||“’Sketches’ paints a full color portrait of Michele McLaughlin’s brilliant piano artistry.” – Dyan Garris
Michele McLaughlin is a legend in the solo piano world, with 1.3 billion (yes, “b” as in “billion”), spins on Pandora radio. “Sketches” is her 20th album, released at the end of 2020, which also is her 20th anniversary of being a professional musician. 20/2020/20. There’s some interesting numerology for you.
Now, I was wondering how Michele could possibly outdo herself, but indeed it is so. Amazingly so.
"Sketches" is 13 tracks of fully improvised solo piano. When you hear the album, you will fully appreciate this aspect, because it’s rather astonishing. And by the way, Michele does “Monday Morning Improvisations,” which is a collection of improvisations she records and releases right then and there. Yep. Astounding. You may want to watch the full collection of these improvisations on her Michele McLaughlin YouTube Channel.
The album “Sketches” opens with the delightful and uplifting, “At First Sight.” This is perfectly paced and played. “Hope” follows. Soft and melodic, this draws you into the artistic genius that is this woman. The short and sweet,
“One Life” is like a flowing, soothing lullaby to the soul. Beautiful, just beautiful.
Anyone who has ever waited for anything at all (all of us), will appreciate the piece, “Waiting.” But no waiting here for the good stuff. I think improvisation is a gift and a special talent. Well, I don’t think. I know. And here, we can really begin to understand the magnitude of Michele’s natural abilities. What a wonderful composition. And “Sketches” in its entirety is a truly wonderful album.
“The Traveler” makes you feel like you just want to get up and go. Michele’s keyboard skills shine through here in a big way. Excellent. Perfectly placed on the album is the tender and lovely, “Farewell Little Love.” Melodic and sweet, this is a keeper. No farewells to this song will you want to make.
“Forever Yours” is a favorite. This has a very memorable melody that touches the heart. Did I previously say, “artistic genius?” Yes, I did. You’ll want this on your playlist. It glows.
Next, we move into a more serious piece, “The Right Choice.” Well, “serious” isn’t exactly the right choice of words. The movement and flow here are both wonderful, and it isn’t somber in the least. Let’s call it “contemplative.” Yes, that’s the right choice. Very nice.
“The Long Night” is gentle and tender. Again, melodic and flowing, this is very relaxing and heartfelt, as is truly every song on this album. There is something so velvety smooth about “Relief.” Soft and graceful, we can feel sweet relief flowing through our entire body.
“Home At Last” is an engaging piece with a “feel-good” nuance throughout. And even though it’s near the end, we suddenly realize we have felt completely and totally at home throughout this album and so very graciously welcomed home.
A little more somber in mood, “Lost” is engaging and elegant. Again, those amazing keyboard skills come to the forefront. This piece is easy and effortless and reminds us that we are never actually lost. We are always wherever we are. Beautifully presented.
The album closes out with “Unshakeable.” Steady and rhythmic, here Michele paints a picture of unshakable stability. I found this song astounding, actually, in composition and otherwise, especially since it’s an improvisation. It’s perfect. And Michele has an indisputably amazing gift.
Now, all this having been said, there is something completely and totally genuine and authentic about all of Michele’s music which is worth exploring here and on her other 19 albums. Her music just enters your heart and stays there. Forever.