August 31, 2009

Music Review: Danny Holt's Fast Jump (2009), First Attempt of Many!

I neglected to review Mr Danny Holt's fine new album when it first came out, so to balance the karmic scales, I'm going to review it MANY TIMES. It's a fresh fleshy new CD of 21st century classical piano music. And it seems worth noting from the start that I've known hundreds of pianists, & despite the broad breadth of music available to them, you'd be shocked how so few venture very far away at all from the most central spinal cord of the narrowest classical cannon. In fact, if you're an American who never studied music, you've very likely never heard classical piano music that isn't Chopin or Beethoven or a few others. Will it surprise you to know that there is such a depth and range of other piano music pianists could be playing, a span of amazing American repertoire, from the mathematical dissonant stuff, to neo-Romantic stuff, to hip downtown stuff, to no end of jazz or pop or world-music influenced music, and really just about anything you can imagine? Now most emerging concert pianists tackle the same repertoire, & always dredge out the same awe at bringing to light new shadows in these masterpieces. But I just did a search for cds of Chopin's Nocturnes on Amazon, & just among the cds available to buy from that website of those pieces, there's more than two thousand different artists. I'm sure to them, tho, the new ways and exciting ways they've approached these beloved pieces are far more illuminating than considering playing any of the great music from the past hundred years, and at least they're not lonely on Amazon.

Do a search, tho, for Lona Kozik, an American composer of high caliber (she lives in Devon, England), and the centerpiece for the virtuosic first half of Danny Holt's new album. Fast Jump is the only hit for her on Amazon! And Graham Fitkin, an older more established composer on Holt's album (and a great favorite composer of mine), gets only twenty-six. The unavailability does not reflect the quality of the solo piano music being written in the past fifty years, just the wall between pianist's brains & great music (and also major label's inability to market much new classical music to an unaware public).

Danny Holt is a performing artist who takes great care in packaging likable music to timid audiences. He is not a secluded genius tinkering at horrible noises for a possible alien future where people will learn to love horrible noises. He attempted many gimmicks in his younger years to bring people into concerts halls, but most of his flash is just in the personality of his playing. Which of course is not lost in these studio recordings. He is wild & fun, & his taste always steers him towards music that can showcase his playful playing & deepest emotions. Style, tho, is what really sets him apart from other "emerging concert pianists" - his background in percussion and composition has left him with superior skills at playing difficult rhythms with precision, & everything always with crisp cleanliness. (These things seem like they're not worth pointing out, but much of the pianosphere is awash with romantic sloppiness, "expressive" rhythm, & in general, mush. It's like, everyone devotes great respect & adoration for Arthur Rubinstein & Glenn Gould, but fail to notice that a lot of what made those guys great was that they could count, their passion was tempered by clarity, & even groove.) Everything about Mr Holt's approach to classical piano music is alive - his composers are alive and paying attention, his playing is full of life, and his audience is awake.

Anyway, like I said, I wanted to review this CD in a couple pieces, without bogging the blogosphere with long essays. Look for this CD, altho it's easier to find it at Amazon, iTunes, or the innova website. Find yourself only about ten dollars poorer, play it at your wildest bacchanals. There's also some sample tracks at his music MySpace. The next installment will have less rant & focus more on individual pieces, what they mean to the galaxy, and an unbelievable narrative about Mr Holt & a rodent gynecologist.

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