"Our world is busy enough. Listen to music that will restore you!"
Reviewed by Donovan Johnson
“Heartwork” is an album that was released by pianist Jesse Brown in 2014. I wasn't at all sure what to expect before listening to this album, and I can say the same is likely true even after having listened to it. “Heartwork” is an incredibly diverse album, and as rock solid musically as it gets in the Contemporary Piano genre. There are elements of classical music interspersed throughout the recording, along with jazz, folk, and easy listening. The only thing that's really missing here is any sort of “New Age” element, which I found to be refreshing in a modern day original piano recording.
As I listened, I found that the album consistency lay not in the music tracks, but in Jesse's playing style, and even more so in the sound of the piano that was played on the album. There's nothing remotely approaching “harsh” or offensive in the instrument that's used to create these sound recordings, in fact it's one of the “sweetest” sounding pianos I've ever listened to. The rich, sweet piano tone is like a dessert to the ears, and although it did take a little bit of getting used to, I found that after adjusting to it the listening experience was beyond remarkable. Jesse's playing style only adds to what this piano has to offer. His touch is very light, very gentle, and yet very controlled. He is in control of his piano at all times, and never do the notes under his fingertips sound forced or in any way attacked. By contrast, the recordings don't sound excessively mellow either, or what I call “mouse-y.” Jesse has found his musical pocket, and is able to perform inside of his tonal sweet spot every time. This, in combination with the instrument itself, creates a sound experience that's as smooth as silk, as light as air, and as rich as melted butter. The first of my “top three” songs on this album is “Un Jour De Pluie,” track five on the album. Here we have a gentle and reflective waltz, a bright sounding composition that's full of musical surprises. Jesse is a master at using different chords and chord progressions to change up the otherwise familiar parts of the song. In addition to that he occasionally steers away from the familiar just enough to veer off of the musical path – nothing dramatic. Soon after, he brings you right back to where you were only to veer off for a moment once again. But did you even notice that you veered away from the theme? Thanks to Jesse's effortless playing, I'm guessing not. This is compositional mastery coupled with a well intentioned performance, and is not heard often enough in today's piano world. “Harvest” is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the song is written in seven-four time, another rarity in today's music world. The piece begins with a gentle left hand octave and a right hand melody that unravels over top, creating listening anticipation. The nature of a harvest is often itself full of anticipation, and Jesse brings that musical message home in the first part of this track. The song then unfolds in a bigger, jazz – pop style chorus. A beautiful fall day, blue skies and the joy of a bountiful harvest are what come to mind here, and it's a thrill to be a part of it. My only complaint is that the song ends too soon! I could keep listening to this one end to end for hours. At this point it was a bit difficult to decide on a third pick. All of the tracks on this album are spectacular, but I finally settled on “Woolly Moose” due to it's nostalgic jazzy flavor. Unlike any other track on the album, we once again have a diversion in style as Jesse treats us to the sounds of composers like Dave Brubeck and Vince Guaraldi. There's almost a “Peanuts” vibe to this piece, although it's slightly more contemporary and blues based than most of Guaralidi's material. The relaxed, laid back sound of the tune will have you reminiscing and taking a trip back in time to an era that goes back forty or fifty years, a truly “feel good” listening experience. “Heartwork” is an album that I would highly recommend to almost anyone due to its musical diversity and “easy to listen to” nature. Jesse Brown is an incredibly gifted pianist and composer of music, and albums as well put together as this one are few and far between. From the artwork, to the composing, to the playing, to the recording itself, Jesse has created a timeless masterpiece that deserves to be enjoyed for years to come. Five stars.