Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Piano Music Albums

February 26, 2015 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary Piano Music albums released during the fourth 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 October, November, or December 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 five 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.

image

Saving Tiny Hearts – Paul Cardall
Pianist and official “Steinway Artist” Paul Cardall is known for his original, sincere, sophisticated, intensely spiritual, and emotionally uplifting musical style. This particular album presents a collection of remastered piano works from several of his previous albums and would be highly recommended based on the exceptional quality of the music alone. However, there is another reason why we strongly encourage you to purchase this album

For every album sold, $1 will be donated to the Saving Tiny Hearts Society whose mission is to raise money for grossly under-funded, lifesaving grass roots research of congenital heart defects (CHD’s). Congenital heart defects are the #1 type of birth defect affecting more than 1,000,000 babies every year. This is a cause for which Paul is an especially appropriate advocate, given that he was born with essentially half of a functioning heart. That life-threatening congenital defect, a series of difficult surgeries and heart-related illnesses, and recent heart transplant surgery, have all shaped Paul’s musical style and inspired this collection of outstanding melodic compositions and arrangements.

Featuring largely piano music with extensive and elaborate and “real” orchestral and choral accompaniment, that at times has a “classical” feel, Saving Tiny Hearts is one of those albums where it is truly impossible to choose one favorite track. Each selection reveals a level of careful crafting, sophistication, expressiveness, and genuineness that we have come to expect from Paul.

image

Eternal – Steve Banks
“Eternal” is a collection of original piano/orchestral compositions from the heart and the deepest emotions of gifted composer and talented pianist Steve Banks. Each work, as evidenced by the song titles, is a reflection of the wide spectrum of emotional experiences – joy, sorrow, and love – from the artist’s own life. Each song has special meaning to Steve, telling the story of family, heritage, faith and love.

Somewhat reminiscent of the orchestral works of Yanni, and perhaps in the spirit of the album title, “Eternal” features grand, powerful, dramatic, and sweeping melodies with a decidedly cinematic quality, and showcases well developed and exceptional orchestral accompaniment (with occasional, but not overdone, synthesizer). While not so much “music for relaxation,” the music is nonetheless soothing and uplifting with just a slight hint of a “classical” tone. On “Adoration” and “Reminiscence” in particular, the melody is simply “breathtakingly” creative and beautiful, and with just the right amount of support from strings and woodwinds. These two songs alone would be a worthwhile purchase, but there are nine other works that make this entire CD one that we highly recommend you add to your collection.

image
Seasons of The Heart – Renee’ Michele
Co-Produced by Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, and Oregon based composer and pianist Reneé Michele, and recorded at the legendary Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, Seasons of the Heart is the most technically accomplished and emotionally intimate album of Reneé Michele’s career. The accompanying ensemble players are some of Imaginary Road’s best and include Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Noah Wilding (vocals), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Michael Manring (fretless bass), and Tom Eaton (bass).

Renee Michele started playing the piano at the age of six and continued through college as a music major. She later added a degree in Occupational Therapy, which led her to teach piano to children with special needs. One of her proudest achievements is having developed teaching strategies that allowed a musically gifted autistic child to learn to play the piano and later perform in a school talent show.

On Seasons of the Heart, Renee delves deep into her most personal memories — recollections both beloved and painful. The focus is on the emotional depth of the music rather than a “flashy” playing style, and the result is music that might be best described as sentimental, reflective, introspective, sometimes wistful, intimate, complex, sophisticated, uplifting, memorable, and always deeply felt.

Will Ackerman summed up Reneé Michele’s talent for soulful evocative music when he stated

“The first piece Renee’ Michele sent me was simply stunning. It revealed a composer capable of brilliant and accessible melody and hands that had clearly matured in classical discipline. This experience proved to be just the first of many as I became acquainted with more of her work. As a producer, one dreams of encountering such talent. The recordings for “Seasons of the Heart” all display the same remarkable combination of rich melody and stunning technical ability. At the center of all of her work is an intense and very personal emotional connection to both composition and performance that is breathtaking to experience. Renee’ has 4 solo piano albums prior to producing an [this] album with accompaniment. This is as powerful a CD with ensemble as anyone could hope for…”

image

Treasures of Peace: The Stanton Lanier Collection – Stanton Lanier

After starting piano lessons at age six growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, award winning composer and pianist Stanton Lanier’s love for basketball made him want to quit at age twelve, but his parents wouldn’t let him. So he began writing songs and singing at age fourteen. Playing and composing continued as a hobby while majoring in chemistry at Georgia Tech and completing an MBA at the University of Georgia. After five years working in consulting and insurance, in 1994, at age thirty, he embarked on a ten-year career as a financial planner. However, the piano continued to serve as an life refuge. When he began composing instrumentals, he wanted them to convey a sense of God’s peace and hope. As people began to share powerful stories about how the songs were impacting their lives, he realized that “scripture inspired piano” was a unique way to share God’s story and his own story.

In this spirit, in 2004 Stanton and his wife founded the non-profit ministry Music to Light the World to offer God’s peace, rest, hope and healing in the church, the cultural arts, and the lives of cancer patients. Since that time, nearly sixty thousand CDs have been donated to cancer patients and families through Get Music Give Hope℠, where one CD is given away for every one purchased.

Stanton Lanier’s signature piano melodies are sure to refresh your spirit. This re-mastered collection offers sixteen listener favorites from his eight albums and ninety-nine singles. Listen for peace, rest, hope and healing with touching piano solos and exquisite accompaniment from nine acclaimed guest artists, including three Grammy winners. Many of the selections are from albums originally produced with the assistance of Will Ackerman at Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, and feature such notable accompanying artists as Philip Aeberg, Eugene Friesen, Noah Wilding, Jeff Oster, Jeff Haynes, Tom Eaton, Richard Gus Sebring, and, of course, Will Ackerman. Highly recommended.

image

One Journey – Ryan Stewart

Raised in Salt Lake City, Ryan Stewart says his mother is his inspiration. A classically trained pianist herself, she wanted to share her love of music with her children. Sadly, she passed away from breast cancer when he was just 13. Ryan says this was a poignant moment in his life and he realized the gift she had given to him. “As a teenager I missed her and I would sit at the piano on the stage at my school and play and think about her.” His father encouraged him to continue to pursuing his talent.

After graduating from high school, Ryan was awarded a full-ride scholarship in music to the University of Utah. He perfected his piano skills as he studied, and played and taught piano lessons. He especially enjoyed teaching students with an affinity for composition and song writing. Although Stewart eventually left the music department and pursued a career in computers, he never lost his desire to compose and play the instrument he loves. Today, his spare time is spent with music, and his passion has become something his wife, Cindy, and their two daughters cherish when spending time together. He has also composed and arranged music for film documentaries, Cellist Stephen S. Nelson (ThePianoGuys), Paul Cardall and other artists, and several dance studios.

On “One Journey,” Ryan presents us with uplifting rolling piano melodies, thoughtful chords, and carefully crafted orchestral and vocal accompaniment. The result is music that can most definitely provide a soothing effect on one’s soul and clear the mind of stress. The music is innovative, sophisticated, multi-layered, relaxing, peaceful, but also at times superbly powerful.

In the artist’s own words, “YOUR individual experiences sum up your ONE JOURNEY in THIS life. This album represents some of my more poignant life experiences found within my on-going journey. Make the best of YOUR JOURNEY.”

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

back to top