Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

The Lighthouse

Andrew J. Ross

AJR Productions





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They say don't judge a book by its cover. Well, this reviewer took a gamble on the premise that the CD's cover artwork was exceptionally beautiful, and from the opening few bars of the first track, it became clear the purchase was an inspired choice.

"In all of life, we need a light to guide us" is a quote from the artist's CD Baby page for this album, and is a reference in part to the shining lighthouse which graces the cover.

"Quiet Freedom" is the opening track from this wonderful collection of what Andrew J. Ross himself describes as "a new era with fresh compositions and a few arrangements of ancient hymns". Upon listening to this piece, I was reminded of the style of Michael Allen Harrison and it was only sometime later that an examination of the back insert revealed that the well-known composer was in fact responsible for the recording of the CD. I would hazard a guess that Michael Allen Harrison has been inspirational to this young composer- perhaps the light referred to earlier. Make no mistake, however: Andrew has his own style, and there is plenty of variation in this CD with the compositions reminding me of several different pianists.

"The Renaissance" is a quirky, melodic affair, and is typically a relatively short piece, coming in at around two minutes. Andrew is at his most playful here.

"Laying Awake" is one of my favourite pieces. This is a slower, more reflective piece and is exceptionally beautiful. My only criticism of this CD is the audible hiss that can be detected on two of the album's tracks, and it appears during this selection (and track fifteen). Admittedly, it is only noticeable at a fairly high volume, but it does detract slightly from the undisputed quality of the music.

"Diving In" is another one of those pieces which remind me of Michael Allen Harrison. The piece goes from a slow, gentle beginning to a fairly frantic middle, before returning to a more subdued ending. The album is remarkably consistent for its melodic appeal, and this is amply illustrated by this track.

Track five is entitled "Gone Sailing". It's easy-going, and as I listen to this piece, I am struck by Andrew's fine technique and obvious natural ability. He and the piano seem as one.

"New Tides" is full of energy and is uplifting in mood. I love it!

Similar in style is "Renewal", the album's seventh track. It's upbeat, optimistic and great fun!

"All Creatures" has a lullaby-style opening, and is a noticeable change in direction from the previous couple of pieces. It is exceptionally beautiful, and I enjoy listening to this track over and over again.

"Here I Am" is the curiously-titled next track. The CD's insert (a singular piece of card) offers no clues whatsoever about the inspiration behind the music. Perhaps a Piano-Heaven interview can address this at a later date, but the piece nevertheless maintains the high standard of the album as the listener has come to expect.

"Vision" has a simple, heavenly opening. This piece positively twinkles! It becomes more energetic in its middle section, before returning to a gentle conclusion.

Track eleven is entitled, "Distant Lands", and is another piece that has a soft, lullaby-style beginning. The waters are calm in this track's setting. In keeping with much of the album, the piece does develop increasing in both tempo and energy, but it never loses its natural charm.

Onto track twelve, which takes its name from the title of the CD. Of all the pieces on this CD, this is the one that reminds me most of the style of Michael Allen Harrison. It follows a similar pattern in terms of its structure to the rest of the CD, and this is yet another great track in an album full of highlights.

"Under the Moon" would suggest a romantic, slow-tempo piece, but the reader has probably gathered by now that this is not likely to be the case from this particular pianist. It is nevertheless rather beautiful, and I particularly enjoyed the "fun" ending which might keep the listener guessing.

"Blooming" has a graceful, majestic opening. The title suggests bursting into life, and the piece does just that!

It is incredibly difficult to select favourite tracks from this album as there is not a single weak track at all on this CD. That is quite something for an album containing sixteen tracks. However, the album's final two cuts, if push came to shove, would be my choice. I love "Climbing Higher"- a reference perhaps to the impeccable standards this artist is setting himself in terms of the compositional process? This piece reminds me of the technique of another Michael, this time Michael Jones, the wonderful Canadian pianist and stalwart of the former Narada label. "Climbing Higher" is exceptionally good, and an extended sample is available for the listener's delectation at the artist's MySpace page.

"Hold Me Near" is breathtakingly good. It is perfect in every way. I love the way this piece develops, and a highlight for me is the middle section at around two minutes. I can listen to this piece time and time again and never grow tired of it. Be sure to check out the sample on the right panel of this page.

This is Andrew's fourth CD and, from listening to samples from earlier efforts, this is his finest moment. The artistic growth in this young man is astonishing. He released his first album at the tender age of sixteen, and even now is just twenty-one years old.

Andrew J. Ross is a man of few written words. However, I love his rather appropriate water-themed words on his MySpace page, "From the most intimate depths to the shallowest parts, a song can tell a story." Indeed it can, and this composer succeeds at every level. What these stories might be, remains a mystery for now, but lovers of melodic piano music would do well to check out this tremendous offering from this Oregon-based pianist.

"The Lighthouse" is exceptionally good, and I give it my highest recommendation.








ANDREW J. ROSS: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Andrew J. Ross






Andrew J. Ross






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Hold Me Near

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