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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 Michael Debbage
Never an artist that would pigeonhole himself, Spencer Brewer was the master of mixing New Age nuances with a conservative Smooth Jazz foundation or perhaps vice versa depending on your perspective. To some extent his integrity and no compromise approach was also his undoing, as while he was a major player in the musical circles of the late 80’s and early 90’s he never quite made the inner circle; then he just disappeared. Thankfully, Cinematic takes care of that mystery, as Brewer returns with a progressive bang courtesy of this double album that is both an audio and visual delight.

So let’s deal with the visual delight which begins with the Salvador Dali artwork found on the cover. It brings to mind the contemporary artwork of Roger Dean, made popular via his work on rock albums by Yes, Uriah Heep and Asia to name a few. Brewer takes it one step further with an innovative album that unfolds into three parts with the credits labeled like a movie ticket and at the same time encasing the two discs cheekily entitled “Black & White” and “Technicolor.”

While the presentation is very impressive, does the music match its packaging? The answer is an emphatic yes! Cinematic begins with the first disc subtitled “Black & White,” which is essentially Spencer Brewer and his piano presenting the main event in its bare format prior to the “widescreen” production found on the second disc “Technicolor.” The playing is precise and passionate and an utter delight for those of you who are desiring to hear Brewer minus all the sweet embellishments that he has added on his past recordings. Check out the challenging “Say What” without the furbishing. There are also a few tracks not explored on the counterpart disc such as the dark melancholy of “Walls That Move” and the unusual “Into The Mirror.” However, one of the highlights on the solo disc is the slow paced almost ragtime feel of “Blueberry Street” that could have resided very well on "The Sting" soundtrack.

Speaking of movies, the main event, courtesy of the second disc “Technicolor,” opens with “Quintessence” that is inclusive of a gorgeous string arrangement caressed along by the soft and supple performances of Brewer and Paul McCandless on the English horn. Brewer fans may recognize this title that was first heard on his 1991 recording "The Piper’s Rhythm." Along with “Dreamgift” from the "Emerald" recording, they both receive significant “facelifts” here. Meanwhile, fanatics of Brewer may also recognize three other tracks taken from the sorely overlooked "Torches On The Lake" that Brewer released with Paul McCandless back in 1996. Otherwise, there is a plethora of brand new material for your listening pleasure with the effervescent presence of McCandless on ten of the fourteen tracks. His involvement extends to assisting with the arrangements of four of the tracks as well as co-writing the title track. The hues and tones of “Technicolor” are rounded out with a multitude of fine performances, most notably Norton Buffalo’s repeat performances on harmonica and the harp of Jessica Schaeffer on the previously mentioned “Dreamgift.” But ultimately it is about the return of the sorely missed pianist Spencer Brewer whose performances are eloquent and heartfelt.

It has been over fifteen years since Spencer Brewer released his last solo effort "Romantic Interludes" for the then burgeoning recording label Narada. A major player back then, the blockbuster Cinematic, whether in “Black & White” or “Technicolor,” has all the ingredients of returning this musician back to his rightful spotlight. Those of you that missed Brewer first time around and enjoy intelligent, progressive, and stimulating instrumental music then Cinematic is a must.
July 13, 2008
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Michael's Favorites: 2008
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