2018 / Heart Dance Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Voyager is Lisa Swerdlow’s second solo piano release following Equus Rising, which was nominated as Best Solo Piano Album of 2017 by One World Music. The concept of the album was inspired by a story on NPR about NASA’s twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Launched in 1977, they were expected to have a useful life of about fifteen years, but are still sending back pictures and images from the outer reaches of our solar system more than forty years later. In Lisa Swerdlow’s own words: “I can picture these small capsules, imbued with the consciousness of the people who created them, sailing through the Universe on their solitary voyages, as a metaphor for each of us on our on unique journey. This recording is my ‘beaming,’ through music, the story of my journey.” The ten original pano solos on the album were recorded, engineered and mastered at Joe Bongiorno’s Piano Haven Recording Studio and played on Joe’s superlative Shigeru Kawai concert grand.
Lisa Swerdlow is a California native who began studying classical music at the age of six. She started writing and performing songs on the piano and guitar at sixteen and went on to study music theory and composition in college. She performed solo and with various groups in the 1970’s and 80’s and then went on an extended hiatus before returning to the piano to produce her debut album in 2017.
Voyager begins with the title track, much of which resides in the upper octaves of the piano - but not all of it. Often spacious and somewhat ethereal, the various themes are dreamy and uncomplicated as they gracefully intertwine to tell their story. “Edge of Tranquility” is much “bigger” and more dramatic, making me think of those nights when I just can’t drop off to sleep - almost, but can’t quite get over the edge. I really love the contrasting themes of this piece - a favorite! “Autumn Speaks to Me” is another study in contrasts with themes that range from very light and peaceful to dark and more turbulent. “Sundays in Paris” is a blissfully lazy Sunday morning set to music - warm, languid and very relaxed. “Gone Too Soon” is a gorgeous and loving remembrance composed for a dear friend. “Winter Solstice” is another favorite. You can almost feel a chill come off of the music as the melody gracefully meanders through a snowy dreamscape - haunting and very beautiful. “I Saw You Dancing with the Stars” is elegant, graceful and seems to overflow with love - a very happy dream! “Yuba River Journey” refers to a river that runs for about 100 miles in the Sierra Nevadas and eastern Sacramento Valley in Northern CA. The quickly rolling left hand seems to represent the constantly flowing current of the river - sometimes leisurely and sometimes powerful and forceful. The right hand is even more varied with passages that sparkle and some that move peacefully - a great tribute to one of the most beautiful rivers in California.
Voyager is a wonderful solo piano album that is varied, masterfully-played and thoroughly enjoyable! It is available from Amazon and iTunes. Recommended!
September 3, 2018