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Album Review: October
Matthew Labarge
Cover image of the album October by Matthew Labarge
Matthew Labarge
2009 / Cynelic Gast Music
45 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
October is pianist/composer Matthew Labarge’s third CD to date, and I think it’s his best so far. An engineer who occasionally takes time off from his “day job” to study, compose and record, Labarge very successfully combines classical, jazz, and pop elements into his compositions, creating a strong and original voice in the solo piano genre. Labarge engineered and produced the album, perfecting the sound quality to his exacting standards. Imaginary Road’s Corin Nelsen did the mastering, taking it one step closer to piano heaven. The sound quality of the piano is stellar.

The concept for the album is the progression of an October day from first light through sunset or journeying through the month of October. While most of the music is soothing and untroubled, there is drama in Labarge’s music that varies the mood and tells a complete story. I love how some of the music seems structured and composed while other pieces feel freer and more improvised.

October begins with “First Light,” a whisper of a piece that conveys the gentle serenity and pastel colors of dawn. Its rubato flow melts right into “Sunrise,” which has a bit more sparkle and remains freeform. The second movement of “Sunrise” has more passion and energy as the morning picks up its pace. I love the sound of the bass on this piano, and Labarge uses it to full effect. “Wedding Waltz” is a gorgeous love song that is more classical than the first two tracks; we begin to see the broad scope of Labarge’s composing talent! “Leaves Dancing” is joy set to music - energetic and exuberant. “Prelude (Ever After)” takes the tempo back down several notches and creates a feeling of contented reflection. “Song (Kids Playing)” would fit right in with some of Vince Guaraldi’s “Peanuts” music - upbeat, whimsical, and very free. “Prelude (Clouds Roll In)” begins a series of pieces depicting a change in the weather. It segues into “Cold Wind,” one of my favorites. Dark with a Russian flavor, you can almost feel the chill in the air. It seamlessly moves into “Prelude (Flurries),” a short piece that builds momentum, getting bigger and darker and then gently fading into “Over Such Beauty,” another favorite. One of the longer of the thirteen tracks, it begins in a thoughtful mood, and takes on a carefree attitude (I love this theme!), repeating both themes, then leading into “Never So Many Colors.” I really like this one, too. The opening theme is calm and hushed while the second theme is more rhythmic and powerful yet still peaceful; the first theme returns for the closing, ending with a sigh. “The Sun Sets Earlier Now” conveys the warm tranquility of a day well spent - time to relax and unwind. October closes with “Love Song,” a tender expression of romance and deep affection.

October is an intensely personal creation and yet its themes are universal and readily accessible. Colorful and very expressive, this one’s a keeper! It is available from matthewlabarge.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!
September 8, 2009
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