2018 / Spring Hill Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Amistad is legendary composer/pianist/keyboardist Michael Hoppe’s thirtieth album and his first since he and his wife moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico three years ago. “Amistad” means “friendship” in Spanish and is the perfect way to express thanks for the warm welcome they received as well as the many friendships that have developed over that period of time. The title also refers to Hoppe’s relationship with the incredibly talented group of artists who brought their magic to the music and made it soar. Guest artists include Pedro Cartas and David Mendoza-Diaz (violin); Dan Nicholas, Billy White and Alfredo Muro (guitar); and Joe Powers (harmonica). Three of the fourteen tracks are solo piano (cue the applause!). The CD includes an eight-page booklet that features fourteen haiku (one for each piece) by Brett Brady and photos taken by Michael and his daughter, Rebecca. The album download includes six bonus tracks by the same group of artists. I have heard only one of these tracks, but I would expect them all to be of the same magnificent quality as the main album’s. All of the music was composed by Michael Hoppe.
Michael Hoppe’s recordings are known for his collaborations with a wide variety of artists and his selection of fascinating themes for his albums, several of which include his grandfather’s stunning photography (E.O. Hoppe) and spoken-word poetry. When we did an interview some years ago, Hoppe told me that he “hates jolly music” and prefers to touch people’s hearts with his compositions. Always breathtakingly beautiful with a deep emotional expression, Hoppe’s music has been among of my favorites for many years, and Amistad is no exception. This album is stellar!
Amistad opens with “Beneath Mexican Stars,” a gentle piano solo that also appears as a bonus track with the addition of marimba. The piece begins with night sounds (crickets, birds, church bells, etc.) that fade as the piano enters. Slow and very peaceful, it’s a gorgeous beginning! On “Dawn,” Hoppe provides a shimmering backdrop of atmospheric keyboard washes behind Pedro Cartas’ haunting violin; this piece was co-composed by Cartas. I absolutely love the poignant and slightly mysterious “The Garden,” a graceful waltz performed by Dan Nicholas (guitar) and Hoppe (keyboards). There are harmonica players and then there is Joe Powers, who has appeared on other Hoppe albums. The harmonica/piano duet of “For What It’s Worth” overflows with emotion and touches the heart. “Song for Toller” is the second piano solo and makes me wish Hoppe did more solo piano music. “Hummingbird Waltz” is my favorite piece on the album. It begins with an all-strings intro that segues into an amazing piano and guitar (White) duet. This is about as close to “jolly music” as Hoppe gets and, despite its bittersweet edge, expresses contentment and serenity. “Sharing Secrets” is the third piano solo and I also give it a two-thumbs up. “Song For Neko” is pure Michael Hoppe tugging at the heartstrings. A duet for piano and violin (Cartas), it’s another favorite. “For What It’s Worth” is a reprise of the earlier piece, this time switching from harmonica to guitar and from piano to keyboard washes, bringing the album to a quiet, peaceful close.
Longtime fans of Michael Hoppe’s music will adore Amistad and for those who are unfamiliar with his music, this is a great place to start! Amistad is guaranteed to be one of my Favorite Albums of 2018 and I give it my highest recommendation. It is available from Amazon and iTunes.
May 12, 2018