Thursday, February 14, 2013

Neil Alexander Darn That Dream Solo Piano Vol. 1 P-Dog 2013

Much like some people met as you walk through life, some have to grow on you and music is no different.

Neil Alexander's Darn That Dream Volume 1 with two versions of the classic Van Heusen/DeLange song gave me the impression that Alexander was attempting to play it safe with multiple reharms of the same tune and I was expecting the rest of the set list to consist of the typical cast of characters including Cole Porter, George Gershwin and perhaps a touch of Monk thrown in for flavor. I was pleasantly surprised that only four of the eleven tunes were covers and not the standard bill of fare piano aficionados had come to expect.

Solo piano may be the most difficult format to master on a consistent basis and Alexander has mad skills and proves he is well on his way to being a force to be taken more than seriously in this idiom. While of course "Darn That Dream" is spot on one of the most interesting covers is that of the Pat Metheny tune "Sirabhorn." Metheny is not known for keeping things on the straight and narrow. Alexander follows the lead of Metheny and conducts his own harmonic riff on what is considered by many professionals as a less than a melodic walk in the park. "Whisper of Angels" is an intimate ballad whose inspiration is derived from Alexander bring his wife and new born home from the hospital. No where does Alexander let up in intensity be it ballad or a blues infused number with a splash of swing added such as "Blues For Martha."

Perhaps the one thing that sells me on this release the most is thinking back to a conversation I had about a year ago with guitarist Roni Ben-Hur who bristles at the phrase "sounds like." Granted as a frame of reference for new artists then we may have something to work with but Alexander establishes his own voice and is clearly taken the artistic road less traveled by many piano players/ Volume 2 is scheduled for release in 2014 and if Alexander stays true to his artistic sense of self while working the solo piano format his growth as an artist should be exponential.

The depth of flavor, variety and lyrical sense of adventure all allow this release to sound better with each subsequent spin of the disc.

Impressive. 4 Stars.

Tracks: Darn That Dream; Stop For A Moment; A Question of Energy; Whisper of Angels; Everyman; Sirabhorn; The Traveler's Tale; My Foolish Heart; Blue For Martha; Darn That Dream.

Personnel: Neil Alexander: Solo Piano.