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Album Review: By Request
Matthew Cook
Cover image of the album By Request by Matthew Cook
By Request
Matthew Cook
2002 / Arianna Recording
44 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
By Request was originally released in 1997 and was remastered in 2002 for a fuller, richer sound. Matthew Cook in a pianist based in Northern California who plays in some of the area’s finest resorts and restaurants. I’m sure the pieces included in this collection are some of his most-requested pieces in this kind of setting, and Cook does a fine job of being true to the original music while personalizing it with his own interpretations and very expressive playing. This collection of eight tracks is made up mostly of film and stage music that has been especially popular over the years.

The CD opens with “Somewhere In Time” from the film of the same name. The sweet and poignant melody sings all the way through this piece, and Cook keeps it clean and uncluttered without a lot of embellishment. I really like his arrangement of “Misty,” the popular standard by Erroll Garner. Cook adds a few flourishes here and there, but his smooth and elegant playing style really shines. “Memory” from “Cats” is one of the most popular songs ever, and Cook’s take on it is straightforward and touching. “As Time Goes By” is another standard that goes back a lot of years, and was featured in “Casablanca” (“Play it again, Sam”); it’s always nice to hear a new take on this classic. Next comes a series of Broadway hits from the past several years. “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Miserables” is my favorite of this group. The melancholy melody really sings, and the emotions touch the heart. “Phantom Medley” contains extended versions of “All I Ask of You” and “Music of the Night.” At nine minutes, Cook freely explores these two pieces and gives them full expression. “On My Own” returns to “Les Miz” with another deeply poignant ballad. “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” closes the CD with a powerful and moving version of this hit.

Matthew Cook is one of my favorite artists who does mostly “cover” material because he relies on the melodies and emotions of the music to reach the listener rather than a lot of fancy fingerwork meant only to dazzle. If you like trills and glissandos galore, Cook is probably not your man, but if you enjoy hearing these songs “au naturale,” By Request and any of Cook’s other CDs will be a great addition to your collection. This CD is available from www.matthewcook.com, amazon.com, and cdbaby.com. Enjoy!
August 29, 2005
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