Solo piano albums have the special place in the cannon of improvised music as a mode of presentation and holds an honored place in jazz; the history could even be traced to music predating the origins of the genre. In mechanical terms, it has not changed, one musical artist sitting at the piano for well over a century, what has evolved is the way that artists keep renewing the application of the format and material presented. On a jazz history note, many site Scott Joplin
's publishing of "Maple Leaf Rag" and the songs wide appeal and popularity as a foundation point of the genre. Improvisation within the style became more of a priority as the stride style evolved, which featured a steady left-hand that provided a self-accompaniment for the right hand to solo upon. Some of the early stride heroes are: James P. Johnson
, Willie "The Lion" Smith
and Fats Waller
. Progressing we have, Teddy Wilson
and Earl Hines
, of which pianist Lennie Tristano
said, "Earl Hines is the only one of us capable of creating real jazz and real swing when playing all alone." Of course, then there was Art Tatum
, a solo pianist of such spectacular authority, reflexes, imagination that many would argue he has yet to be surpassed.
Probably the most widely known solo pianist of today is Keith Jarrett
, with his diverse and prolific output that has established him as a legendary solo improviser, breaking all the rules about what kind of music was commercially "viable," and keeps the art form alive and evolving. However, many lesser known artists are experimenting with the dual objective of a solitary jazz pianist, with the goal to entertainment and enlightenment. Peter Saltzman
has compiled a project entitled Blue, Preludes & Feuds
that explores the relationship between music and story. Any pianist approaching the task today must begin by deciding where to come down on the issue, since precursors lurk at every point along the spectrum. The most compelling solo jazz piano music has a way of blurring the lines of styles, displaying technical astonishments and conjuring emotional reactions, all while delivering the intangible, more mysterious rewards, of a solo performance. All the before mentioned qualities are found in Saltzman's music.
Saltzman's career in the music industry as a composer, pianist, singer-songwriter, and entrepreneur started as a budding teenage jazz musician in Chicago. He studied jazz at the Bloom School of Jazz (Chicago, IL), majored in jazz at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), and majored in composition and piano at Eastman School of Music (Rochester NY). Later, he studied film scoring at UCLA-Extension (Los Angeles, CA). In 2016, Saltzman developed a hybrid platforman album-ebookto showcase his latest musical endeavor with his memoirs. Blues, Preludes & Feuds
is a blend of original solo piano music and a story with deep technology-art interactions. There are twenty-eight tracks for your enjoyment that run from soloing over well-known classical themes, "Bach Prelude #1 (remix)" explores the juxtapositions of introspective rest to unrest rumblings (as the turbulent 60's) of "Amazing Grace."
"Overt? Sure!" is an excellent track with its' stride inspired left hand sections contrasted by Saltzman's big rolling arpeggiated figures in both hands. "Or Not Blues" finds Saltzman exploring the possibilities of a repetitive left hand figure that leads to many surprising variations and harmonic/melodic relationships, all presented with heart and soul. "Ostinato Asymmetrique" is a fun example of the many sounds Saltzman can get out of the piano which leads into the frantic, but satisfying, "The Veiled Theme." The bluesy simplicity of "Lullaby" is a nice selection that gives the project a breath and shows Saltzman's a master of program pacing and diversity. "Fantasy on Bach Fugue #2" exhibits Saltzman's command of keeping multiple melodic parts moving forward through many variations and theme's (the melody to "All the Things You Are" for example was weaved into the tapestry). A fitting selection to today's multi-culturalism is "Star Spangled Minor," another musical exploration of multiple themes and the possibilities that can be achieved when everyone works and plays together. Blues, Preludes & Feuds
is a brilliant amalgamation of classical, folk, stride, bebop, gospel, boogie-woogie, free jazz, offering beautiful melodies and just plain genius flowing from one man sitting at the piano. The project is intriguing and a gem in the solo piano linage. There is a lot of rhythm and soul here, and the chance to journey along with an everyday man's life's journey with the e-book, is an added highlight of human experience, one that offers the listener the chance to look, hear and read about another fellow human and their point of view and passions on many levels.