Saturday, August 7, 2010

CD Review -- Dragonfly, by Timothy Crane

It’s a perfect album that captures the listener from the first note and enthralls the listener all the way to the end. Timothy Crane’s Dragonfly is that album.

The pianist’s second CD is a collection of dreamy instrumentals embellished by lush orchestral accompaniments, resulting in one of the best albums, independent or major, in years.

While Timothy Crane is obviously the star of the CD, as his compositions and piano playing are the foundation of the album, that is both the beauty and the strength of the music – his compositional and instrumental skills lay the groundwork for epic and grandiose musical statements that are brought to completed perfection through the complementary and absolutely rich orchestrations arranged by Jason Rowsell and the guitars and drum programming by Rick Henley.

As both primary composer and pianist, Crane foregoes virtuosic showmanship in service of the music, which makes the album accessible to a much broader audience, including those not predisposed to instrumental piano music. Evidence of this can be seen especially in tracks like the set opener “Two x Two,” which while not exactly melodically similar is very sonically reminiscent of one of Enya’s biggest hits. Another example is “Play,” in which dense piano chords, refreshingly simple and laidback rhythm guitar, a rolling bass line, synthesizers, and orchestral accompaniment create an infectious main chorus that is one of the most beautiful musical passages ever committed to CD.

The only jarring moment comes in the middle of “Vasilissa the Beautiful,” the only composition not solely penned by Crane, when the characteristically beautiful track suddenly goes into overdrive with a dual attack by sharp, melodic piano and lead electric guitar that almost sounds like rock opera on the order of Queen. But the brief disorientation is not because of lack of creativity or virtuosity, which this is surely a display of, but only because it is out of character with the rest of the CD.

Still, this is only a minor quibble with an album that is nonetheless a perfect record of musical collaboration at its best, and the uncredited orchestral musicians are as much a part of the CD’s success as Crane, Rowsell, and Henley. The compositions, musicianship, orchestrations, recording, engineering, and production are all so top-notch that the agents, managers, and promoters handling this project should seriously consider submitting it for consideration in the instrumental and new age categories of next year’s Grammy Awards.

--Raj Manoharan

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