Bryant, Gary Paul - Imaginary Piano

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Take Home Music
Catalog Number: GPB3667
Format: CD
Total Time: 31:34:00

Imaginary Piano contains a great deal of real piano, and yet, not enough. First let me say that the "imaginary" does not refer to the "artificialness" of synthesizers, but to Gary Paul Bryant's school days when, during the bus ride, he'd play an imaginary piano (while, as the liner notes explain, his fellow students played air guitar instead). That "extra practice" has paid off and what results is a mix of jazz and classical, often with a rock feel that also characterizes, to my ears, some of the music of Billy Joel. Differences in technique and talent, to be sure (love Joel, but I'd offer that Bryant's a? more studied pianist). I'm not making that deep a comparison, however. Just pointing out that, in the abstract, you could compare this to Joel classics such as Turnstiles, The Stranger, 52nd Street (and earlier), which, I should tell you, are my favorite Joel albums. I should also point out that Imaginary Piano is all instrumental. Secondly, it's "not enough" because this is a very short album at just over 31 minutes. Short by today's 70-minute CD standards, at least. But the tracks don't feel hurried or undeveloped, even as they're roughly a radio-ready 3-minutes.

Imaginary Piano is all instrumental, as mentioned, and includes a backing of percussion, keyboards, strings, trumpets, etc. So, while this is classified as "solo piano" it isn't just a piano. And it's very rich and full even though Bryant is playing all the instruments himself. In fact, if it didn't say "all songs [?] performed by Gary Paul Bryant," I'd figure there was a band with him.

There's a reason why Bryant licenses out his music, and that's because it has an openness and expressiveness that would make it ideal for movies. There's a visual quality to the music. Each piece sets a mood, starting with the high energy of "Suite # 5," which also reminds me of the reediness of Mannheim Steamroller, just a hint of a synthetic feel that I associate with MS (a touch of this can also be heard in the otherwise warm and lovely "21st Century Waltz.") This is followed by the sometimes baroque, sometimes jazzy piano ballad "Will You Have Me Now," a transition that comes so smoothly?

The title track is contemporary jazz in style to begin with, but effortlessly transforms into something that recalls the jazz-instrumental movie music of the 60s, and then back. Adventure jazz is how I'd describe the speedy "Bye Bye Now!" Yes, that adventure is like making a hasty and necessary get-away. A solid but subtle deep throbbing bass runs underneath the brassy sounds of horns and bold, bright, racing piano.

"Last Night In Paris" is dark but also romantic, a bit sultry with a hint of a march - perhaps it's 1940s Paris, war is on... and romance is fleeting thing? one or the other of the pair can't stay (it being someone's "last night")? or can we read that as last night? As in, the night before today? I think both? create your own story?

"Simply Happy" is; for some reason, Charlie Brown came to mind, though the music doesn't remind me of the Peanuts theme; actually, at times it sounds like the St. Elsewhere theme when the sax gets a blowin' - warm, amber tones that you know I love.

The most classical of the album's 10 pieces is "Time Moves," which made me think of Handel and of Vangelis. And "Flipside" is the "rockiest" of the album's tracks, Bryant tickling the ivories with (almost) wild abandon. And "Deliberate Love" is acoustic, guitar being the lead instrument here, reedy synths breathing behind. It's here, at times in "Time Moves," and, in "Suite # 5," in fact, that term new-age comes to mind. To some that's a "dirty word," but that's because the impression is that what get's lumped into that category is confectionary and vacuous? these are neither, though like confection, they are sweet and delicious.

This is a lovely, interesting, and entertaining album and comes highly recommended.

Suite #5 (2:35) / Will You Have Me Now (3:21) / Imaginary Piano (2:54) / 21st Century Waltz (3:10) / Bye Bye Now! (2:54) / Last Night In Paris (2:54) / Simply Happy (3:22) / Time Moves (3:33) / Flipside (3:26) / Deliberate Love (2:43)

Gary Paul Bryant - piano, guitar, drums and percussion, etc.

Just A Word (1979/2004)
Take Home Music (2004)
All Of Us (2004)
Imaginary Piano (2005)
Midnight Clear (2005)
Legacy (2006)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: December 29th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 957
Language: english


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