Music from "Near The Edge of Light"
1990 / Mainya Music
“Near The Edge of Light” was Isadar’s debut recording and dates back to 1990. One of several solo piano projects over the years, this one was recorded on a 9’ Baldwin concert grand. Isadar is also a prolific songwriter and has recorded a few electronic albums, so “Near The Edge of Light” is fascinating in that it shows where his music began. Oh, and the music is really good, too! I thought it was surprising that some of the pieces remind me a bit of David Nevue’s early work, possibly because both pianists were strongly influenced by Windham Hill artists around that time and developed their own distinctive voices as they matured as artists. There are sound-effects behind a few of the tracks, but this is otherwise a solo acoustic piano album of original works except for “Star of Wonder,” which is Isadar’s arrangement of “We Three Kings.” Even though it was his first album, “Near the Edge of Light” contains a lot of Isadar’s signature touches in both his instrumental and vocal compositions.
The CD begins with “Jealous Heart,” a piece with a strong melody and a very reflective quality that sounds like working out an emotional dilemma at the piano - a lovely start. “October Dusk” is a bit more atmospheric - a warm, swirling breeze on an early-autumn evening. I like the energy of this piece a lot. “Cool Breeze” has a similar energy, but as the title implies, the temperature drops significantly. “Highway Driving” opens with the sound of traffic noise - no horns, just cars speeding by. Somewhat edgier than the previous tracks, it conveys a sense of freedom and the fun of getting out on the open road. “Star of Wonder” is pitch black at the beginning with deep bass notes and sparkling chimes to break through the darkness. Isadar’s arrangement of “We Three Kings” is mysterious and agitated - I really like it! The title track is a little more jazz-tinged with its fascinating rhythms and spontaneous feeling. “Summer Nights” is another favorite, alternating between velvety smoothness and a more percussive touch. “April Showers” is delicate and free over the sound of rain. “Maneuvers” is my favorite track. One theme is melancholy and introspective and alternates with a bigger, more dramatic second theme - a great piece!
“Near the Edge of Light” is available for download from www.isadar.com and iTunes.com. Recommended!
Music from "Active Imagination"
1999 Mainya Music
I love this CD! It constantly amazes me how many outstanding composer/pianists there are out there - especially in relation to the few who are highly (commercially)successful within this broad genre. I would say that “Active Imagination” definitely belongs near the top of the heap. Isadar’s style is original, and his pianism is excellent. He lists his inspirations as Liz Story, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans, and I can hear traces of all three in his playing, but find his composing and playing styles to be uniquely his own. The first three tracks are lively and upbeat (“Active Imagination”, “Throwing the Dice”, and “Where the Wild Things Are”) with an easy, jazzy, improvised feel. The meter changes are fascinating, and the bluesy beat on “Wild Things” is infectious. From there, the mood seems to gradually darken and become more introspective. “Waiting” is a beautiful, flowing mood piece full of questions and a lovely melody line. Isadar’s cover of Liz Story’s “Wedding Rain” is wonderful - this is a piece I often work on with my advanced students, and everything about Isadar’s interpretation of the piece seems right without being a carbon-copy of Liz’s recording. “Feu Follett (The ‘Spook’ Light’)” has a nice, easy flow with a strong sense of mystery; it also has an unusual rhythm that lightens the mood and adds a bounce. “Uncertainty” is cooler and more aloof, but gorgeous in its flowing introspection - that it ends with a major chord, feels like the soul-searching has had positive results. “Love Chaconne” is the closing track, and is the longest and most abstract piece on the CD. The left hand plays a repeated pattern while the right hand goes off in several different directions (one of the primary characteristics of a “chaconne”). Beautiful in its simplicity, this is the only track that seems to contain an element of pain and sorrow, but never dissolves into melodrama. “Active Imagination” is excellent from start to finish and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes solo piano with substance and complexity, but is still accessible, melodic, and rhythmic. Bravo amundo!
Music from "In Search For the Meaning of Christmas"
1999 Mainya Music
I have discovered a real wealth of great solo piano Christmas CDs this year! Isadar’s “In Search For the Meaning of Christmas” definitely falls into this category! Thoughtful, introspective, and a bit moody, Isadar’s arrangements are true to the carols (with some small melody changes in “Bring a Torch” and “Carol of the Bells” that bother me just a little) and still seem very personal. “Bring a Torch”, “The Holly and the Ivy”, and “I Saw Three Ships” are given a lighthearted, joyful treatment. “Star of Wonder (We Three Kings)”, “What Child Is This?”, “The Coventry Carol”, and “Sing We Now of Christmas” are all minor, somber, reverent pieces, and all four are given loving arrangements that keep the dark, mysterious nature of the songs and reflect Isadar’s own sensibilities. “Carol of the Bells” and “Greensleeves (homage to Liz Story)” are energetic without losing all abandon. “Silent Night” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” present us with a very cold, deep solitude - both feel like late night with moonlight reflecting off the snow. Both are moody, but very beautifully so. George Winston’s “December” is one of my all-time favorite holiday albums, and I feel “In Search For the Meaning of Christmas” holds up exceptionally well next to it. This is an excellent collection of Christmas music, and I highly recommend it! It is available from amazon.com and www.isadar.com.
