2016 / Matthew Mayer
Review by Kathy Parsons
At a time when the world seems to be turning upside down and so many people are expressing anger and frustration, what a breath of fresh air and sweetness is Art by pianist/composer Matthew Mayer! Subtitled “A Piano Bedtime Album,” Art is Mayer’s tenth release since 1999 and consists of seven original piano solos (odd-numbered tracks) and six solo piano arrangements of lullabies and nursery rhymes (even-numbered tracks) that are sure to soothe and relax the children in us all. The beautiful cover artwork by Lisa Falzon perfectly mirrors the innocence and gentleness of the music, which was recorded and mastered by Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven Recording Studios in Sedona, AZ. It is interesting to note that the title of the album has more than one meaning in this context. In addition to the obvious visual application, Art (Cooper) was Mayer’s piano teacher and the album also honors him. I love Mayer’s quote in the liner notes: “This album represents and is about the artist in us all, the dreams we dream when we lay our heads down at night, the infinite possibilities we can create with our own art and expression to the world.”
Art begins with “Charlie’s Lullaby,” a delicate waltz that resembles a music box when it is played at the upper end of the piano - a charming opening! I’ve heard a lot of piano arrangements of “Frere Jacques,” but none have been as expressive or as graceful as Mayer’s version. The title track flows freely but with a purpose, as art often does. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is one of the livelier tracks, dancing “merrily, merrily merrily” from start to finish and always bringing a smile. “Love” is one of my favorites and is a wonderful “song without words.” The poignant and tender emotions that are expressed warm the heart deeply. What lullaby album would be complete without the Brahms classic? Mayer’s arrangement is played slowly with a gently rolling left hand behind the simple melody. “Bloom” would be the perfect soundtrack to a time-lapse video of a flower opening - simple yet profound. “Sweet Dreams (Dreams V)” is the perfect send-off to Dreamland with its gently-flowing left hand broken chords and elegantly uncluttered melody. Slowed down and performed with an abundance of expression, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is transformed into something new and affecting - another favorite. Picking up the tempo considerably, “Little Feet” has an infectious energy and a compelling minor-key melody that swirl and dance from beginning to end - also a favorite! “All Through the Night” is usually thought of as a Christmas carol, but it fits in on this album beautifully - a lovely arrangement! The closing track, “Good Night,” leaves a lot of open space between notes and phrases - just enough to put a sleepy head over the edge and into peaceful sleep. Sigh…..
Art is the first of Matthew Mayer’s albums I’ve heard in quite a while, and I’m totally charmed! Although the music is accessible enough for children, it is also sophisticated enough that you never feel like you’re listening to a children’s album. Art is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
November 6, 2016