“Piano Bouquet ... Songs For My Father” is the first issue in a series by pianist/composer Zola Van. Widely-known for her two CDs of original music inspired by hiking trips and a very unusual Christmas album, Van has assembled a collection of pieces from the “American Songbook,” given them fresh new arrangements, and recorded them as a tribute to her late father and “to the men, the era, and the feelings that went with these times” (quote from an email from Ms Van). Some of the thirteen tracks are very familiar standards, and some are not so familiar. Van also included one original piece, appropriately titled “Song For My Father,” my favorite song in the collection. Overflowing with emotion and sweet nostalgia for the less-complicated times gone by, Zola Van has certainly poured her heart into this album. I have to wonder, though, why she recorded the CD on a digital piano that just doesn’t have the rich resonance of the acoustic pianos she recorded her previous three albums on. The music is exceptional, however, so if that esthetic isn’t a problem, you’ll love this album from start to finish.
The CD opens with a very soulful rendition of “Unforgettable.” This deeply emotional arrangement really communicates love and memories, and has allowed me to hear things in the song that I’ve missed in other recordings. “Someone To Watch Over Me” is wistful and almost prayer-like. “Heart and Soul” is playful and upbeat. “Stella By Starlight” is dreamy, elegant, and very poignant - another favorite. “Song For My Father” is a real beauty. Almost conversational in tone, it is truly a love song for a beloved father. “Tammy” was a surprise - I haven’t that song in years! A childhood favorite of mine, this song really took me back! “Beyond the Sea” was also a pleasant surprise. “Try to Remember” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” are both classics for nostalgia collections, and these arrangements are exceptional in their sincerity and depth. “Ashokan Farewell” ends the collection with a sweet adieu.
“Piano Bouquet” is a wonderfully touching musical stroll down Memory Lane.