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Album Review: Matters of Balance
Richard Carr
Cover image of the album Matters of Balance by Richard Carr
Matters of Balance
Richard Carr
2016 / Rec'D Music
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Matters of Balance is the seventeenth album from pianist/synthesist/composer/improviser Richard Carr and is the first of his albums to be produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont. Three of the eleven tracks are solo piano and the others feature one or more of the legendary artists who frequently contribute their talents to Ackerman’s productions. I reviewed most of Carr’s solo piano albums from 1998-2005 and he performed a couple of house concerts at my home in CA in 2004, so this new release is something of a reunion. Many of Carr’s earlier recordings were largely free-form improvisations, and while I appreciate the concept, I found that with repeated listens, some of the music meandered a little too much for my taste. So, I have been looking forward to hearing Carr’s music produced in a more controlled (perhaps too strong of a word - “directed” might be better) environment. Overall, I think this is Carr’s best album to date. The only thing holding me back from gushing is that on a few tracks, Carr repeats the same measure or pattern for much too long (to my ears). As a longtime piano teacher, I’m so attuned to carefully listening to the piano that I can’t not pay attention to what it’s doing. When just a few notes or chords are repeated for minutes rather than just a few times, it grabs my attention. Maybe it’s just me, but it bothers me to the point that I have a hard time listening to those tracks more than a couple of times. The rest of the album is excellent.

Matters of Balance begins with “Ascendance,” a gently-flowing duet for piano and flugelhorn (Jeff Oster). The freedom and spontaneity of this piece demonstrate how beautifully Carr plays from the heart. The bittersweet “Awakening Spirit” includes Jill Haley (English horn), Eugene Friesen (cello), and Tom Eaton (bass) in addition to the piano. Graceful and reflective, it provides a soothing massage for the mind. “Looking Inward” is the first piano solo that comes from a place deep within. Melancholy yet passionate, this one is a favorite. Jeff Oster and Charlie Bisharat (violin) help to give “Pure Love” wings. “Song For Sy” features Premik Russell Tubbs on soprano sax - always a wonderful addition! “The Flow” is the piece that really bothers me because the left hand pattern on the piano repeats for the whole piece - more than 5 1/2 minutes. Even Charlie B. can’t save this one for me! “Searching For Balance” begins as a piano solo that could be subtitled “Soul Searching.” Haley and Friesen add a very haunting quality to the piece - my favorite on the album. The second piano solo, “Serenity,” makes great use of either reverb or the piano dampers to give the piece a feeling of open space as well as solitude. I really like this one, too! “Into Balance,” the third piano solo, overflows with intense emotion and passion - my favorite of the solos. The appropriately-titled “Inner Peace” features Carr and Haley and brings the album to a quiet and serene close. Sigh….

It’s great to catch up with Richard Carr after all these years, and I think his new music has mellowed and matured considerably. Matters of Balance is available from RichardCarr.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Check it out!
August 5, 2016
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