1996 / Cascadilla Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Circling Noon is an extraordinary collection of original piano solos composed “during a time of transition. Lost among new streets and faces, unusual places, searching for routines and rhythms, I wander around and around an impossible, clear, mystical noon” (quoted from the liner notes). This sense of searching and adjusting, and of finding ones way fills the music with a melancholy and yet hopeful mood. The music was composed in New Orleans, a city of mysteries and unique stories. I could visualize some of the places I visited recently while listening to the music, making it very enjoyable on several levels. From soft and delicate to very percussive, Kaufman presents an amazing range of pianistic touches that make his playing vivid and colorful. He also has a real knack for piecing together a variety of themes to create a rich musical quilt. Some of the music is experimental with jazz and classical influences, and Seth Kaufman’s musical voice is unique.
The title track opens the CD with a swirling rhythm and a mysterious feeling. Lively in tempo, this is still a rather dark piece with several themes woven throughout. “Half-Deserted Streets” is a somber, but very beautiful piece with several different themes that come together to become a moving and impressive whole. “Identity” comes so close to the closing chord of “Streets” that it almost becomes a second movement - and this works very well, as the pieces complement each other effectively. “Synchrony” is a bit more upbeat with shifting rhythms and a jovial mood. “Slow Motion” is my favorite Seth Kaufman piece (so far). Quite a bit of the piece is played with some of the piano strings muted with his hand, making it sound like a duet with piano and an unidentifiable string instrument that is being plucked - an incredible effect! The parts with the muted strings are fast and urgent, but the piano part is haunting and dark. This piece alone is worth the price of the CD, but the whole recording is excellent with a wide variety of styles and moods. “The Wine Room” was inspired by an evening at Emeril’s Restaurant, and is the happiest piece on the album - obviously a very festive occasion! A bonus track at the end is a reprise of the title song, bringing the CD “full Circle.”
I am very excited about discovering Seth Kaufman’s music, and am looking forward to hearing more of it. It is available from cdstreet.com, and by special order at Tower Records. Very highly recommended!
July 12, 2003