I have to say again what an incredible year 2008 has been for piano music. Just when I thought there couldn’t be any more favorites for the year, along comes Ola Gjeilo’s Stone Rose
and blows me away. With the opening bars of the first track, Gjeilo had my full attention, and it never wavered throughout the album. Gjeilo’s music includes a great deal of improvisation, making it spontaneous and fresh, but it is also very melodic and harmonically rich. More classical than pop with jazz influences as well, Geijo’s debut CD is a force to be reckoned with. The Norwegian-born and New York-based Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) started studying jazz, classical piano, and composition at the age of seven. He continued his studies at London’s Royal College of Music and earned his Masters Degree at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School in 2006. While studying classical composition at Juilliard, Gjeilo decided that he wasn’t composing the music he really loved and returned to his beloved piano. The majority of the tracks on Stone Rose
are solo piano, but Gjeilo is joined on several tracks by Tom Barber on horn, and Johannes Martens and David Coucheron on strings. I’ve listened to Stone Rose
about a dozen times now, and love it more each time. I’m going to be hard-pressed to narrow down a 2008 Favorites list, but “Stone Rose
” will definitely be on that list!
is one of those rare albums that has no weak tracks. Some of the fifteen pieces are quiet and meditative while others are more energetic, but all of them are wonderful. “Snow In New York” opens the CD with a burst of enthusiasm and joy that pulls you in immediately. Rhythmic and vibrantly alive, it provides an auspicious beginning! “North Country” takes the pace down to a peaceful calm that shimmers with beauty. “The Line” is one of my favorites and reminds me of Philip Aaberg’s meditations on the wide-open spaces of Montana. Beginning very pensively, it gradually picks up the tempo as it evolves, opening itself up and revealing its lighter side as well. “The Hudson” is a delicate and soulful duet for piano and cello - one of my favorite combinations. “Roxbury Park” is one of the more pop-oriented pieces with a melody strong enough to support lyrics. The light, carefree energy is infectious. The title track is Gjeilo’s favorite track, and was completely improvised. Very calm and introspective, it has an honest and intimate simplicity that speaks volumes. I absolutely love “January,” a bittersweet piece with an incredible flowing quality that just takes me away. “Madison” is a delicate duet for cello and piano that has a gentle swirling motion. “Sienna” is another favorite - this time a heartfelt trio for piano, violin, and cello that is almost fragile in its delicacy. “North Country II” is a reprise of the earlier track that has been expanded to a trio for piano, cello, and horn - incredible! As its title suggests,“Serenity” closes the set with a peaceful sigh. This piece is a duet for piano and horn that floats along on a quiet stream, completely at ease.
If you don’t mind my saying it again, this is one incredible album and I give it my highest recommendation. Stone Rose
is available from olagjeilo.com
, amazon.com, and iTunes. Check it out!!!