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Album Review: Patterns
Sean Mahnken
Cover image of the album Patterns by Sean Mahnken
Sean Mahnken
2006 / Sean Mahnken
44 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Patterns is Sean Mahnken’s debut CD of original piano solos. Richly varied in moods and emotions, this CD was fifteen years in the making. An electrical engineer who minored in music at Utah State University, Mahnken began composing at the age of eighteen as an outlet for his emotions. He started piano lessons at the age of eight, but quit after three years. In college, he became frustrated by not being able to play the popular music of the time, so he started making up his own music, finding chords and harmonic patterns that worked for him. Mahnken’s playing style is very natural and expressive, but his piano doesn’t quite keep up with him on some tracks, sounding a bit metallic, as digital pianos do. A few of the tracks have some additional keyboard accompaniment, but most are solo piano. Patterns is a very solid first recording.

The CD opens with “Flight of the Hero,” an energetic, upbeat piece with a catchy rhythm. The beginning is dark, with a basic bass line and a simple melody that crosses over into the deep bass of the piano. From there, the tempo picks up and the mood lightens, creating a feeling of freedom and triumph. The ending returns to the opening theme and concludes peacefully. “Katelyn’s Laugh” is a warm, sweet piece that conveys a feeling of contentment. “Asyle’s Burden” is named for a character in a fantasy novel Mahnken is writing(!!!). Darker and more brooding, it is very effective. “The Quickening of the Falcon: A Tempest Reborn” is a passionate multi-movement work that Mahnken considers his most-difficult to play. Turbulent and powerful, he’s all over the piano on this track. “Patterns” is one of my favorites, reminding me a bit of Suzanne Ciani. Its graceful flow is punctuated here and there in the deep bass, adding an element of surprise. “Alyse” is another favorite. Pensive and deeply emotional, it’s the perfect accompaniment to watching it rain. Followed by “Rain,” the mood is sustained. Sounds of rain and thunder accompany the music, which begins with Mahnken’s pianistic interpretation of the sound of thunder (sounds good!). Lively and dancing, I really like this one, too. “Nightshroud” goes even darker and more ominous. One of the longer tracks (five minutes), the piece has time to explore and develop several themes. “Joye” brings us back to the sunshine and feeling of gentle contentment. A bit wistful and dreamy, yet substantial, this is a lovely piece. The closing track, “Sunrise On Frozen Meadow” is a bit more abstract and paints a lovely scene of light dancing and sparkling on an icy meadow.

Patterns is a very impressive debut from Sean Mahnken, showcasing a variety of playing and composing styles as well as a wide emotional range. Perhaps an acoustic piano for the next CD? Patterns is available from seanmahnken.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Very enjoyable!
February 26, 2007
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums