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Album Review: Wondering
Stephen Wallack
Cover image of the album Wondering by Stephen Wallack
Stephen Wallack
2022 / Gale Road Records
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Wondering is the fifth full-length album from pianist/composer Stephen Wallack and is a collection of ten original piano solos. Dedicated to his family and "those we have lost too soon," I really like Stephen's words about the music:

"This last year has left us all with a lot of questions. I have found that my search for answers has been a complicated and at times, frustrating one. Music has provided me with a much-needed backdrop on which to reflect on this search and has allowed me to find comfort in a very uncertain world. I hope WONDERING allows my listeners to take time to reflect and discover answers they are searching for."

I have always found my time at the piano to be akin to a long talk with a dear and trusted friend - something of a soul-opening experience - and the music on Wondering has a similar feeling. A wide variety of moods and emotions are expressed in the music, and the one-word titles only suggest what each piece is "about," allowing listeners to freely interpret for themselves.

Stephen Wallack started piano lessons at the age of five, but it was hearing George Winston's December album several years later that really turned him on to music. Essentially both formally-trained and self-taught, Stephen started composing his own music in his teens. Winston's influence can be detected in some of his music, but I wouldn't say Stephen sounds like him - or is even trying to.

Wondering begins with "Beyond." The left hand plays a series of steady repeated notes as the right dances freely around the piano keyboard - a great start! I love the crossovers into the deep bass in this piece and in others! "Castles" is a bit on the mysterious side, telling an intriguing story without words. "Deep" picks up the energy level quite a bit with a rapidly-moving left hand rhythm and a soul-searching right hand melody. "Remember" also has a lively tempo and a spirited melody and is obviously recalling a very happy memory! "Sorry" is a favorite and is one of the more intense and passionate pieces of the ten. It beautifully expresses the various emotions felt when offering a sincere apology. I really like the energy and drama of "Games" with the repeated rhythmic patterns in the left hand and the freer right hand melody that occasionally crosses into the deep bass of the piano. "Royals" is much more light-hearted and joyful, making me wonder if the piece is more about baseball than kings and queens. Very lively with a playful sense of fun, I really like this one, too! Appropriately, the album closes with "Goodbye," a piece that expresses sadness, loss and the finality of a last "goodbye" - no matter what the reason for it is. Personal yet universal, it's an eloquent close.

Wondering is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and many streaming sites including Spotify. Don't miss it!

October 14, 2022
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