Seasons of the Heart
2014 / Reneé Michele
Review by Kathy Parsons
Seasons of the Heart is the fifth album from pianist/composer Reneé Michele and her first ensemble recording. Co-produced by Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, and Reneé Michele, the album was recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont. The ensemble players are some of Imaginary Road’s best and include Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Noah Wilding (vocals), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Michael Manring (fretless bass), and Tom Eaton (bass). The ten original tracks express a variety of moods and experiences with heartfelt grace and tenderness. The focus is on the emotional depth of the music rather than a showy playing style, and this is music that can soothe and uplift in much the same was as a lingering hug or a heart-to-heart talk with a kindred soul can. Reneé Michele started playing the piano at the age of six and continued through college as a music major. She later added a degree in Occupational Therapy, which led her to teach piano to children with special needs such as autism. This is an artist who truly understands the power of music, so it comes as no surprise that her original music is of an expressive and healing nature. I have enjoyed all of Reneé’s albums since her 2002 debut, but this is her most mature and evocative music to date.
Seasons of the Heart opens with “Gratitude,” a lovely piano solo that overflows with warmth and tenderness, setting the mood for what’s to come. The title track is mostly a graceful piano solo, with Jill Haley adding English horn embellishments in just the right places. “First Promise” is an elegant duet for piano and violin (Bisharat) and has a simple, sweet melody. The haunting “Eyes of the Soul” is made even more compelling by Eugene Friesen’s soulful cello. My favorite track is “Beside You,” a gentle love song that brings back Haley and Friesen to add their magic to the heartfelt piano. I also really like “Hearts Embrace,” the second of two piano solos, and a passionate, stirring piece. The album closes with “Simple Joy,” an uncomplicated piece with quiet bass accompaniment (Tom Eaton) and a lot of heartfelt emotion. At this point, you should be very relaxed and at peace with the world!
Seasons of the Heart is a very effective album for relaxation, unwinding, and/or beautiful background music. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
January 17, 2015