Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Safer Places

Wayne Gratz

2015

www.waynegratz.com

 

 

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Anyone who might have thought that the sad demise of Narada would bring to an end the piano releases from Wayne Gratz need never have been concerned. The music has flowed from his magic fingers ever since, and arguably he has never been so creative.

 

It was with great pleasure that I heard of Wayne's latest independent release entitled 'Safer Places'. The bottom of the cover states, "Piano ensemble music to enhance tranquillity," and this is a very fair appraisal of the contents of the album. It is also a very personal recording.

 

Wayne's piano is accompanied by Nancy Rumbel's English horn on the opening track, 'The Bridge to Ponce'. I am guessing that Wayne has found solace in Puerto Rico, with Ponce known locally as the 'Pearl of the South'. What a delightful track with which to open the CD, with the two instruments complimenting each other so well.

 

Nature has often featured heavily in Wayne's recordings, and with a title like 'Supermoon', the influence of the world around him and beyond continues. A slightly mysterious opening awaits the listener, before the piano kicks in. Paul Fleury's heartfelt cello playing adds a note of melancholy to this piece, but the piano melody hints at optimism too. As the piece progresses, the more I feel this is a piece for reflection. I love it.

 

One of my favourite tracks on the album is 'Common Denominator'. A curious title, but a classic Gratz composition. This is more upbeat and playful, and gets my fingers dancing! Again, the cello features. An altogether lighter piece with a catchy melody, this is sure to have you whistling its tune for days to come. The tempo slows right down at the end, suggesting a shift in mood.

 

'A Time for Reflection' has a mournful opening. I know that around the time of the recording, Wayne suffered a family bereavement, and indeed the album features some very heart-felt words on the inside cover of the album: "This album is dedicated to my Mom and Dad, Jack & Wilda- Thank you for your inspiration, encouragement and support throughout my life. You will always be in my heart and my music. I could not have been in a better or safer place." I find this such a powerful track- beautiful music and many happy memories abound. The sadness returns at the end of the piece- it is indeed a time for reflection.

 

Another absolute favourite is 'Even with the Rain'. What a gorgeous melody. The relationship between piano and cello could never be more powerful than it is here. This is a stunning track- a masterpiece of a composition.

 

Changing the mood completely is 'Being Me', a much more uplifting piece and featuring another classic Gratz melody. Wayne's music has always been synonymous with memorable melodies and exquisite piano playing, and both of these attributes are to be found here.

 

The words in the linear notes set against a heavenly sky state either side of two church crosses, "Our truest source of inspiration comes from within. True contentment is awakened when we are inspired and encouraged to create with the gifts received from our 'safer places'". Wise words indeed, and the tranquil track 'A Wish is Calling' reflects this.

 

When I listen to the opening of the CD's eighth track, it conjures up images of a cathedral. One can almost hear the chanting from the choir at the opening of this piece. 'Views in the Candlelight' is yet another powerful track, much more subdued that some of the other music on the album. It tugs at the heart-strings.

 

'Life in Real Time' is another quiet, reflective piece- almost minimalist in style. The tempo slows right down. The listener can allow themself to drift away on their own little journey. Beauty exudes from the piece from start to finish.

 

'Angelica' shifts the mood from one of sombreness to one of happiness with its higher pitched notes. I have no idea who or what the title is referring to, but although gentle and almost lullaby-like, it holds its own extremely well and provides an emotional lift for the listener.

 

The tempo increases with 'The Simple Life', a light and happy piece- a typical track from the hands of this master.

 

I was expecting a similar but perhaps more frantic style with 'Skipping with the Fireflies'. However, the opening is very gentle and slightly mysterious. Even with the more prominent presence of the piano later on, this is an extremely calm and even soporific piece. 

 

The penultimate track, 'Distant Light', returns the listener onto more familiar Gratz territory. The light may be distant, but the beauty of the music is carried through the air directly to the listener's discerning ears.

 

This outstanding album closes with the title track, 'Safer Places'. The CD ends on an optimistic note. This is a catchy, melodic piece that concludes the album perfectly.

 

Wayne Gratz's new release is of the highest quality. Consistently powerful from the opening bars to the closing notes, CDs do not come better than this. The composer has clearly experienced some dark moments in recent times, but out of this comes some breathtakingly beautiful music. Wayne Gratz has an indisputable gift for composing, and I would urge readers of this review to listen to it for themselves, and become immersed in some of the 'safer places' -both physical and metaphorical- that the composer captures so well in this album.

 

I give 'Safer Places' my highest recommendation. Bravo, Wayne.   

 

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coverthumb

Safer Places

Wayne Gratz

 

 

 

"Consistently powerful... CDs do not come better than this... Breathtakingly beautiful music."

 

 

 

 

Listen to the chirpy track

'Common Denominator'.

Click the piano above.