Michael Jones - Background and Reviews
The earth never tires,silent and incomprehensible at first,
soon every moment becomes a miracle,
every blade of grass,
every whisper of wind,
every quiet bay
a reminder that we are almost home.
Adapted from Songs for the Open Road
Michael Jones' musical vision has always been to render into music the images that take form in his mind. In Almost Home the images that have inspired his music flow from the rich and evocative imagry of Walt Whitman.
Afoot and light - hearted I take to the open road!
Healthy free the world before me!
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose!
… To know the universe itself as a road - as many roads – for traveling souls.
Michael is the founding artist of Milwaukee based Narada Records where, for the past twenty- five years, his many music CD’s, including Pianoscapes, Seascapes and After the Rain, (for which he received a Juno nomination in the category of Best Instrumental Artist,) have received international recognition and served as benchmarks for contemporary solo piano recordings. He has performed widely including The International Piano Festival in Montreal, The Parliament of World Religions in Chicago as well as the Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo Japan and The Seoul Arts Center in Seoul Korea and other venues throughout Canada and The United States.
Michael is also a widely recognized speaker, story teller and group facilitator who has integrated his musical performances in presentations in a wide variety of leadership and community forums including; The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, The International Leadership Association (ILA) and The Creative Education Foundation.
He has written numerous articles, as well as two books, on creative practice; Creating an Imaginative Life (Conari Press (1995 Pianoscapes 2006), which received The Books to Live By Award of Excellence and Artful Leadership; Awakening the Commons of the Imagination (Pianoscapes,2006). To learn more or contact Michael please visit www.pianoscapes.com
Michael’s Music/Pianoscapes Original Version (1981) Windsong (1983) Seascapes (1984) Sunscapes (1985) Wind and Whispers (1985) Pianoscapes re-recorded (1985) Solstice with David Lanz (1985) Amber with David Darling (1987) After the Rain (1988) Magical Child (1989) Michael’s Music Compilation (1990) Morning in Medonte (1992) Airborn (1994) Touch (1996) The Living Music 2CC Compilation (1998) The Pianoscapes Deluxe – orginal version remastered (2002) Echoes of Childhood (2003) Almost Home (2006)
Kathy Parsons – Solo Piano Productions
Almost Home” is the first release from legendary pianist/composer Michael Jones in four years, and was certainly worth the wait! Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poems for the open road, the music for “Almost Home” has an expansive feeling and sense of adventure. The seven tracks range in duration from 6 1/2 minutes to fourteen, with four of the tracks at least eleven minutes long. The music is unhurried and evolves organically as it is being created on Jones’ phenomenal Bosendorfer grand piano. His fifteenth release to date, “Almost Home” was independently released on Jones’ own Pianoscapes label. A psychologist, artful leadership trainer, author, and public speaker, Jones brings his rich and varied background as well as a unique voice to his music. His approach is to work with his original music over a period of time until it feels right, but then to empty his mind as much as possible when he records it so that it is spontaneous and “in the moment.” Jones prefers to record his albums in one sitting with only minor edits - if there are any edits at all.
Summarizing such lengthy pieces in a few words isn’t easy, so I’ll mention a few of my favorites. “A Child Went Forth” is perhaps the most classical of the pieces. Dark and moody in some places, sparkling and dancing in others, the piece offers a dazzling array of emotions yet remains a cohesive musical exploration. I also really like “I Hear the Earth Singing,” a joyful piece that feels both substantial and fragile. “Wanderings of a Restless Soul” is more introspective and anxious, freely following the muse where it leads - sometimes shimmering on the upper treble notes and sometimes deep in the marvelous dark bass tones of the piano. The title track is my favorite. A bittersweet melody takes the listener to a place so beautiful that it is almost sad. This is Michael Jones at his most personal and deeply emotional best. What an incredible piece!
“Almost Home” is a richly rewarding musical experience for new and old fans of Michael Jones’ music. It is available from. Highly recommended!
Michael Debbage – Solo Piano Productions
Back in 2002, Michael Jones began his own label Pianoscapes with the release of the album Echoes of Childhood. Though he essentially held true to his no compromise improvisational roots, the album included some very subtle synthesized strings courtesy of Lance Anderson to flesh the music out ever so slightly. Though Lance continues to be present as a producer, the strings are not, making this album a sort of homecoming to the very essence of Michael Music…a palace of pure piano pleasures.
Jones opens the album in grand style courtesy of the fourteen-minute delight, “Song For The Open Road”. His piano work is impeccable and at times the rhythm patterns are more in line with a soft strumming acoustic guitar. The melodies are inescapable and in some ways very familiar. That aside the duration of the track allows for plenty of movement for Jones to breathe chapters of music within his story. In addition, there are three additional tracks that run into double-digit duration but with no sense of unnecessary meandering. It’s just Michael Jones sitting at his piano doing what he does best; caressing his keys to share his innermost being.
Of the few shorter compositions, at least in the context of Jones, there is the more jovial “I Hear The Earth Singing”. One can sense the choral use of the piano making this composition most praiseworthy. This is in sharp contrast to the ambling yet ambitiously subdued “Wanderings Of A Restless Soul” as Jones explores the entire range of his keyboard.
The album closes out much like it opens with the more optimistic “A World Made Fresh Again”. This seven minute musical composition brings to mind visions of a soft yet refreshing rain dance quenching and revitalize Mother Earth. It has a supple yet vital pulse that invites you to softly sway with its gentle cadence. Along with the opening track, the bookends of Almost Home represent the albums finer moments, however, there are many fine chapters found within.
So, what can be said about one of the masters of improvisation that has not already been said? Not a whole lot as Almost Home continues to measure up with the already impressive musical portfolio that the Canadian pianist has created to date. Though many compare him to George Winston, and certainly there are some parallels, it would be much more appropriate to label this Michael Music, pure and simple.
more to come......