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Album Review: Cinematic
Spencer Brewer
Cover image of the album Cinematic by Spencer Brewer
Spencer Brewer
2008 / Willow Rose & Laughing Coyote Productions
Disc 1: Black & White 51:09
Disc 2: Technicolor 58:57
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cinematic is the long-awaited and much-anticipated two-CD release from pianist/composer Spencer Brewer, his first release in sixteen years - and it was well worth the wait! Brewer was a chart-topping artist on the Narada label for more than a decade, also earning a reputation as an incredible stage performer, and then he sort of disappeared from the public eye in the later-’90s. Since then, he established Laughing Coyote, a state-of-the-art recording studio nestled among the Northern California redwoods, working behind the scenes with other artists and continuing his work as a mover and shaker in the Northern CA music community. He has also continued to compose new music and arrange older favorites for solo piano and a variety of other instruments.

Which brings us to Cinematic, a masterpiece twelve years in the making. The set consists of “Black and White,” an eclectic collection of thirteen original pieces, some new and some older, recorded in all their glory for solo piano; the second disc, “Technicolor,” contains fourteen orchestrated pieces, ten that are also on the solo disc, performed by artists such as Paul McCandless, Jeremy and Joel Cohen, Alex de Grassi, Norton Buffalo, Matt Eakle, and many others. The piano appears prominently in most of the music, and there isn’t a weak track anywhere. The quality of the production is superb from the Salvador Dali cover artwork to the overall sound of the recording. I’ll go as far as saying that this is one of my favorite CDs EVER. I have been a huge fan of Spencer Brewer and his music for about twenty years, and am just delighted that he is back on the scene with such a great album! Brewer is always in his element playing live, injecting a ton of fun into his more upbeat jazz stylings and heart-melting emotion into his more serene work. Cinematic captures that spirit like none of his previous recordings have - this is truly Spencer Brewer at his best! Both discs alternate the upbeat with the quieter pieces, creating a varied and exciting listening experience.

I have always wished Brewer had a solo piano album , and “Black and White” is IT. Containing a mind-boggling assortment of musical styles, from the hauntingly beautiful melodies he is known for from his Narada days to the funky jazz and blues he delights audiences with in concert to elegant neo-classical works, this is a true portrait of Brewer the pianist/composer. Titles include Brewer classics such as “Quintessence,” “Fellini’s Carousel,” “Caravanserai,” and “Satie’s Forgotten Dream” as well as newer gems like “Say What?,” “Lupin Swing,” and the sweet and slinky “Blueberry Street.” All of the tracks are newly-recorded and sound as fresh as ever. A delight!

The “Technicolor” disc is equally spellbinding. From the richly-orchestrated “Quintessence” to “Dreamgift” for solo harp, this is again a complete portrait of the artist and his myriad styles of composing and playing. “Morning Glory” is lighthearted and whimsical, “Blueberry Street” is playful and bluesy, “Ode For Patricia” is heartbreakingly sad, and “Say What?” is funky fun. But wait, there’s more! “Outer Limits” is smooth jazz, Cinematic is ambient and floating, and “Lupin Swing” is big-band style jazz. Most of the other tracks are the smooth, melodic beauties many fans of Brewer’s recordings expect, and they will not be disappointed.

It is extremely rare to find a collection of twenty-seven pieces without a weak one in the bunch, but this is one of those exceptions. If you are new to Spencer Brewer’s music, this is the album to start with. If you are a longtime fan, you’ll be thrilled with these new recordings and fresh arrangements of old as well as new favorites. This is NOT a compilation of older recordings assembled under a new title. All of the music has been newly recorded for this collection. This could be the release of the year, so check it out!
July 14, 2008
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