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Album Review: Impressions and Illusions
Michael McAndrew
Cover image of the album Impressions and Illusions by Michael McAndrew
Impressions and Illusions
Michael McAndrew
2016 / Michael McAndrew
33 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Impressions and Illusions is the debut album by pianist/composer Michael McAndrew. McAndrew is a recent of graduate of Moravian College where he earned his BM degree in Music Composition summa cum laude with Honors in Music. As a composer, he has written music for a variety of instruments as well as orchestra and voice, but his beautiful first recording is solo piano that has strong classical influences along with jazz, new age, and even gospel stylings. The album is described as: “Relaxing, atmospheric, and impressionistic piano music; drawn from the styles of George Winston, Bill Evans, and Vince Guaraldi, among others.” The ten tracks present a fascinating mix that is sometimes flowing, sometimes percussive, sometimes melodic and sometimes more ambient. Most of these pieces can easily slip into the background while working, studying, reading, or just relaxing, but when you listen to them with more focus, there is more than enough musical substance to hold your interest and attention. In fact, this is the sort of album that reveals more about itself the more you listen to it - my kind of music!

Impressions and Illusions begins with “The Crystal Dawn,” a gorgeous and impressionistic piece that explores the colors and peaceful feelings of daybreak. “In Stillness” is a bit more rhythmic, but in a very quiet way - very atmospheric. The first and third sections/movements of “Illumination” are lively with a changing meter that gives it an edge as it moves from the upper end of the piano downward into the bass. The middle section is slower and more graceful, but is actually quite dark. The third section returns to the upper treble of the piano with a percussive touch that suggests flashes of light before it travels down to the bass. The slow and reflective “The Glow Overhead” is somewhat more melodic and more traditionally structured than some of the other pieces - very evocative and a favorite. I love the vividly descriptive “A Mist, And The Rain.” My first thought on hearing it was, “He must have spent some time in Oregon!” I am constantly amazed at how well-suited the piano is for describing the many different kinds of rain, and this piece is another excellent example. “Interference” goes in quite a different direction - upbeat and energetic with a very strong and infectious bass line. As its title implies, “Tranquil Waters” is smooth, quiet and very peaceful with gentle chords suggesting ripples and subtle movement. This piece is so spare, but perfectly conveys the colors and feelings of being by a still body of water. “Stars Above the River” is another favorite (actually, I really like them all!). The piece begins in the upper treble of the piano with a flowing pattern and brilliant, accented notes that I assume represent the stars. The second section comes to the middle/normal playing range on the piano with a flowing left hand and a combination of flowing and accented notes on the right. This paints a wonderful portrait of dark water moving beneath the glow and sparkle of the stars - absolute serenity! The closing track, “And the Mountains Declare,” incorporates phrases from “Go Tell It On the Mountain” into McAndrew’s lively and spirited original composition.

Michael McAndrew is off to an amazing and very promising start with Impressions and Illusions, and I suspect we have a bright new piano star on the horizon! This excellent album is available from michaelmcandrew.net, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
January 13, 2016
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums