God Bless America Danny Wright 2013 / WH Sound Studio Disc 1: 45 minutes Disc 2: 44 minutes
"God Bless America" is pianist/composer/arranger Danny Wright’s first collection of patriotic music. And what a collection it is with two discs and a total of twenty songs. Wright presents a stirring and inspiring mix of American patriotic classics, folk songs, some great American standards, a couple of contemporary tunes and movie themes, and some of Wright’s original compositions. A few pieces are orchestrated, but these are mostly piano solos bearing Wright’s signature style and passionate performance. In the liner notes, Wright explains that he has played many of these songs in concert over the years, but he really hadn’t thought of them as a collection until recently. As he thought about the songs and their place in our post-9/11 world, they took on a new meaning for him. That new meaning gives the music a fresh sound and imbues it with an updated spirit. Disc 1 includes mostly traditional American patriotic songs while Disc 2 is more contemporary.
Disc 1 begins with the title track arranged as an elegant piano solo - as are most of the pieces on both discs. Other titles include “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless the USA,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” “This Land is Your Land,” a medley of “Amazing Grace” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” All of these songs have fresh new arrangements and are played from the heart.
As much as I like Disc 1, I really like Disc 2! “Salute to Freedom Medley” includes “Bring Him Home,” “Can You Hear the People Sing” (from "Les Miserables"), and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” At a bit more than 8 1/2 minutes, each song is given full attention and loving treatment. “Swanee River (Old Folks At Home)” is much slower and more soulful than you usually hear, emphasizing the beautiful melody and its nostalgic quality. I’m not sure how “Greensleeves” qualifies as an American patriotic song since its origins are ancient English, but it’s a stirring arrangement that goes well with the other music. “What a Wonderful World” is one of the newer songs on the album, but it has truly become an American classic since Louis Armstrong first touched our hearts with his gravelly voice singing the poignant lyrics. Wright’s playing has the same kind of poignance - love it! “Summertime” is probably my favorite of all the American standards, and Wright’s arrangement is wonderful - dark, earthy and very sultry. “Majestic” is a Wright original, and what a stirring piece it is! Orchestrated to enhance the power of the piano, it first appeared on Wright’s "Shadows" album. Disc 2 concludes with the gorgeous “Peace,” which seems to be contemplating the overwhelming difficulty of achieving and maintaining peace in our contemporary world. Lightly orchestrated and with ocean sounds in the background, this could be one of Wright’s most beautiful pieces yet.
"God Bless America" is bound to stir even the most jaded of souls! It is available from Amazon and iTunes. Recommended!