- Kathy Parsons
Music from "The Journey"
2000 Mainya Music Entertainment
Isadar’s fourth solo piano album is a blend of smooth jazz and new age stylings, showing both his impressive technique and sensitivity to melody. Several of the eight selections are free-form and improvisational, revealing some of Liz Story’s influence on his music. Some of Isadar’s earlier recordings have very dark, moody sections, but this one stays fairly upbeat and optimistic without being ear candy. The music is complex enough to sink your teeth into, and yet is accessible enough to enjoy as a backdrop to a quiet dinner or an evening with a good book.
“Joyful Running” begins the “journey” with an exuberant and uplifting piece that reminds me a little of some of Spencer Brewer’s bouncier compositions. “Fountain of Life” is a beautiful piece with a water-like flow that never stops in its 10 1/2 minutes. I listened to this CD several times without realizing that this song was that long. It flows and meanders so effortlessly that it seemed no longer than the other seven selections, most of which are between four and five minutes in length. Unstructured and free, this is one of my favorite tracks. I also really like the title track, which is even more abstract and unstructured. The tone is of searching and moving forward. “End of the Line” is my favorite on this album. Very introspective and contemplative, this seems to be a very personal piece. It is the most somber track, but one still senses hope despite the ending of something dear and important. Or maybe it’s simply the end of “the journey” and the dread of returning to “real life” - I feel this way on the last day of my vacations! It is a wonderful and moving closing to an excellent album. “The Journey” is available from www.isadar.com and amazon.com.
- Kathy Parsons
Music from "The Purple Heart (improvisational solo piano)"
2003 / Mainya Music Entertainment
“The Purple Heart” is Isadar’s solo piano tribute and memorial to the people who lost their lives in the 9/11/01 tragedy. Recorded as a 56-minute improvisation on 12/25/02, the music is thoughtful, somber, and quite elegant. There are actually thirteen pieces on the CD, but they segue into each other, making it difficult to tell where one song ends and another begins. This is very definitely NOT a problem, as the album unfolds naturally and organically, asking questions, looking inward, and expressing shock and grief. However, this is not music about only despair or rage. I also hear hope and determination as well as quiet reverence - the strange mix of emotions we all felt during those dark days. Titles include “From Cradle to Coffin,” “Bravery,” “Numb,” “New York Skyline,” and “Truth.” Isadar has a wonderful way of wearing his heart on his musical sleeve, pouring deep emotion and heartfelt expression into his music. The music was recorded in one take, but rather than meandering all over the place, Isadar used recurring themes that make the work cohesive and consistent enough to hold together even after many listens. This is a very strong and passionate work, but it was recorded with a rather quiet voice which allows it to be very comfortable and soothing background music as well as evocative solo piano music for concentrated and focused listening. “Purple Heart” is available as a digital download from www.isadar.com and iTunes.com. Piano sheet music is on its way. Check it out!
Scratching the Surface: Solo Piano Sampler, Disc 1
2006 / Mainya Music
Scratching the Surface: Solo Piano Sampler, Disc 1 is a collection of eleven pieces from Isadar’s five solo piano CDs plus two bonus tracks. The selection covers a span of sixteen years and although there isn’t a discernible difference in Isadar’s playing style over the years, it is always fascinating to hear how an artist has evolved and which pieces he or she feels best represents his or her career path. Mostly a self-taught pianist, Isadar began his music career in Louisiana. From there he moved to New York City, where he lived for many years. Isadar’s music contains elements of jazz and much of it is improvised, which gives it a very fresh, spontaneous sound. Above all else, it is deeply personal and emotional.
Isadar released his first solo piano album, Near the Edge of Light, in 1990, and there are three selections from that album on Scratching the Surface. “In a Corner” is very slow and melancholy - one of my favorites. “Overview” and “Jealous Heart” are also on the somber side and exceptionally beautiful. Active Imagination was the album that introduced me to Isadar’s music in 1999 and is still one of my favorite albums. “Waiting” (love it!!!) and “Love Chaconne” are from that album. In Seach for the Meaning of Christmas was also released in 1999, and Isadar’s wonderful arrangement of “Greensleeves” comes from that album. Based on Liz Story’s arrangement of the same song, this piece was literally a turning point in Isadar’s development as a pianist. The Journey was released in 2000, and the title track, “Voice of God (Thanksgiving),” and “End of the Line” come from that album - all three are gorgeous. The Purple Heart is Isadar’s memorial to the victims of 9/11 and was released in 2003. Conceived as one long piece, Isadar broke it down into shorter pieces that flow together on the original album. For this compilation, he included “New York City Skyline” and “By Ear/ By Heart/ By Soul.” The first of the two bonus tracks is “The Bermuda Triangle,” a more upbeat piece with a beautiful flowing quality. The second one is the title track, which is lively yet pensive.
Scratching the Surface is an excellent sampler if you are not yet familiar with Isadar’s music. If you have his other albums, it is always fun to hear favorite pieces in a different playing order and there are the two bonus tracks. This album is available from www.isadar.com, Amazon, and iTunes. Recommended!