Philip Daniel Zach is a composer, pianist, and teacher from Lincoln, Nebraska who provides further evidence of a burgeoning indie classical scene in the heartlands of America that includes other artists featured on these pages such as Jacob Pavek, John Hayes, Jameson Nathan Jones, and Chris Bartels (Elskavon, Blurstem). Under the name Philip Daniel, Zach has just released his third record in as many years which finds him once again teaming up with Nashville-based composer & violinist Shawn Williams. Unlike last year’s This Tree Is Made For Climbing, however, their latest collaboration makes a notable shift away from structured narrative composition and toward exploratory improvisation.
Between Us consists of twelve pieces split into 2 “chapters” each of which was originally recorded on a 100 year-old Steinway upright with felt over the strings. These songs, all captured in single takes loosely centered around specific melodic ideas, represent one side of a conversation which is then requited by Williams contributions on strings & synths.
This motif works a treat on the six tracks that represent chapter 1. In nimble & elegant fashion, Zach frames a different mood for each piece, leaving space for Williams to fill with rich and colorful string parts. Whereas some of the romanticism of the previous albums is present here, this new conversational format lends a friendly intimacy to the proceedings and invites a broader exploration between the musicians that introduces elements of progressive blues, folk, and jazz giving the album a spry and playful vibe that can be too often missing in such a self-serious genre. At times, their partnership reminds of the one struck up by Darol Anger & Barbara Higbie in the early 1980s on albums like ‘Tideline‘ or ‘Live at Montreaux‘ (both highly recommended). Suffice it to say, I found this a really fresh and enjoyable listen.
Between Us Ch. 1 is now available for streaming and/or download on major digital platforms including Spotify, Deezer, Apple, Google, and Amazon.