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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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Red Leaf, Grey Sky: Piano Improvisations
By Catherine Marie Charlton
Label: River Dawn Productions
Released 10/1/2011
Red Leaf, Grey Sky: Piano Improvisations tracks
1. Lullaby for Swingtime
2. Introspection
3. Wonder
4. Red Leaf, Grey Sky
5. Transformation
6. The Sun is Shining, the Birds are Singing
Even in Black and White, the Music Has Color
I remember hearing about pianist Catherine Marie Charlton's music from my friend Bill Binkleman ten years ago, maybe even longer. But I never forgot the name or the incredible amount of emotion she seemed to be able to infuse into her music. On her latest release of solo piano compositions, Red Leaf, Grey Sky: Piano Improvisations she has outdone herself. She has managed to blend a plethora of emotions from despondency to hope and to create audio pictures from torpid skies to sunny optimism with just six extraordinary tracks

Catherine Marie Charlton starting playing piano at age eight and is a world class pianist that began, like many with the echoes of classical music coursing through her mind. Ultimately, she has allowed the power of New Age music to deftly tender her spirit. She is the recipient of a multitude of awards from around the United States. Her first album, River Dawn is still a fan favorite and national best seller.

Lullaby for Swingtime is not as spritely as the title implies, but the spirit is quite strong. The upbeat tune opens the album with a promise of color and life and of course, Catherine delivers on all counts. Perhaps it is a lullaby for the winter to come, that last season in Nature’s seasonal quatrain that is sleepy by comparison to its siblings.

Red Leaf, Grey Sky was a study in melancholia. It never had a feeling of doom or despair, but an innate sadness that had a twinge of hope. I know all too well the time in autumn when the last leaf falls as leaf watching is a spectator sport for me. I also feel that no matter come what may, that spring is just a winter away. So let those orange leaves fall and winds bully, for faith promises a renewing, a spring to follow. It is really a beautiful piece and a favorite on the album.

The counter on the music player says I listened to Wonder 51 times. It turned out to be difficult for me to define. Somewhat dirge-like and unsyncopated to my ear, it made me…dare I write it, wonder. It had a jazz feel that encompassed most of the elements of true jazz, i.e., melody, harmony and rhythm, but it was bit shady on the side of tone value. I liked it nevertheless, for its power to make me listen more closely and search between the notes for understanding.

Introspection turned out to be a delicate song, like the reflection of blue sky on raindrops caught on protruding leaves. Solid yet fragile, glossy and transparent and destined to disappear at any moment. We take so little time for introspection anymore. There is always time to tally the bad stuff, but counting the blessings is everyday life seems to be second thoughts. Catherine's song reminds us to look inside and see what is there and even for a moment, celebrate the discovery.

The Sun is Shining, The Birds Are Singing is the final tune on the album and the melody with the most eccentricity and fun. I could tell from the get-go that Catherine had pleasure composing and performing this whimsical tune and it made a fine farewell from an album of music that begs multiple listenings, concentration and a willing spirit to join in the reverie.
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 4/28/2012
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