Chords on the Table
Paul L. Fine
2015 / Paul L. Fine
Review by Kathy Parsons
Chords on the Table is the eighth album of Paul L. Fine’s original piano compositions and songs - and I have loved and reviewed all eight of them! Fine always includes a variety of styles from blues and boogie to rock to more classical, new age, and jazz, but what makes his music stand out for me is the amount of love and personality that goes into each piece. Often composed for family members, close friends and colleagues, and various life events, Fine’s music provides something of a journal of recent happenings in his life, told from a perspective of caring and often with a touch of good humor. An Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the Michigan Medical School, Fine is also an outstanding pianist/composer who obviously gets great joy from creating and sharing his music. This album is a bit different from his previous releases in that there is more emphasis on improvisation in the recording studio. Several of the tracks are 8-10 minutes long, allowing themes to develop organically and without being rushed, and making the album’s thirteen tracks total a generous 78 minutes.
Chords on the Table begins with “Shadows of the Past,” described in the liner notes as “intended to evoke the haziness of memory and the elusive nature of recollection. Or perhaps my lifelong love for mint chocolate chip ice cream. Your choice.” See what I mean? The piece itself is dreamy and a little bit dark, graceful, and elegant. Love it! “School Spirit” is an upbeat, mostly improvised piece dedicated to the many teachers in Fine’s family. The walking bass-line is infectious and full of fun while the melody playfully dances around the piano keyboard. “Letters from an Antique Land, Vol. 1-3” is a three-part improvisation recorded on the studio piano with the lights dimmed. The whole improvisation was “deliberately simple and unstructured, languid and peaceful,” and Fine then divided it into three “Volumes.” All three are soothing and relaxing with just a touch of mystery, and each runs about 8 1/2 - 9 minutes, creating a sustained mood of quiet calm. “The Campbells Ride Again” was written in the style of Scottish folk music to honor a sister-in-law and I defy anyone to listen to it without tapping a foot or getting up to dance! The two vocal (and piano) songs come at the end of the album. “Jessie’s Song” was written for a niece who is now teaching at Fine’s former high school. Overflowing with encouragement and pride, it’s quite a tip-of-the-hat! “Lemon Zest” was written to commemorate the graduation of a nephew who must be quite a character - and fun to be around. What a terrific gift from a proud uncle!
I think it’s impossible to come away from Chords on the Table without a smile and, really, what better compliment could there be? Paul L. Fine has created his own niche and does what he does so well. The album is available from CD Baby.
Very highly recommended!
August 22, 2015
(as Paul L. Fine, Errick Thomas, and Daniel Cronin)