Michael A. Grant
2023 / Michael A. Grant
Review by Kathy Parsons
Miniatures is a collection of twelve piano solos composed by Michael A. Grant and performed by Jack Mitchell Smith. The back cover of the album introduces Grant as a "Manchester-based woodwind musician. Chemistry graduate. Geek. Likes: Walking. Reading. Cake." and Smith as a "Classically-trained pianist from Macclesfield and self-taught composer." Both covers of the album are done in pencil, complete with ruler lines, which suggests to me that Grant is an artist who doesn't take himself too seriously - refreshing! The music itself is composed in a fascinating variety of styles and moods, and Smith's playing is both confident and expressive. Grant has mentioned that the music was inspired by composers that include Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Satie - an interesting combination to be sure! Some pieces are melodic and flowing, some are a bit more abstract, and some are "bigger" and showier - literally something for everyone!
Michael A. Grant is a freelance musician who performs in a variety of genres that include orchestral music, big band swing, traditional jazz, classical and musical theater. He specializes in woodwinds, but also plays several other instruments. Previous albums include The Attack of the Dancing Demon Lollipop Man From Hell and Mongolian Death Worm: A Puppet Show Musical. I like this guy!
Miniatures begins with the whimsical "Compost Frog," a lively piece that playfully jumps around the piano keyboard, probably with a big grin on its face! "Vision of Triumph" is completely different and vastly more serious. Several themes are woven together to express different aspects of triumph or victory - some solemn and pensive and some that are more celebratory. One of the longer pieces on the album, the themes evolve very smoothly and organically. "Affettuoso" also deftly blends a variety of themes and playing styles including a slow waltz that becomes the piece's main theme with variations. Swelling emotions, a short, somewhat manic fast waltz that slows as it becomes more grandiose, and an almost tearful return to the main theme combine to create a very expressive piece of music! "Cascades" flows up and down the piano keyboard, changing speeds and intensity as it goes and sounding like it's a lot of fun to play! As would be expected, "Lullaby" is much gentler and quieter, but it is also tinged with a melancholy tone that is likely to be even more soothing for restless adults than babies. I really like this one! I really like "Obfuscation," too, with its flowing broken chords and simple but compelling melody. It is a free track from Michael's website if you'd like a sample of his music. "The Longest Night" is also the longest track on the album and is very dark and mysterious. Some of the themes become quite discordant, making them even darker and more unsettling. The music slows and gets quieter in the last couple of minutes, fades out, and then explodes at the very end! "Empty Walls" has an expressively flowing left hand that supports a simple but unpredictable right hand melody that occasionally ventures into the bass of the piano. "Parting Waves" closes the album with a graceful, introspective piece that expresses sadness, loss and regret. I really like this one, too!
Miniatures is an excellent introduction to the music of Michael A. Grant, and I am really looking forward to hearing more! The album is available as a CD or a download from Michael's website and Bandcamp. There are also several videos on YouTube. Check 'em out!
April 5, 2023