David Alstead | Pieces Of Piano

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Classical: Contemporary Classical: New Age Moods: Instrumental
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Pieces Of Piano

by David Alstead

David "encourages" the inclusion of pop sensibilities, jazz chordal structures and various seemingly inappropriate musical elements into a sometimes belligerent and unwilling classical music form; emotional and stirring
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. Nymph
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3:09 $0.99
2. Sometimes I Feel
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3:43 $0.99
3. Downtown
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5:01 $0.99
4. Flip Side
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3:38 $0.99
5. Thicker Than Water
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3:53 $0.99
6. Through the Falls
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4:07 $0.99
7. That Conversation
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3:29 $0.99
8. Jazz in a Box
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3:37 $0.99
9. Not Even 5 Yet
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3:46 $0.99
10. Pieces of Piano
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2:22 $0.99
11. A Rumbling From the Mountain
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2:41 $0.99
12. Tin Man
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2:52 $0.99
13. You Can Go Home Again
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3:03 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"Pieces Of Piano" is Dave's second solo piano CD, and the music on it is a little bolder that his first CD "Piano For Both Ears", with a more venturesome spirit.

Listeners will appreciate the classical influences that are obvious in David's musical style, which are the result of his many years of classical piano training. In addition however, with David's tendancy to encourage the inclusion of pop sensibilities and jazz chordal elements and structures into the music, you are as likely to hear Billy Joel, or Keith Green, or Dave Brubeck hidden just beneath the surface. His writing has been recognized by internationally renowned instrumental quartet Zeitgeist as a winner of their Eric Stokes Song Contest.

Here is a great recent review of "Pieces Of Piano".

DAVID ALSTEAD
Pieces of Piano
Narrow People Music (2005)

Generally, there are three types of piano players in the new age genre: one, the romanticists who work within a warm flowing motif, crafting memorable melodies, two, the neo-classicists who more or less follow the path of their named predecessors, whether they be Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy or others, and three, the impressionists/minimalists who weave subtle tone poems and paint sparse musical portraits, evoking introspection and reflection.

There is, however, a less well-known fourth category. These are the piano players who defy classification and smash genres together as if they were musical atom colliders (those machines which supposedly prove the existence of quarks). These are the artists such as Bradley Sowash, Timothy Davey, and Mary Martin Stockdale – brave explorers who switch time signatures and motifs in midstream, yet do so deftly enough so as not to leave the listener gasping for virtual air.

Add to that latter list the name of one David Alstead, who hails from my Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His recording Pieces of Piano is an energetic explosion of styles on which one is never quite sure where the musical road is leading but you realize you’re in confident and self-assured hands all the same. Crisscrossing from neo-classical to straight-up new age to jazz/blues riffs, Alstead handles the transitions so seamlessly that if you play this in the background you might be unawares of the magic at work on the compositions, as the artist deftly switches mood, tempo, and motif consistently throughout the thirteen tracks. No mere “silence filler” recording this, although it is one hundred percent “user friendly” provided the user is no fan of mind-numbing valium e.g. Lloyd Weber show tunes.

Opening with the wistful “Nymph” which flits and waltzes playfully, Alstead flirts with reflection on “Sometimes I Feel” before setting forth with a dramatic run on the ivories in mid-song. “Flip Side” manages to give a nod to free jazz and experimentalism while still remaining cheerily listenable, veering mid-song into introspective territory. “Through the Falls” displays Alstead’s commanding presence in the neo-classical theater of performance, with amazing dexterity exhibited between left and right hand (overall, Alstead’s talent and prowess, when analyzed and dissected, is more than considerable, if not even dazzling). His hands seem to be flying every which way all at once. He can just as easily slide into a bluesy vein such as on the closing track “You Can Go Home Again” which merges a saucy vibe with a more dramatic aspect. The straight ahead (when compared to many of the other pieces on the CD) “Jazz in a Box” struts its stuff, but even here Alstead allows the path to deviate into unfamiliar territory now and then, but always returning to the track’s jazzy/goodtime roots.

The key to enjoying Pieces of Piano is the casting aside of preconceptions of what a new age or smooth jazz/contemporary instrumental piano release should sound like. The more constrained your vision of the mold is, the less likely you are to tune into Alstead’s “frequency.” While not adventurous to the point of alienating mainstream music lovers, Pieces of Piano is still complex enough to raise the eyebrows of fans of Winston, Spielberg or Lanz. That’s no knock on any of those artists, certainly. It’s merely an expression of how unpredictable a journey Alstead takes the listener on with this album. I recommend the CD to those who don’t require a detailed map but more just a general idea of where they are going – to them, the trip and its unfolding mysteries are what makes it fun.

Bill Binkelman
Producer and Host
Wind and Wire
KFAI-FM
Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN


Reviews


to write a review

Kathy Parsons

A Great Piano Album!
“Pieces of Piano” is David Alstead’s follow-up to last year’s “Piano For Both Ears.” Alstead once again brings a variety of playing and composing styles, effectively mixing his classical training with jazz and pop idioms. Pieces range from gentle and soothing to very big and discordant, once again showcasing the artist’s wide-ranging musical sensibilities. This is a CD to sink your teeth into and to grow with each time you listen to it. Ear candy it isn’t, nor was it intended to be. Citing Alstead’s classical training, this is more like free-form 20th century classical music than Bach or Beethoven, and there are many exciting moments as he effectively juxtaposes styles, creating a strong and distinctive musical voice.

The CD opens with “Nymph,” the breeziest piece on the album. With fingers lightly dancing on the keyboard, there is a mischievous feeling, but also one of grace - a promising beginning! “Sometimes I Feel” is much darker and more reflective, and has some fascinating chord changes. “Downtown” is one of my favorites. There are feelings of rushing, nonstop activity, and agitation. This piece really moves! “Flip Side” is also lively and exciting, but much more playful - fun! “Through the Falls” effectively conveys the power and grace of a waterfall - constantly moving and sparkling as the water pours down. “Jazz In a Box” is full of fun - I really like this one, too! “Not Even 5 Yet” has a nostalgic, old-fashioned feel to it and is much more classically structured than some of the other pieces. The title track almost feels like a love song, and it probably is! Elegant and graceful with a beautiful, flowing quality, this is also a standout. “Tin Man” is wild and one of the more abstract pieces. Totally free of musical restrictions, this one won’t put anybody to sleep! It has flowing moments and then runs all over the piano, with an agitated rhythm and jazz chords that carry some bite. The closing track, “You Can Go Home Again,” returns to a lovely, bittersweet melody and a feeling of longing.

As you can see, this was an adventurous project that covers a lot of musical territory. David Alstead is an incredible pianist and isn’t afraid to show it. I really enjoy this album! A lot of the music is on the experimental side, so expect to have to listen to it a few times to “get it,” but I think you’ll find it’s well-worth the effort!

Doug VanOrnum

A layered suite that unveils itself over multiple listenings
I always appreciate it when on subsequent viewings of a painting, a sculpture, a film etc. I keep discovering new facets I didn't notice the first time. Dave's "Pieces..." are like that. It's certainly not a case of "Too many notes" -- just that there's too much depth (and subtlety) to take in all at once. Only upon subsequent listentings do you begin to uncover what lies beneath. More music should be this process of discovery. Great job, Dave!