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Mattias Nilsson: Dreams of Belonging

C. Michael Bailey By

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In the 1970s and '80s, Windham Hill and Narada made scores of solo piano records that ranged from near sublime to the maudlin, all under the name of "New Age." I listened to hours of it and had my favorite artists. That said, I cannot say that I ever experienced the soul of that music. It was a satisfying, if empty-calorie ear confection that was pleasant enough, but did fall into my thoughts on criticizing contemporary pop art, which I always thought should be consumed but never considered. There has been a recent resurgence in pleasant solo piano music that expresses a greater gravity and storytelling capability. Recordings by pianist Steven Schoenberg, What's Going On? Solo Piano (Quabbin Records, 2017), Christmas Reimagined (Sonic Veil, 2014), and Live: An Improvisational Journey (Quabbin Records, 2009) are examples of quasi-improvisational recordings with a rare depth and message to be teased out from listening to them.

Enter Swedish pianist Mattias Nilsson who has qualitatively the same creative outlook. On Dreams of Belonging Nilsson spins fine gossamer from his 88 keys over nine songs, eight original and one time honored "standard." Nilsson's playing is sharply defined and pastorally plaintive. In his playing, particularly the title piece and "Spirea" I hear wisps of natural light sonically capturing dust motes floating. The pianist slides in a perfectly crepuscular "Gentle on My Mind" among his lightly tethered melodies. Nilsson does not clutter his playing with unneeded ornament, preferring to capture the melody in a gently raised harmonic architecture. "Folkmelody from Vastmanland" is somber and reflective, proceeding like a slow walk on a fall day in familiar environs when all is almost well. That is how music is supposed to strike you.

Track Listing: Dreams of Belonging; Sodermalm; Hymn to Love; Gentle On My Mind; At Froso Church; Spirea; Day By Day; Folk Melody from Vastmanland; Serenade.

Personnel: Mattias Nilsson: piano

Title: Dreams of Belonging | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MN Records

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