Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Light, Lands and Shoreline

Wayne Gratz

Wayne Gratz Music

  2007

www.waynegratz.com

 

 

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Wayne Gratz has been one of my favourite pianists over the years, so it was with great excitement that I inserted his latest offering, the curiously titled "Light, Lands and Shorelines" into my CD player. What followed was an hour of bliss, and I quickly remembered why I admired this musician so much. It's the composer's fourth outing on his own label, Wayne Gratz Music, having been a stalwart of the now defunct Narada label for many years, where he released eleven albums.

Wayne's new work was specially commissioned to provide the accompanying soundtrack for the paintings of Thomas Kinkade, "Painter of Light”. Kinkade is apparently America's most collected living artist, and a visit to his site shows that he is indeed a very talented painter. It is little wonder then, that these two masters of their trade should end up working together, and the end result is a match made in heaven.

For months, Wayne's web-site has been teasing me with the tantalising "The Windows Glow" which has played upon entry to the site. I kept wondering when it would become available, and now finally the wait is over. It has an instantly appealing melody. On every Wayne Gratz CD, there is always one stand-out track- an absolute belter- and this is it. It has a fairly slow tempo, is utterly gorgeous and is a winner through and through. It reminds me a little of Traveller from the album Soul to Soul, which I also loved. I think the slow-tempo tracks are what Wayne does best. They're the hardest to do, but Wayne manages it effortlessly.

The CD continues with "Native American Winter". To me, this is Wayne's trademark sound. Highly melodic, easy to listen to, and very satisfying in equal measure. It should be noted that each of the pieces presumably relates to a particular work of Art by Kinkade. A visit to the site where the accompanying art-work is displayed (here) provides lots of gorgeous paintings but no clues as to their titles or which piece of music relates to which painting- other than the subject matter of the pictures. Nevertheless, this music works at every level, and the pieces stand perfectly well on their own. (Wayne Gratz is pictured, right.)

When I first heard the opening of Track 3, I thought of water, so it was little surprise to learn its title was "Waters Flowing Softly". Most of Kinkade's paintings feature water in one form or another, and this could be any one of the many stunning paintings at the site. Another appealing melody, another classic track.

"Cottage by the Sea" is such a specific title, that it is quite possible to make a reasoned guess as to the identity of the accompanying artwork. This must be an idyllic place to live- the mood is one of relaxed beauty. With some rather delicate piano playing, the waters are clearly calm in this heavenly retreat.

One of my favourite tracks is the album's fifth song, "At the Water's Edge". Its style reminds me a little of Michael Gettel on his San Juan Suite CD. This is a rolling piece, I imagine capturing the gentle waves lapping against the shoreline, with the occasional (but never threatening) bigger wave. This is a shoreline to visit for a perfect evening stroll.

"Gardens" is Track 6, and the use of gentle synths give this an ethereal feel. This could be the Garden of Eden. I am sure water is present in this garden as well. The piano playing is every bit as lovely as in previous pieces, and the composition ends with some Michael Jones style delicate brushing of the keys.

Track 7 maintains the impeccably high standard of this CD with "Houses by the Water". Again, with a fairly specific title like that, it is rather good fun trying to identify which might be the accompanying piece of art-work. The waters are always gentle here, and this is another soporific piece from this prolific composer.

The reader is probably spotting a recurring theme here- this CD could easily have been called "Quiet Waters", and the title of Track 8, "Quiet Harbour" adds weight to this idea. Yes, the subject matter is similar throughout much of the CD, but each track is unique. We pay only the briefest of visits to this harbour- all is well, everyone is safe; this is a harbour where shelter is always at hand.

"Colours of Autumn" has the faintest hint of Blue Ridge Part II, from Wayne's classic Narada album Blue Ridge. Gentle guitar playing supplements the lovely sound resonating from Wayne's piano. This album is remarkably consistent in providing hit after hit, and this track is a fine example of this.

Track 10 is more upbeat. Its title is "A Busy Street" and its style reminded me a little of that of George Winston. With a busy left hand, this street may well be full of life, but it is never overly cluttered or noisy. It features a melody that is very catchy and pleasing to the ear. "A Busy Street" is another comparatively short track (2:30), but every second is worth savouring.

"Market Place" might suggest another up-tempo track, but the listener is returned to a place of quiet. This is away from the busy street, and the market is warm and friendly. It features a slightly playful melody, which suggests to this listener that this is also a very happy place to be.

A plethora of notes played as a Glissando at the beginning of the twelfth track and intermittently throughout, immediately gave me the impression of swirling water. "Sails and Sea" is its title and, once again, this is a joy to listen to from beginning to end.

Another quite upbeat track forms Track 13- "American Dream". The music is positive, happy and optimistic. It continues the trend of "easy-to-listen-to" music.

Onto the album's penultimate track, "Lonely Ships, Welcome Light". This piece starts off very simply and in minimalist form. As the piece progresses towards its middle section, the tempo changes. One can only speculate as to what this piece is about- lost crew saved by a lighthouse, perhaps? Certainly light is a recurring theme in the artist's work, and the light shines stronger as this piece of music reaches its mid-point. Curiously, we come full circle towards the end of the piece- Wayne returns to the minimum of notes. Perhaps the light is no longer needed. To me, there is a sad feel to this piece- almost mournful in parts.

"Home" is the title of the final track. It begins as a "feel-good" track. A delightful little melody makes this the perfect way to end, and Wayne bows out in style. As the track closes, the tempo slows right down and the music becomes very quiet, suggesting that the journey is complete.  

"Light, Lines and Shorelines" is available from CD Baby (samples of every track are available here) and directly from Wayne himself www.waynegratz.com. Recorded in Wayne's home studio in January 2007, this is a great CD- one I shall treasure- and a most deserving recipient of "Piano-Heaven" status. Congratulations, Wayne, on a job well done.

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light, Lands and Shoreline

Wayne Gratz

 

 Wayne Gratz’s Picture

Wayne Gratz

  

Thomas Kinkade

 

 

Wayne Gratz

 

 

Listen to

The Windows Glow

Click the piano

 

 

 

You can view some of the paintings that accompany Wayne's music by clicking

 here

 

A DVD is available from the above site which features many of Kinkade's paintings set to Wayne's piano compositions.