Echoes of Childhood
2002 / Pianoscapes
Review by Michael Debbage
Michael Jones has been recording since 1984, but this project represents tradition and experimentation in two very different ways. Musically, it is the high quality minimal piano compositions that we have come to expect from Jones. However, this also represents the inaugural debut on his own label, Pianoscapes. This auspicious move will only benefit jumpstarting the label courtesy of this soon to be classic recording.
Speaking of jumpstarting a label, Michael Jones along with David Lanz previously completed this task about 20 years ago when they were the foundational artists to the then rookie label Narada. And the rest, as they say, is history. While Lanz went out to greater commercial success by compromising his sound, Jones has remained true to his improvisational classical roots that are never overbearing. Despite his stripped down approach, the music of Michael Jones is rarely dull.
Though his collaboration with cello player David Darling on the superb album Amber continues to be his finest moment, Echoes Of Childhood holds true to the style and beauty of Michael Jones and comes close to matching his tour de force. In fact, less the compilations and yet including his collaborations, this would represent Michael's 12th recording. And he can be proud to know that this beauty also comes close to reduplicating the flagship debut album Pianoscapes for Narada over eleven albums ago. The latter has just been re-released in its complete form thus the delay on releasing this endeavor.
Musically, this particular project remains consistent and true but the songs fluctuate from short precise compositions to lengthy exploration of improvisation. The latter is best represented by the elegant "Call To The Dance" that clocks in at close to 17 minutes, though you would never know it. Equally as impressive is the "pillow talk" found on "Dream Of The World" that musically appears to fluctuate from sad dreams to dreams of joy. There is also a reprise of this track in an edited short form.
Differing to the above there are the shorter compositions such as the moody "Echoes Of Childhood" and the fluttering opening track "Song Of The Wood Thrush." But the most impressive track is the very accessible and melodious "Summer's End" that even features some very nominal synthesizer orchestration from producer Lance Anderson. A close second is the Kevin Kern-influenced "New Born Day" that also features some sparse orchestration from Anderson. These songs alone are worth the price of admission and may be a direction that Jones may want to consider.
The elegant, sophisticated and contemporary impressionistic approach of Michael Jones continues to live in his simplistic but graceful music. Echoes Of Childhood extends the rich tradition of classy improvisational "pianoscapes" that has become well known as Michael's Music. The only question that remains is whether the birth of this new label will echo this very fine and solid album that we have come to expect from Michael Jones. I certainly wish him every success.
April 1, 2003
Review by Kathy Parsons