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Album Review: Sound Bites
Paul L. Fine
Cover image of the album Sound Bites by Paul L. Fine
Sound Bites
Paul L. Fine
2016 / Paul L. Fine
79 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Sound Bites is the ninth release from pianist/composer Paul L. Fine, who is also an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. I have reviewed all of Dr. Fine’s albums since his 2006 debut, Fine Tuning, and have loved them all for their originality, versatility, and the sense of fun of making music. Sound Bites is a bit more serious than Fine’s previous albums and has none of his playful vocals, but it is every bit as original and enjoyable. Fine often includes music he wrote when he was in college, but all of the pieces on this album have been composed within the past ten years. There are a couple of new arrangements of songs that appeared on earlier albums and several pieces were composed for piano with violin (Priscilla Johnson) and/or cello (Stefan Koch). As always, Fine has provided liner notes that explain the origins of each piece. He intentionally includes music in a variety of styles and genres hoping that there will be enjoyable pieces for everyone. This also makes his music very difficult to categorize, which I think is always a very good thing!

Sound Bites begins with “The Depths of the Purple Sea,” a piano solo inspired by the poem, “The Cloud” by Percy Shelley. Very relaxed and flowing, this lovely piece runs for close to nine minutes, providing ample time to let down and get lost in the music - definitely a favorite! “Legacy Trio” is a new arrangement of a piece Fine wrote on the day a friend and colleague passed away. Violin and cello add to the poignant emotions expressed in the music. “Nostalgia” conveys the bittersweet feelings that can occur while reflecting on the past. I love the bluesy nature of some of the passages! “The Kinetic Aesthetic” is a study in contrasts. Sometimes very dark and stately and sometimes much lighter, this is a fun piece. “Shadows of the Past, for Violin and Piano” is a new arrangement of a piano solo that appeared on last year’s Chords On the Table. In the liner notes for that album, Fine described the piece 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.” At almost ten minutes, the piece unfolds gently and freely. Something I have in common with Paul Fine is a love of ragtime piano, and sections of “The Double Helix” were composed in a ragtime style that contrast with alternating sections that are smoother and more elegant - another favorite. “Adventuras de la Vida” is built on Latin rhythms and changing moods - quite different from the other tracks, but it fits right in. “Short Stories, A-M” and “C Shanties” are groups of shorter, harmonically-related piano improvisations that are simpler and less-structured. The short pieces do not segue from one to the next, but have brief pauses in between, allowing each to stand as an individual musical gem. I love cello and piano duets, and Fine’s new arrangement of “Raindrop Reflections, for Cello and Piano” gives a fresh take on a piece inspired by a gentle rainfall in autumn, expressing the melancholy mood those days can inspire.

Sound Bites reveals a somewhat different side of Paul L. Fine’s musicality and is a delight from start to finish. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!
October 2, 2016
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