2006 / Cascadilla Records (remaster of 1993 release)
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cascadilla is a digitally remastered edition of Seth Kaufman’s 1993 debut album, which was previously available only on cassette. This beautiful album is comprised of some of Kaufman’s early solo piano work, which was inspired by the dramatic gorges of Ithaca in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York. Seth Kaufman has been one of my favorite artists for some time, and it’s always a treat to receive new releases from him. He also recently remastered his second album, “The Blue Light,” and released it on CD. These two reissues were designed to coincide with the release of an album of new work, “Compartments,” which will be available soon. It is always fascinating to go back to an established artist’s early work to see how much he or she has grown artistically, and often there is a dramatic drop-off in the quality of the earlier work which is understandable. With Kaufman, there is no such dramatic difference in the quality of his earlier work. I haven’t heard “Compartments” yet, but Cascadilla stands as a very strong work in its own right. Complex both musically and emotionally, the music is very accessible and enjoyable on many levels. There are also some beautiful old monochromatic photos in the liner notes that picture some of the areas that inspired the music - a lovely package in every respect!
The CD opens with “Cascadilla Glen,” a piece that suggests a tranquil meadow, sparkling water, and the joy of being in the midst of natural beauty. “Nero’s Will” is a favorite. It begins with a very gentle, flowing prelude that becomes a bit more percussive, returning to the original theme, and then alternating between the longer peaceful passages and the shorter, more forceful shifts - very effective! “Dance of the Winds” evokes the feeling of warm breezes rather than gale force winds (which rarely dance!), creating a mood that is both pleasant and lively. “Irises” is another favorite, inspired by one of my favorite flowers. Graceful and elegant, the visual is of stately flowers moving with a gentle breeze. “Journey Into a Pile of Leaves” is lively and full of fun with a touch of childlike innocence. My favorite track is “Night in Seville,” which is once again built around a series of themes that flow seamlessly from one to the next, describing the peace of the night and the liveliness of nightlife in a major city. Several of these themes seem unrelated, but the piece flows flawlessly and sounds like great fun to play. “Memorial” closes the CD with a passionate tribute that speaks volumes.
Cascadilla is a great CD for those who like solo piano with a bit more substance. If Seth Kaufman’s music is new for you, check out the samples on cdbaby.com. CDs may be purchased there and at cdstreet.com. Recommended!
July 10, 2006