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Album Review: Two Sides
Marcus Loeber
Cover image of the album Two Sides by Marcus Loeber
Two Sides
Marcus Loeber
2005 / Billibaberecords
137'33" (2 discs)
Review by Kathy Parsons
Two Sides is an exciting second release from German pianist Marcus Loeber. This two-disc set includes a booklet with liner notes and explanations about where the inspiration for the songs came from in both English and German, and photos. Beautifully designed, this is a great package inside and out. Loeber says that the two discs differ in that Disc 1 is more quiet and pensive while Disc 2 is bigger and more experimental. This is true to a point, but overall, these CDs are both fairly quiet and introspective. The second CD does contain more jazz elements, but the majority of those pieces are still on the peaceful side of the musical spectrum. To make things even better, there are three duets with Peter Kater! Holy smokes! Is this piano heaven or what?!?!

Disc 1 begins with a melancholy piece called “All Things Will End.” This beautiful piece is played simply, but with deep emotion that conveys sadness and pain, but also hope. This is just a preview of what is to come. Next is a sweet little waltz called “Moonshine” that was inspired by a concert Loeber played in the Hamburg planetarium. “For You” is a gentle love song that again is simple but very emotional. “Saturday” is a beautiful, minimalist improvisation that was composed on a rainy evening in the dark with just a candle on the piano, and is as peaceful as it gets. Very open, but also very personal - wow! “Elvin’s Tune” was recorded live as a tribute to the great jazz drummer Elvin Jones. Very sad and quiet, the piece is wonderful, but I wish the concert applause wasn’t included - a very minor criticism. “Thursday” is another improvisation and one of my favorites. Pensive, reflective, and exploratory, this is a real beauty. “Moment 2” is another favorite - gently bittersweet and very graceful. “Conversation in D” is the first of the duets with Peter Kater. The duets were recorded so that the sound from one piano comes from one speaker and the second piano comes from the other. The two artists had never met or played together before, but the duets are seamless and enchanting. Kater is one of the most incredible improvisers on the planet, and also one of the best duet musicians, so these collaborations are amazing.

Disc 2 opens with a sprightly little prelude called “The Hop-a-Long Song” that gives a hint that the second disc will be somewhat lighter than the first. “Butterflies” is the perfect musical description of the lightness and beauty of these creatures. “Arpeggio #1” was written for a film about runners. A theme and variations style makes this piece a bit more formal than some of the others, but it has a lovely flow. “Promenade” has a light-hearted ragtime style that depicts a walk with a young daughter on a sunny afternoon - quite different from the other pieces. “A Spanish Mood” is also different - very classically Spanish, it is easy to hear the possibility of this piece being played on guitar. “Monday” and “Rainy Day” are also favorites. Both are very dark and brooding, and were either recorded on electronic piano or with a lot of reverb, creating an atmospheric effect of openness and space. “All Things Will End” is a duet version of the opening track of Disc 1. The two artists are in such synch that it’s very hard to tell there are two of them playing. “Eruption” is the most experimental piece in the collection. Very discordant and abstract, this is the antidote to the quiet musings of most of the rest of the music. Interesting, and Loeber did tell us Disc 2 was going to be different! “Dear Nathan” is a sweet, flowing lullaby for Peter Kater’s young son. “Clockwork” is another experimental piece, but is much gentler than “Eruption.” I really like this one a lot! “September” closes the collection with a piece that depicts one of the worst days of Loeber’s life when his little daughter suddenly became very ill. This piece was composed and recorded at the end of that day, and Loeber says he’ll never play it again.

So, you can see that the music from this CD is varied in styles, moods, and emotions. It is a tour de force that allows us to get quite well-acquainted with Marcus Loeber and his music. I’m very, very impressed and hope Two Sides will bring Loeber the international recognition that he deserves. The CD is currently available only from marcusloeber.com. Recommended!
January 4, 2006
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Kathy's Favorites: 2005