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An exercise in musical somber intellectualism and introspection, Phillip Strange's Quiet does not lend itself to casual listening. The playing is hauntingly beautiful as it unfolds during the performance of a play list of eight of his originals and two standards. Kudos to Strange for including a couple of familiar pieces so as to provide a framework to allow an assessment of pianist skills. It is quickly apparent that these skills are indeed formidable. Having accompanied vocalist Cathy Garcia-Segal on two occasions, this is his second album as a leader. The first, New Truth was recorded in 1991. Although just his second album as a leader, Strange has been an active performer, composer, and music educator for the past twenty five years and at the time of this session, was pursuing a Doctorate in Jazz Performance at the University of Miami.
The influence of Bill Evans on Strange is undeniable. The presence of Keith Jarrett is also felt. But the lyricism, the sensitivity to the melody, the spacing of a minimalist approach. all recall Evans. Throughout the session, Strange explores a number of harmonic ideas staying well within the bounds of reason and thoughtfulness. Listen to his rendition of "Over the Rainbow" as he treats this tune much like a classical sonata written along the lines of Frederick Delius' "Five Piano Pieces", clean and unassuming but magnetic. This tune is one of the brightest on a set that is otherwise serious to the point of being somber. His "Sacred Heart" is almost eerie with it serene opening of Tibetan like chimes, a serenity that is soon shattered by subsequent chords. This is not Delius, but more like Stravinsky. On "Don't Explain", Strange shifts back and forth between the melody and improvisional digressions.
Mr. Strange's playing requires the strict attention of the listener. Luckily this album has much to offer to keep the listener's attention and is recommended - - especially for those who are or want to study piano.
Track Listing: Quiet; My Song of Brazil; Trieste; Let Go; Don't Explain; Say the Right Thing; Over the Rainbow; Still Life; Land and Sea; Sacred Heart