Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Piano Music Albums

November 20, 2014 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary piano Music albums released during the third quarter of 2014. We highly recommend each of these albums. To qualify for this list, an album had to be a new release (not a re-release) in either July, August, or September of 2014, feature solo piano music (or solo piano with light accompaniment) and be available for purchase on either iTunes, Amazon.com, or CDBaby.com. In selecting these three albums from over a hundred possibilities, we applied the same rigorous standards that we use in choosing music for play on GAIA Prime Radio. So if you enjoy the music we play on our station, we are confident that you will enjoy the music on these albums as well. Click on the album title or CD cover image and you will be taken to iTunes where you can listen to samples of music from that album and/or purchase it.

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Always Near: A Romantic Collection – Kevin Kern
Kevin Kern began his recording career in 1996 and has now recorded at least ten albums, not counting the many compilations that incorporate his music. He is popular worldwide – and especially in South Korea. Kern is widely regarded as one one of the best and most expressive pianists in the world. He cites as an early significant influence the great jazz piano legend George Shearing, but also cites Bach and Mozart. Legally blind, Kern channels his musical gift into a heartfelt, personal, and emotional acoustical vision that goes beyond words.

‘Always Near: A Romantic Collection’ is a collection of fourteen of Kevin’s most beautiful and romantic pieces. Poetic melodies unfold one after the other leaving the listener challenged to decide which track is the best. They are all, to put it simply, superb! Some tracks feature rather heavy accompaniment by a layer of strings and/or acoustical guitar, while others are largely solo piano performances. Whatever their approach, the result is an album of thoughtful, melodic, well-crafted, and breathtaking piano music.

Anyone unfamiliar with Kevin Kern’s distinctively warm and masterful piano touch will find ‘Always Near’ to be an excellent place to start. For wonderful romantic dinner music, music to relax to or to have in the car, or any other activity that can be enhanced by gentle piano, it doesn’t get better than this.

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Rain Stories – Marika Takeuchi
Composer and pianist Marika Takeuchi, a native of Japan, began studies in classical music at the age of three. In addition to the piano, she played violin and French horn for several years. She began studying composition at the age of 18 at Shobi Music College in Tokyo. Her compositions have been heard on Japanese national radio, a major TV series and on Universal Music Japan. As well as being strongly influenced and fascinated by classical impressionism and film music, her passions have been also extended into new age music, as she truly believes that music has the profound power to heal and change people’s lives.

In 2009, Marika came to United States to study film scoring at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston. She has scored several inspiring, independent short films, such as “The Arctic Light”, the acclaimed TSO Photography’s time-lapse film; a short film about a summer enrichment program “Horizons: 50 Years”, and other award-winning independent shorts including “Finding Ambrosias”. Her single “The Arctic Light” (2011) has been featured in the Australian TV commercial “Make Tomorrow Better” for Curtin University and the Norwegian Tourism Board’s official website.

The eleven tracks that comprise ‘Rain Stories’, feature a variety of solo offerings and chamber compositions with standout guest performances by oboist Miri Kudo, cellists Jacques Lee Wood and Sassan Haghighi as well as Steve Chieh-Wei Chiu who performs Erhu on “Koyo”.

In her own words, “‘Rain Stories’ is my music diary to rainy days throughout the seasons with each song on this album having its own unique part in the storyline. ‘Rain In The Park’ and ‘Alone In Dreams’ animate mysterious and melancholy sentiments and it was my intention to convey the moments of beauty in sadness and loneliness. ‘Koyo’ was inspired by the autumn leaves I saw on a rainy day in Kyoto. It features the Erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument, and is a blend of my own Asian culture and Western classical music which is where most of my musical influences originate.”

In a word, Marika’s music is exceptional. On many of the tracks, and with her enchanting piano as the primary voice, she weaves in a complex, sophisticated, melodic, stylish, and well crafted mixture of acoustic accompaniment that provides exquisite colorful detail. Some tracks feature just a hint of an Asian feel (none more so than on ‘Koyo’) while others lean a tad more classical – but all easily fit with the style of contemporary instrumental music we favor on GAIA Prime Radio. Adding many of the selections from Rain Stories to our playlist is an easy call. We highly recommend this album.

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Coming Home – Peter Jennison
‘Coming Home’ is the final album in a series titled “Letters From War” by lawyer, father, husband, and war veteran Peter Jennison. The music was composed and/or arranged by Peter while he was deployed with the US Army in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan in 2012 as a flight instructor. In the words of the author:

“‘Coming Home’ celebrates the joyous reunions of soldiers with their families, but also pays tribute to those who return wounded, as well as those who make the ultimate sacrifice and return in flag draped coffins. I hope, as always, you will close your eyes and “see” through my music, into the epically heroic lives of these incredibly brave men and women.”

Peter’s musical career began as a young boy by learning to play “a lime green piano” retrieved by his parents from the dump in the small New Hampshire town where he grew up. Most of the upper register hammers and all of the ivory had been broken off and it was horribly out of tune, but by the seventh grade, he could hear just about any song on the radio and sit down and play it from memory. For Peter, that piano became a dear friend who was “always there” and provided hours of therapeutic expression and release.

The CD includes liner notes written by Peter that explain his thoughts about each piece. The album was produced by Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, and Jennison and was recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Roads Studios in Vermont. A very impressive list of supporting musicians includes Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello, Jill Haley on English horn, Ackerman on guitar, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn, Jeff Haynes on percussion, and vocals by Heather Rankin, Noah Wilding, and Rory Sullivan.

‘Coming Home’ packs an emotional wallop right from the start that should touch every human heart in a very profound way. The album begins with a song titled “Remember Me” which is based on the poem “Sgt. Mackenzie” by Joseph Kilna. Haunting vocals by Heather Rankin serve as a stirring reminder that the first rule of war is that people (both men and women) die. Strong piano, violin, cello, and percussion accompaniment make this piece poignant and unforgettable.

Thank you, Major Jennison, for your service to our country and for your outstanding music! Highly recommended!

Coming Soon: Our favorite “Contemporary Instrumental: Multi-Instrumental” albums released in the third quarter of 2014.

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