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Album Review: Dawn
Ola Gjeilo
Cover image of the album Dawn by Ola Gjeilo
Dawn
Ola Gjeilo
2022 / Decca Classics
44 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Dawn is the fourth outstanding solo piano album by Norwegian-born pianist/composer Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) and is the follow-up to his 2020 album Night. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Gjeilo's debut album, Stone Rose, back in 2007, and gave it and his 2012 Piano Improvisations album rave reviews. I also interviewed him back in 2010, but then his focus seemed to go more toward choral and film music. He has since become one of the most-performed choral composers in the world! I jumped at the opportunity to review Dawn, Gjeilo's second solo piano album on the Decca Classics label, and am so glad I did! (I didn't have the opportunity to review Night, but will remedy that situation as soon as I can!) Dawn consists of seventeen original tracks that were composed over the course of a year on the West Coast and inspired by the peaceful light and stillness of dawn. (Night was inspired by the twilight hours at Gjeilo's home in New York City.)

Born and raised in Norway, Ola Gjeilo studied classical music, jazz and composition from childhood. He studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music from 1999–2001, transferred to the Juilliard School in New York in 2001, and studied at the Royal College of Music in London from 2002–2004 where he received his Bachelor's degree in composition. He returned to Juilliard from 2004–06 and earned his Master's degree there, also in composition.

Appropriately enough, Dawn begins with "Daybreak," a very delicate and peaceful expression of the soft colors of the early morning hours as well as the promise of a new day. "New Moon" picks up the tempo a little, but is still very warm and relaxed. "Sun Prelude" becomes a bit livelier, moving forward but never rushing. "Blue" has a free, improvised feeling that flows gently and introspectively. "Homebound" also feels very free and improvised and seems to express bittersweet emotions about returning home. I like all of the tracks on Dawn, but "Clarity" is a favorite. Almost conversational, it seems to come straight from the heart. If you have ever visited Montana, you know why it's called "Big Sky Country." The piece titled "Montana" beautifully describes that vast open space and a sense of wonder. "Orange Sound" picks up the tempo with a rapid broken-chord pattern on the left hand supporting a much simpler but deeply-felt melody. I really like this one, too! Much like "Daybreak," "Dawn Sky" is incredibly peaceful, describing the pastel colors of dawn and the quiet of the early morning hours when much of the world is still asleep. Those pastel tones become much more vibrant and dramatic as the sun rises, and "First Light" expresses that very vividly. "Shine" can mean many things, and the piece that brings the album to a close seems to express hope, tranquility and perhaps a bit of gratitude, too.

Dawn is a truly exceptional album for relaxation and quiet moments, as well as for pure listening bliss. I really hope Ola Gjeilo will continue to release solo piano albums because he is one of the best! Dawn is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and many streaming sites including Spotify. Don't miss it!
December 26, 2022
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