On a sunny & brisk February Sunday nestled between a false spring and a forecast of cold rain, this travelogue finds a pocket of stillness to showcase a wonderful new quartet of neoclassical releases sure to be worth your time & attention. Featuring Jacob Pavek, John Hayes, Nathan Shubert, and Ô Lake (Sylvain Texier).
Jacob Pavek – Nome [Unperceived Records]
Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jacob Pavek began his journey as a modern classical recording artist in 2012 with his acclaimed debut album Bloom (also available here from 1631 Recordings). He followed that up in 2015 with a moving collection of tender solo piano pieces and duets with violinist Leah Ottman entitled Illume on Unperceived Records as well as a soundtrack to the Emmy-nominated documentary ‘Hello, Montevideo‘ which showed his more kinetic, electronic side. Pavek returns to the label this year with a stunning new release called Nome which finds his grand piano still at the heart of his work while he seamlessly incorporates soaring violin parts performed by Josh Misner (Laurels String Quartet) into a series of gorgeous and emotionally resonant compositions.
Available on vinyl LP and digital download. Note there is also a B-side single now available as well called “Re: Nome”.
John Hayes – By the Woods
Representing the Minneapolis side of Minnesota’s twin cities in this group is John Hayes who makes his album debut with a collection of piano instrumentals entitled By the Woods. Self-taught following some amount of classical training and citing artists like Nils Frahm, Lambert and Joep Beving as influences, Hayes has a keen ear for bittersweet melodies and a beautifully understated style that is elegant, fluid, and expressive but never overwrought. If you are looking for music to keep you company in the still hours of the evening, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better than this record.
Available on limited edition CD and digital download
Nathan Shubert – When You Take Off Your Shoes [bigo & twigetti]
After more than a decade of being a sought-after sideman and session player, Vancouver-based pianist/composer Nathan Shubert immersed himself in the creation of a set of intimate solo piano pieces which resulted in the release of Folds in 2017. His sophomore outing entitled When You Take Off Your Shoes has just landed on the eclectic London-based boutique label of Bigo & Twigetti and finds Shubert building masterfully on that early foundation. Equally poignant and playful, it is an absolutely impeccable collection of vignettes, sketches, & interludes deftly drawn from dampened piano, discrete electronic treatments, and field recordings with the occasional accompaniment violin, cello, and clarinet.
Available from February 19 as a digital release only
Ô Lake – Refuge [Patchrock/Night Night Records]
“So driven onward to new shores forever,
Into the night eternal swept away,
Upon the sea of time can we not ever
Drop anchor for one day? O Lake! …
In search of a name for his new instrumental project, musician & composer Sylvain Texier found the inspiration in one of the most famous poems in French Literature – “The Lake” by 19th century writer Alphonse de Lamartine. The music of Ô Lake is of a kind that embraces balanced dualities. It is cinematic, yet intimate; contemplative, yet effusive; timeless, yet contemporary. While the project may be new, it is clear Texier has finely honed skills as both composer and arranger. It is ever so easy to fall under the spell of the ethereal piano melodies and be swept up by the soaring strings to the imaginary “refuge” of the album’s title. Heartfelt and beautiful.
Available on CD and digital download