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Solo piano may be the ultimate form of musical expression on the instrument. But a good percentage of the albums in that category seem to beg for a bass and drums, a boost of the rhythmic undercurrent to flesh out the keyboardist's ideas. Going solo, it's melody, rhythm and harmony in two hands, no safety net. The plus side of the solo approach is the freedom it allows the musician to follow his muse and expore his artistry outside the constraints of the ensemble. The question for the player is this: can you handle the freedom?
Pianist/composer Alex Clements handles the freedom admirably on Emily's Song, a set of eight original tunes that were inspired by people (a son, a daughter) and events in his life, plus three well-chosen covers.
Clements' influences seem to come from the gentler, more introspective group of pianists, those with a light touch and a taste for nuance and pretty melodies: Bill Evans, Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett. His playing reveals a tenderness, a romantic and introspective world viewthe type of sound an inattentive listener can take for lightweight stuff. But Emily's Song can't be dismissed in that fashion; there's too much depth and beauty and on-the-sleeve emotion here.
These are sounds that are, start to finish, captivating, and the pianist seems particulary inspired on Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy," a flexible but loving exploration of the classic; while his original "Dinner for Two" has a prickly tone and gathering tension; and he plays Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" with a lush, lilting gorgeousness on this top-notch solo piano outing.
A Song for Ethan; Inspired By...; Emily's Song; Pieces of Dreams; Dinner for Two; I Loves You
Porgy; You Must Believe in Spring; Waltz for Peace.