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Album Review: Touch the Sky
Mike Strickland
Cover image of the album Touch the Sky by Mike Strickland
Touch the Sky
Mike Strickland
2003 / MSP Records
50 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Touch the Sky is Mike Strickland’s fifth release of all-original music and his second solo piano release of original compositions. Mixing jazz, pop, and classical influences with his incredible playing technique, Strickland’s playing sounds effortless and fluid. With the goal of soothing and uplifting his listeners, Strickland presents a less troubled musical world full of positives without giving us ear-candy. There is plenty of substance as well as style in Strickland’s playing, occasionally bringing to mind Kevin Kern, although Kern rarely records unaccompanied.

The title track opens the CD with a sparkling and energetic piece that never stops moving. It skips and soars, always searching, dancing throughout. This is obviously not an everyday pianist, but someone who has spent a lifetime absorbing life and expressing it in music and with his piano. “I Can Fly” is a bit more abstract, but floats as if on a cloud, feeling gentle breezes and the freedom of flight. “Promise For Romance” is more of a smooth jazz piece, with its 5/4 time signature and spontaneous flow. “Circus Waltz” is a favorite. There is a Russian influence is this minor-key waltz that doesn’t take itself very seriously. Strickland plans to make this piece part of a suite with various characters - should be fun! “Lullaby for the Rain” is another favorite - somewhat darker and more melancholy, it has an elegant, graceful flow - I hope it becomes available in sheet music! “Pretty Money” is a piece Strickland’s daughter named when she was five. Playful and whimsical, this piece could also fit easily into a musical or movie. I also really like “The French Cafe Revisited,” a charming piece that tells a bittersweet story with or without lyrics.

Touch the Sky is my first experience with Mike Strickland’s music, and I eagerly look forward to hearing more and seeing him in concert before long. Strickland’s music is available from gift stores as well as from mikestrickland.com, amazon.com, and cdbaby.com. This is a great album for those who love solo piano in all its glory, with a bit of showmanship, and a lot of heart.
August 1, 2004