2022 / Tim Neumark
Review by Kathy Parsons
24 Improvs is the ninth solo piano album from pianist/composer Tim Neumark and his second full-length album released this year! The album arose from a goal Tim set for himself to create a 24-track album with a piece in every major and minor key signature (several classical composers have done this, including Chopin and JS Bach). The first five improvs were created and released as singles between late 2019 and mid-2020 (with sheet music). After learning some techniques for finishing his compositions more quickly, Tim was able to complete the other nineteen improvs in twelve weeks. With a few ground rules he set for himself, Tim has created a fascinating and very expressive collection of relatively short pieces (so that they would all fit on one CD!), some with specific titles and some simply named for the key they were created in. The music is varied in mood and approach, yet the album flows very smoothly and cohesively. I found it interesting to note when I was proof-reading the sheet music for this collection that the last improv Tim created was the one in C Major - usually the easiest key to play. It is also the first improv on the album (the pieces numbered and appear in the order of the circle of fifths rather than in the order they were created).
Tim Neumark has dedicated 24 Improvs to the memory of late pianist/composer Michael Jones (1942-2022), a Canadian artist who has had a strong influence on many contemporary pianists and composers with his improvisations and his many solo piano albums as well as his warm and engaging personality.
Anyone familiar with Tim Neumark's music knows that another influence on his work is Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904). I mention this because the cover artwork for the album is a sepia-toned photo of Dvorak with Ferdinand Lachner and Hanus Wihan taken in about 1891. Tim first saw the photo when he visited Prague and was able to license the artwork through akg-images. The original photo is the property of the National Museum - Czech Museum of Music and is on display at the Antonin Dvorak Museum in Prague. Otherwise, the photo doesn't directly have anything to do with the music. It's a great cover, especially knowing the background and Tim's affinity for Dvorak's music!
I know I said I thought Tim's Opus 8 was his best album to date, but I think he's outdone himself with 24 Improvs. The freedom and emotion in the music feels very fresh, honest and spontaneous and the music itself is beautiful and very expressive of a variety of moods and experiences.
24 Improvs will be released on June 24, 2022 and will be available from Tim Neumark's website as well as from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. A spiral-bound sheet music book with all twenty-four improvisations transcribed note for note to the recording is also available (I proof-read the pieces as they were created and really enjoyed the process!). The songbook is also available as a PDF download from Tim's site, as are individual improvs. I highly recommend both the album and the songbook (also reviewed here on MainlyPiano.com).
June 23, 2022