Saturday, August 7, 2010

CD Review -- Just This Side of Spring, by Ann Sweeten

Pianist Ann Sweeten’s latest album, Just This Side of Spring, offers a refreshing change of pace from the usual solo piano genre. Rather than show off her chops with an obvious display of thunderous chords and lightning-quick melodic runs, the award-winning Steinway Artist instead chooses to focus on quiet, introspective compositions that are thoughtful and contemplative.

Perhaps this creative direction is due to the recent loss to cancer of her beloved Siberian husky, Nikki – much of whom this album is inspired by, especially the track “Nikki’s Song” – and the pianist’s own recent battle with breast cancer.

The result is a beautiful collection of songs that never grate or overstay their welcome, but flow seamlessly into one another like a calm and steady waterfall. And like such a waterfall, the CD has a therapeutic effect that makes it the perfect soundtrack for personal reflection, recuperation, and regrouping.

Sweeten doesn’t go it completely alone on this outing. The beauty of her soft piano is accentuated on the title track by just a hint of tasteful, subtle acoustic guitar by Windham Hill Records/Private Music founder and New Age legend Will Ackerman, who also co-produced the album. Other tracks also feature light seasonings of violin, viola, cello, flute, synthesizer, and voice.

Just This Side of Spring is highly recommended not just for fans of solo piano music, but for anyone seeking musical comfort and solace.

--Raj Manoharan

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