise a musical fantasy called “The Shadow Trilogy.” The first piece, “Forbidden Dance,” is very dark, passionate, and mysterious. It comes from those things (or people) in our lives that we feel we must have but that are always just out of reach. “Tragic Dream” reflects on how we sometimes let words of discouragement keep us from pursuing our dreams. Also very dark and passionate, there is a strong element of despair and feelings of deep loss in this piece. Part three of the trilogy is “Black Wedding,” one of the scariest piano solos I’ve ever heard. (I recently proofed the sheet music, and it’s a blast to play!!!) Inspired by the children and grandchildren in her life, “Mischief” is much lighter and more playful. I’ve always loved the Tears for Fears classic, “Mad World,” and Downing’s solo piano arrangement is perfect. Even if you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, the emotional impact of this song comes through. Downing’s performance of Dohnanyi’s “Postludium” probably best demonstrates her exceptional playing skills on this album - wow! “Cloudwalker” is a gorgeous collaboration with Al Jewer and Andy Mitran that also appears on their Transmigration album. “Harlem Nocturne” is a jazz classic and was also the theme song for Downing’s father’s radio show in the1960’s. Slow and bluesy, it shows a different side of Downing that I really like. The mournful “One More Day” is about the experience of Downing’s last days with her father - difficult emotions expressed honestly and with grace. “Moonrise” is a collaboration with Amethyste and Gunnar Spardel that features Amethyste’s vocalizations and theremin and Gunnar’s instrumental mixes as well as Downing’s piano - hauntingly beautiful! “The Dragon Within” began as a theme for bedtime stories Downing used to tell her son. As the piece developed, she recognized that the power and energy of the dragon is actually a dynamic power that lives inside of herself as well as all women. Strong, powerful and passionate, it’s an amazing piece.
The Wisdom of My Shadow is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
July 20, 2016