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Album Review: Silent Tropical Nights
Maria Russell
Cover image of the album Silent Tropical Nights by Maria Russell
Silent Tropical Nights
Maria Russell
2003 / Maria Russell
37 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Silent Tropical Nights is a sophisticated collection of pop songs and standards arranged for solo piano and performed by classically-trained pianist Maria Russell. A professional pianist since the age of eleven who has worked in the Las Vegas area for the past seventeen years, Maria Russell plays with the easy elegance of one who has performed in night clubs and fine hotels on a regular basis. Unlike many “club” pianists, Russell doesn’t rely on an overload of glissandos and trills to get the point across that she is an accomplished pianist. Her arrangements are clean and heartfelt, and yet complex enough to allow her to demonstrate her impressive playing chops. It is her sincerity and expressive playing that touches the heart. Her song selection is also an interesting mix, ranging from Cole Porter to Antonio Carlos Jobim, Zez Confrey, and John Lennon.

The CD opens with a sultry arrangement of “The Girl From Ipanema” that sets the tropical tone of the album. Rhythmically complex and bittersweet, a sense of longing comes through the beautiful melody. “Tico Tico” is a Latin standard, played with a playful touch and a feeling of carefree fun. The medley of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day/ Begin the Beguine” treats these jazz standards with respect for the period when they were composed and yet brings them up to date. “Strangers In the Night” is almost impossibly romantic and deeply emotional - a gorgeous arrangement! Another intriguing medley is “Imagine/ Yesterday.” “Imagine” focuses on the melody, with a simple accompaniment in the deep bass of the piano, making this John Lennon song really sing. It gently melts into a lovely version of “Yesterday,” arranged in a similar style. I also really like her pairing of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Candle In the Wind,” but my favorite is the closing “Dizzy Fingers” by Zez Confrey, a lively jazz piece from the 1920’s. Other titles include the title track, “Close to You,” and “My Way.”

I really enjoy Silent Tropical Nights, so if you’re in the mood for some familiar pieces played with style and classical finesse, this is a fine choice!
October 10, 2005
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