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Album Review: Redwood Aire
Spencer Brewer
Cover image of the album Redwood Aire by Spencer Brewer
Redwood Aire
Spencer Brewer
2001 / Laughing Coyote
Review by Kathy Parsons
Redwood Aire is the second album of piano solos by four artists from Northern California. The pianist/composers are former Narada artist Spencer Brewer (who also produced and engineered the album in his Laughing Coyote Studio), Marilynn Tollefsen, Michael Coughenour, and Tom Ganoung. While the artists’ playing and composing styles are distinct and different from each other, this CD maintains a smooth, calming effect and defies categorization. All four composers are seasoned and very accomplished - this is no light-weight fluff. I loved the album from the first listen, and found that I enjoyed it more and more, hearing something new each time. On the first album, I felt that Brewer’s pieces were far superior to the others’, but this time it’s a really great mix that works exceptionally well.

Spencer Brewer contributed five pieces to this collection. “Last Chance for Eden” is a lovely, introspective piece that clearly demonstrates how far he has evolved since his earlier Narada work. Both harmonically and rhythmically complex, this is a great piece! “Lost Jewels in the Grass” is quite different from Brewer’s other recorded pieces. Beautifully flowing in some passages and more march-like in others, this is a “big”, powerful work that shows a new dimension in Brewer’s composing style - I really like it! “Felini’s Carousel” has been around for awhile, and it is great to hear it in a fresh new incarnation. “Walls That Move” was inspired while working at George Lucas’ Skywalker Studios. The scoring stage has walls that are more than 40’ tall and move, as does the floor and ceiling for tuning. Brewer found the environment to be ideal for creativity, and composed this piece while there. The feeling is of open space and no limits - very free, gentle, and soothing. “Together We Make One” is a bit more structured and song-like - more in the tradition of “Dreamgift” and “Shadow Dancer”.

Michael Coughenour provides some of the more energetic work on the CD. A bit jazzier than the other three artists, his pieces are both complex and inviting. My favorite of his four tracks is “Chain Reaction”. All four pieces sound improvised, but this one seems to evolve as one musical phrase inspires another, hence the title. Marilynn Tollefsen has an elegant style that occasionally reminds me of Liz Story. “Round and Round” swirls in a beautifully flowing piece. “Moon Walk” floats and has a wide-open feeling - very smooth and calm. “River Wind” is my favorite of her four selections. Tom Ganoung’s “Big Blue Dream” opens the CD with an almost Mozartian little tune. His “Return to the Heart” is also in a classical style. “Golden Birthday Waltz” is one of my favorite pieces on this CD. Introspective and bittersweet, this is a very touching piece!

This is an outstanding CD, and should appeal to those who like piano music with a bit more complexity. It would make a wonderful backdrop for other activities, but I think you’ll be drawn, as I was again and again, to stop and really listen and appreciate the music! Redwood Aire is currently available from Spencer Brewer at sbrewer@pacific.net.
January 1, 2001