Limelight Editor’s Choice – September, 2014

Simon Tedeschi has become something of a household name here in Australia. Known for thinking outside the classical box, he’s shown himself to be an artist of expert ability with some impressively diverse tastes. He collaborated with Australian jazz great James Morrison on his previous album with ABC Classics, Gershwin: Take Two, and this, his most recent release on the label continues his foray into the world of jazz.

This compilation of local piano music has been chosen specially by Tedeschi, in what he calls a musical “self-portrait”. There’s something refreshing about the collection – it’s the perfect soundtrack for a lazy afternoon. You’ll find it has a soothing warmness, and at times an irresistible groove that instills it with a playful energy. Tedeschi’s performance is nuanced and sensitive, and perfectly suits the demands of the piano writing.

“A warmness, and at times an irresistible groove, instills it with a playful energy”

The disc opens with a Barcarolle by pianist-composer Mark Isaacs, whose music adds a calming touch to the album. He has five miniatures peppered throughout the collection, including the title track, Tender Earth – a stunningly gentle soliloquy brought to life through Tedeschi’s thoughtful approach and delicate touch. Mike Nock’s music offers some welcome contrasts. The cutely named Closet in the Skeleton has an infectious energy, lending a more vigorous character to the disc and setting it apart from his gentler tracks, Morning Reverie and Wanaka Dreaming. 

Evan Lohning’s Evanshually and Bill Risby’s Prepare to Be are longer sojourns on this album of delicate, fleeting episodes. Lohning’s music here adds to the quiet, contemplative vibe, while Risby’s offering, comically named for a t-shirt slogan, has a more restless feel. This allows Tedeschi to show off some of his more robust playing on the album, executing busy scales and punchy rhythms with ease and a cool assurance. Lohning’s work also calls for Tedeschi to improvise, which is carried off brilliantly and melded seamlessly into the musical fabric. 

The final work on the album is Kevin Hunt’s A Natural Sequence. At 20 minutes, it’s the longest and most explorative work featured. Hunt’s composition often drifts between different textural states, creating a wistful, transient musical landscape that’s just beautiful to listen to. There are touches of extended harmony recalling the influence of Messiaen, while other sections are simply unadulterated jazz. Tedeschi inhabits each sound world perfectly, and shades the transitions flawlessly and with great sensitivity. It’s the perfect end to this disc of cool, calm comfort music.

Buy the album through iTunes: Tender Earth: Australian Music for Piano – Simon Tedeschi

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