Wesley Allan Johnson
2020 / Wesley Allan Johnson
Review by Kathy Parsons
Old Horizons is a collection of ten original piano solos and ensemble pieces by Wesley Allan Johnson, a pianist, composer, arranger and music teacher currently residing in Birmingham, Alabama. Johnson grew up in Japan surrounded by a variety of cultures and his music reflects those diverse influences. Johnson earned his Masters Degree in Music Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and his PhD in Music Composition at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has taught composing, arranging and music theory at the university level in the US and Malaysia. Along with his recordings, Johnson has created a collection of YouTube music videos under the name of jimlapbap that are vocal arrangements in a variety of musical styles, sometimes juxtaposing pop music, barbershop and classical genres - diverse influences, indeed! All of the music on Old Horizons is instrumental and not easy to classify into a specific genre - I like that!
Old Horizons begins with the title track, a piano solo that weaves together a variety of themes that keep the piece continuously evolving in different directions. Having watched a sampling of Johnson's videos, this makes perfect musical sense. The piece is seamless and a fascinating musical exploration! "A Reed in the Stream" is a calming and graceful duet for piano and clarinet. My impression is that the piano is taking the role of the rippling water of the stream as it meanders along its path, carrying the reed along with it - a favorite and a beautiful interaction between the two instruments. "Evening Reflections," a peaceful duet for piano and cello, could smooth out the rough edges of any day. I always love the contrast in the sounds of the smooth cello and the more percussive piano and this piece is exceptionally nice! "Through the Seven Hills" is one of my favorites of the piano solos and is also full of contrasts - from dark and smooth to bright and crisp, from Baroque to contemporary, and much more. As its title suggests, "Riding the Breeze" is a light and free piano solo with frequent tempo and mood changes, staying on the relaxed, easy-going side for most of the piece (there are a few stronger gusts here and there!). "Sojourn" is very minimal and open, and feels spontaneous and in the moment. "Reunion" is another really interesting combination with piano and koto (I think!), merging two very different cultures and instruments while creating something unique and very beautiful. I really like this one, too! The album closes with a theme and variations piano solo called "Homestretch" that takes a fairly simple melody on a journey through a whole lot of stylistic changes and makes it fun to see and hear where it goes next.
Old Horizons is an intriguing musical adventure and Wesley Allan Johnson is an artist to watch. Check out his videos as well as his music! The album is available on Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music and streaming sites like Spotify.
April 16, 2021