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Album Review: Origins
Matt Johnson
Cover image of the album Origins by Matt Johnson
Origins
Matt Johnson
2000 / Dolce & Nuit Productions
68 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Origins is a collection of sixteen original piano solos and one piano/vocal piece by pianist/composer Matt Johnson. Johnson is a classically-trained pianist who earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Oklahoma Baptist University. He earned his Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies and Composition with a Distinction in Performance from New England Conservatory of Music. A prolific composer and performer as well as a sought-after teacher, Johnson has performed extensively in venues from Boston to Brazil. His music is a neo-romantic blend of contemporary jazz, new age, popular and classical elements. He started piano lessons at the age of six and the cover photo for Origins shows him playing the piano at this young age.

With such a variety of influences, it is no surprise that the music on Origins is varied in mood, styling and tempo. My only criticism is the sound of the digital piano. When the album was recorded, most digital pianos had a metallic harpsichord-like sound and a narrower dynamic range than an acoustic piano, and this one is no exception. The music itself is excellent, the piano sound is less so. Many people can’t hear the difference, but I have a good acoustic grand and listen to piano music, both live and recorded, most of the day every day, so it’s a bit of a “job hazard” in my case. Since the album is free on Matt Johnson’s site, give it a listen there first. The quality of his music is very high.

I can’t comment on all seventeen tracks because this review would get too long, but will tell you about a few favorites. “Reassurance” is a heartfelt and comforting piece that opens the album and lets listeners know right away that this is a pianist/composer who really knows what he’s doing. “Noah’s Theme” is a beautiful tribute to a beloved son and is more jazz-infused than classical with complex chords and rhythms. The lively and spirited “Cannes” has a joyful touch that dances all over the piano keyboard. “Windchimes” is my favorite piece on the album with its light, sparkling flow and sunny expression of peaceful contentment. The title track is by far the longest piece on the album (13+ minutes) and much of the piece features jazzy wordless vocals by a female singer. The piece itself is fascinating, but I’m not crazy about the vocals and find them a bit distracting. “So Good To Me” has a more pop/ smooth jazz ballad styling and a melody that could easily support lyrics (none needed!). The poignant and emotive “Remarkable” is perhaps the most “new age” piece on the album, reminding me a bit of Jim Chappell. I will be revisiting this gorgeous piece with sheet music in hand! “My Thoughts Are With You (Little One)” is a lovely slow ballad for a young child that reflects sadness with a tender touch. The sweet and innocent “Caitlin’s Lullaby” was composed in an easy classical style reminiscent of Mozart and Haydn. “Sambinha” (little samba) is lively and exuberant with a joyful Latin beat. The short and uncomplicated “Simple” brings the album to a gentle, wistful close.

It is always interesting to explore a composer’s early work, and Origins is available as a free download (the full album or single tracks) from www.MattJohnsonMusic.com. Free sheet music is also available there. Origins is also available from Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Apple Music.
March 12, 2019
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