Reviewed by Cathy Oakes
John Otott paints vivid pictures without paint. He does it with the beautiful tones of his music. “Colors” is a very fitting title for this CD. It refers to all of the beautiful hues he has used to paint each part of the picture, which becomes a stunning mural as the whole album comes together. Mr. Otott has written music for television clips and Lisa Duke’s “BA,” a musical about the life of Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That influence can be heard in this CD, but it goes so far beyond that to bring a classical influence, his impressive mastery of the keyboard and his talent for writing contemporary piano music together in a truly enchanting way.
Beginning with “Tesoro,” which means “treasure,” he sets the stage for what is to come in the rest of the CD. The music incites anticipation and you know that you are truly about to discover great treasure! The album continues with “The Wind Song,” which is comprised of two very different sections. The light and airy first section lets you float along with a gentle breeze. The transition phrases warn of a brewing storm that is depicted by the stronger feel of the middle section. The piece finishes with the return of the winsome, gentle breeze and finishes with the lightest little “puff” of wind. Otott’s teen-aged daughter recorded the violin parts for this piece. I agree with the comment in his liner notes. “You did great, Izzy!”
The title track, “Colors” begins with a simple statement of what almost sounds like a folk melody. That theme recurs throughout the piece, but is painted again and again in more beautiful and vibrant hues each time it reappears. Once again, the middle section of this “picture” is made up of darker and more complex shades, but returns to the simpler folk feel at the very end.
“Song of the Willows begins with a run of parallel thirds up the keyboard that literally say, “Hey! Listen up!” The willow branches float and frolic in the breeze in this beautiful piece that goes back and forth between a beautiful melody with an almost gypsy feel and bursts of broad, rich chords with the ever-present movement in the left hand. This is one of my favorites!
A quick little waltz, “Interlude” dances on the senses and cleanses the palate for another course of beautiful music. It quickly fades, leaving the listener ready for more.
“I Will Sail Away” is a solo piano version of a song by the same title from Mr. Otott’s CD, “Exit Reality.” And it does just that, taking you on a beautiful journey beyond the mundane, floating on crystal waters.
After reading the liner notes, “A Memory” moved me to tears. It is a raw, organic expression of real emotions from the composer’s experience of watching his mother progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s. This piece took me on a roller coaster ride through pain, sorrow, confusion, joy, and hopelessness and then deposited me finally on the rock of hope. How does a musician express so much of so many emotions on one instrument in only three minutes and forty-three seconds? But Mr. Otott not only proves it to be possible, he does it with grace and beauty!
After the emotional upheaval of “A Memory,” comes “August and Life” with it’s lively, happy, zestful mood. The perfect progression of tracks! It restores joy and lightness to the listener.
“Santa Cruz” allows the listener to join in the enjoyment of, what sounds to me like an afternoon of sun and surf. I love the addition of the drums in this piece!
The next piece, “An Evening Thought” takes the listener to that place just between waking and sleeping when the mind just won’t quiet and thoughts wander through piece by piece.
The final piece is my absolute favorite piece on the CD. “Soaring” takes this listener’s mind on a beautiful journey and allows me to literally soar over the lush redwood forests that run all the way down to the crashing waves of the California coastline. I can almost feel the wind in my wings! What a delightful end to a phenomenal CD!!!!!!
Over and over again as I listened to this CD, I found myself saying, “WOW!” Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck said in New Age Music Reviews, “I think John Otott has been referred to as an emerging artist. I am officially stating that he has arrived with Colors.” I echo that statement loud and clear! John Otott has emerged as a very gifted and talent composer and musician. Watch for his name in the list of nominees for future awards!
Excellent, magnificent work, John! I am once again, restricted by our system of five stars. But I give this CD a very solid 5+ and highly recommend it!