Learning to Fly
2015 / Tatar Associates
Review by Michael Debbage
It was late fall or early winter when choices for best albums of 2015 were already being mentally lined up when Learning To Fly by an artist new to this reviewer arrived in the mail. While Neil Tatar was learning to fly this reviewer was now learning to be adaptable as this solo debut frankly took this listener by surprise. And the more this album was revisited the more inspiring it felt that on second thoughts perhaps a top ten ranking would have been more in line. That note aside the multi instrumentalist is equally comfortable on guitar and piano and has clearly made a strong impression making Learning To Fly the sleeper hit of the year.
This is not Tatar’s first recording outing but it is his solo debut. He has previously recorded with the world renowned cellist David Darling courtesy of the more eccentric Where Did The Time Go back in 2013. Though it was interesting it was somewhat unfocused but the same cannot be said for his solo debut Learning To Fly. With production and performances from Will Ackerman and some of his A Team session players respectively, there was no doubting that his DNA was going to make this an engaging album. But what is the most impressive aspect is that this is more about Tatar than Ackerman and his team.
Of the nine songs five of them feature Tatar on piano and the remaining balance on guitar and what is impressive is that he is equally good on either instrument. It is neither just a piano nor a guitar album but a multi instrumentalist capable of delivering some very memorable songs in either capacity. Add the previously mention A Team session players with Mr. Tatar’s compositions and performance then you have all the ingredients of sleeper hit of the year. While there is no standout songs this is not for a lack of strong material but actually the opposite in that there is neither no filler nor any weak links. Though if pressed into a decision the rhythmic “Missing You” and gentle swagger of “Summer Strut” might completely contradict that statement.
Ackerman and his team are churning out artist after artist album after album and while the results are impressive they can somewhat overwhelm the identity of the artist. Not the case with Mr. Tatar whose musical style sits very comfortable between being unpretentious, understated but yet always engaging. The only question that remains is why did it take so long for Mr. Tatar to deliver this beautiful solo debut? Cannot wait to see what he does next!!!
June 4, 2016