2023 / Michael Borowski
Review by Kathy Parsons
Unlit Moon is the third solo piano album from Philadelphia pianist/composer Michael Borowski, following his 2020 debut, Peace Valley, and his 2022 Whisperings Album of the Year-nominated Gardens of Zion in the Rain. All three albums have been stellar, but Unlit Moon seems especially personal and even more emotional. This quote from my own review of Michael's last album seems just as appropriate to this one :
"The son of a piano teacher, Michael took formal piano lessons from age four to eighteen, and then studied music at Temple University. He composes and plays with the ease of someone who is possibly the most comfortable with a piano keyboard at the ends of his fingertips, communicating his deepest thoughts and emotions through music rather than words. Not everyone can play with that kind of honesty and truth, but it definitely flows through Michael's music."
The music on Unlit Moon was performed and recorded by Michael Borowski and was mixed and mastered by Tom Eaton.
The album begins with "Immortal Love," a wonderfully expressive piece with a variety of moods and themes that flow seamlessly from one to the next. Sometimes more melodic and energetic and sometimes more abstract and ambient, it's a fascinating work from the first note to the last. "Sparkle" has the easy grace of a relaxed walk on the beach or by a lake, and is occasionally punctuated with "sparkling" notes that could be bright flashes of sunlight dancing on the water. "Barber's Adagio" is a solo piano arrangement of Samuel Barber's (1910-1981) best-known piece, originally composed for strings. Considered by some to be one of the saddest pieces of music ever written, Borowski keeps it simple and deeply heartfelt. "Birds" is a vivid expression of the energetic movement of wings (mostly left hand) with the grace and freedom of flight (mostly right hand). "In the Morning Light" beautifully reflects on the quiet peace and pastel colors of dawn as well as the promise and optimism of a new day. "Sunday" is a lovely expression of reverence and grace. "Variations On Beethoven's 7th" begins with the slow, stately theme. The first variation picks up the tempo quite a bit, but it's the second variation that really gets lively - fun! The title track is very dark, mysterious and ambient. I interpret the accented notes in the upper octaves of the piano to be stars flashing in the sky - very atmospheric and evocative! "Is It Well?" takes the melody of the well-known hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul," and pairs it with a slightly discordant left hand that makes the song feel somewhat off - a really interesting arrangement! "First Things First" brings the album to a close with a quiet meditation that soothes the soul with its open spaces between some of the notes as well as its more flowing passages. Very still and very pensive, it's a beautiful close to a great album!
If you are familiar with Michael Borowski's first two albums, Unlit Moon will not disappoint. If you are new to his music, you really need to check this one out! It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Bandcamp, and streaming sites such as Spotify. Very highly recommended!
February 23, 2023