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Album Review: Spare Keys
Paul L. Fine
Cover image of the album Spare Keys by Paul L. Fine
Spare Keys
Paul L. Fine
2010 / Paul Fine
75 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Spare Keys is Paul L. Fine’s fourth album to date and, like his previous releases, it contains a broad range of musical styles from classical to pop to ragtime. The seventeen instrumental tracks are mostly solo piano this time, and two feature Fine’s children. The liner notes give a brief history of each piece as well as a more personal insight into the personality of the composer/pianist who created the music. I always look forward to new releases from Dr. Fine because his music is different and I love the spirit that comes through his playing. Many of his pieces suggest that he is playing the piano with a big smile on his face. All of the music conveys sincerity and humility.

“Raindrop Reflections” begins the album. Inspired by a gentle autumn rain, the piece is delicate, soothing, and refreshing. “Petit Rondeau” is a charmer composed in a classical style (the era of Mozart and Haydn). “The Fifth Amendment” is a high-spirited piece that contains diverse elements that are fun, mysterious and exotic. “Shadows Numberless” is an epic at over twelve minutes that evolves leisurely and incorporates a variety of themes that dovetail into each other to create a seamless whole. Classical and jazz influences can be heard in this elegant piece. “Dear TICS” is a hoot! One of the ragtime pieces, “TICS” is an acronym for “That Inordinately Chipper Song,” which apparently wasn’t appreciated early one Saturday morning. “Soul and Heart” is a very entertaining adaptation of every young pianist’s favorite song - Hoagy Carmichael’s “Heart and Soul.” It begins “straight” and then speeds up and becomes more improvised - sure to bring a smile! “The Kant Song” was composed during Fine’s college days and has lyrics that summarize Kant’s philosophy in rhymed verse set to ragtime music. I assume that those lyrics are sung with tongue pressed firmly in cheek, but I love the song! “Promise” is a lovely ballad with just a hint of Latin spice. “Ballad of the Unknown Pimble” is about a mythical explosion in an organic chemistry lab. I would again expect the words to be laugh-out-loud funny, but the music is wonderful its own melodramatic way. Fun! I love “B Flat-tery,” a piece improvised in the recording studio. It has an easy flow and a beautiful melody that are both utterly charming. “Macho Points” is another favorite - again in a ragtime style that is playful and carefree. “Beholding Three Eleanors” is based on a piece Fine wrote for his daughter at her birth. On this recording, Eleanor plays the original piano part as well as flute and cello parts that Fine wrote for her recently. A very talented girl! The closing piece, “Storm at C,” was composed and performed by Fine’s son, Ben. I think Dad is going to have some serious competition in the near-future, but I suspect that he couldn’t be prouder about it!

Spare Keys is great fun! It can be found at Amazon (download) and CD Baby. Check it out!
July 12, 2010