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Album Review: Lighter Notes
Luca Sestak
Cover image of the album Lighter Notes by Luca Sestak
Lighter Notes
Luca Sestak
2024 / Luca Sestak
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Lighter Notes is the fourth album from German pianist/composer Luca Sestak, an extraordinary musician known internationally for his classically-influenced jazz stylings and virtuosic performances. The eleven tracks include six original compositions as well as Sestak's arrangements of music by Chopin, CPE Bach, Gulda (2) and the song "The House of the Rising Sun." The music was performed with Sestak's trio, which includes himself on piano, Alexander Broschek on bass and Nicholas Stampf on drums - all incredible musicians in their own right who met as students at The Pop Academy in Mannheim, Germany. It is interesting to note that the entire album was recorded live with no click or backing tracks, giving the music a very fresh, spontaneous sound.

The album takes us on a journey back to Sestak's earliest inspirations while demonstrating his playful, lighter approach to life. Sestak explains it best:

“Throughout the years, my music has been influenced by jazz, funk, pop, blues, hip hop, and electronic beats. With 'Lighter Notes', I wanted to create an album that showcases these influences but is not the 'common' jazz-sounding album one might expect. It's more of a collision between genres and sound worlds."

Lighter Notes begins with "Sarcasmus" and "Toccata," two pieces composed by Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) and arranged by Sestak. I'm not familiar with Gulda's music, but these two tracks clearly indicate that we are listening to a true master of the piano with his lightning-fast fingers and powerful delivery. "Anticipation" is the first of the Sestak originals and expresses a playful, happy-go-lucky spirit as well as dazzling musicianship. I've aways enjoyed playing CPE Bach's "Solfeggietto," but Sestak's arrangement is super high-energy. It has a slower interlude in the middle and then picks up speed before taking off near the end - really a fun track! Sestak plays the first part of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" pretty straight, but then he gives it a swing rhythm and a jazzy attitude - light-hearted piano magic! "Everyone's Busy," another Sestak original, is a real toe-tapper with a funky attitude and a driving rhythm - my favorite track on the album! "When the Wind Turns" goes in a completely different direction as a quiet, gentle ballad. The piano was "prepared" to soften its normally percussive quality, although the music very gradually builds to a powerful climax near the end before returning to the opening theme. "The House of the Rising Sun" has been one of my favorite songs for many years, and Sestak's arrangement is exceptional, expressing feelings of deep emotional pain without the use of lyrics. Stylistically diverse throughout the piece, it's an exciting musical journey! The last three tracks are Sestak originals. "The Final Lap" returns to a bluesy/boogie style and a sense of playful fun. "Blame Game" features Oli Parker on trumpet. Laid-back with an infectious, bluesy groove, just try to sit still while listening to this one - another favorite! "Nocturne" provides an incredibly peaceful close to the album. Keyboard washes add atmosphere while the rhythmic drums keep it moving forward. What a great album!

Lighter Notes is available as a CD and on vinyl as well as to download and/or stream from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming platforms including Soundcloud and Spotify. I give Lighter Notes my highest recommendation!
March 4, 2024
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