The Naked Piano: Elements Gary Girouard 2014 / Galileo Music 53 minutes
Two years in the making, the fifth installment of Gary Girouard’s award-winning "The Naked Piano" series is here! Subtitled "Elements," it is a musical expression of “things that are in this world, but not of this world” and seeks to inspire listeners to “observe and enjoy the wonders and blessings surrounding each and every one of us” (quoted from the CD’s liner notes). Recorded on Piano Haven’s wonderful Shigeru Kawai grand piano, the music expresses a stirring combination of moods ranging from light and joyous to darker and more turbulent, using a palette of brilliant tonal colors. Girouard is one of the more accomplished pianists in this genre with impressive playing chops made even more impressive by the heart and soul he puts into his music. An exceptional recording in every way, I would expect "Elements" to be one of my Favorites for the year.
"Elements" begins with “Water,” which, for the first time in the Naked Piano series, contains a sound other than the piano - the sound of running water, which fades out as the piano enters. The flowing left hand and gently percussive right create a beautiful portrait of a stream or river running its course, sometimes slow and leisurely and sometimes strong and dramatic. Is there an unseen force in this life more powerful than “Love”? Girouard’s musical take is graceful, lyrical, and overflowing with heartfelt emotion. “Miracles” begins quietly and simply, gradually building as it stands in awe of life itself. “Footprints” is a bit darker than some of the other pieces, pondering history and those who have gone before us - a favorite. I also really like the dramatic “Time.” Sometimes lightly flowing and sometimes heavier and scary, it’s a great concept piece! You can almost feel an icy chill blow off “Winter’s Wonder” as it describes the sparkling beauty of a winter scene. At the other end of the spectrum is the lazy contentment of “Sunshine” as it warms the skin and soothes the body. “Enchanted Forest” is pure musical magic - a fairy tale without words that makes it easy to visualize iridescent fairy wings flickering in the darkened woods and elves hiding under mushrooms. “Cosmic Journey” expresses the freedom of improvisation while a simple melody line weaves in and out, sometimes gently, sometimes with gusto. “Awakening” speaks its message without a need for words, bringing this excellent album to a peaceful close.
Gary Girouard’s music is a very special listening experience - especially when you hear it with an open heart. His previous release, "The Naked Piano: Light & Dark" was awarded the 2012 “Album of the Year” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, and although I love that album, this one could be even better. "Elements" is available from www.nakedpiano.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!