"Masterpeace" is pianist/composer Joseph Akins' first solo release in ten years. A professor of recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University, Akins recorded this beautiful album on a Yamaha CFIII concert grand, and the sound quality is amazing. The title track arrived one day when Akins was improvising at the piano, after several years of "writer's block." Once that piece was realized, the music started coming almost faster than Akins could play it. The result is an exceptional piano CD designed for relaxation and to quiet the listener's world. The nine tracks are all original compositions, and a few include keyboard washes for color.
As a young teenager, Akins played keyboards and saxophone in his father's country-rock band in Tennessee, and occasionally you can hear a touch of that influence. As a college student, he played in rock bands and then turned to jazz. The death of his father and a health problem that challenged his music career changed Akins' perspective on life as well as music. "Music became much more than notes and rhythms. It became about feeling emotions, expressing the soul, and helping others." That focus is very apparent in Akins' music, and his deep involvement in so many different kinds of music has helped him to create a musical voice that is uniquely his own while being universally understandable.
The title track opens the CD. Warm, inviting, and very calming, it is a lovely way to start! "Cane Creek" is blissfully serene with a lazy tempo and gentle flow. Keyboard washes create a sense of mystery and of seeking. "Finding Grace" is one of my favorites. A little darker than some of the others, there is a real poignance to the music. The slow melody and occasional discordance bring out the introspective nature of the piece - deeply emotional thinking at the piano. "In the Country" hints at Nashville piano legend Floyd Cramer. Leisurely and easy-going, images of a restful day in nature come floating through as the music plays. "Journey Home" is another beauty. Thoughtful and reflective, this one is a little more dramatic than some, offering passion as well as contentment. "Keys to the Heart" is my favorite. Shown as a "bonus track" on the CD, this piece was an expression of Akins' grief from losing his father, but also expresses the peace that comes with the acceptance of one of life's most difficult challenges. A testament to the healing qualities of music, this piece also celebrates life and feels like a tribute. Emotionally complex and absolutely honest, this is a truly great piece! I also really like "Inner Space," another bonus track. More improvised and free-form, the repetitive left hand keeps the floating right hand somewhat grounded as it dances all over the piano.
"Masterpeace" is a great album for relaxing and unwinding. I don't recommend trying to wake up with it! Joseph Akins is off to a very promising fresh start, and we'll hope that the music keeps flowing.