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