Since Nils Frahm launched the first Piano Day on the 88th day of 2016, the event has seemingly been embraced more joyously with each passing year. Even under the dispiriting constraints of a long-running pandemic, artists and fans around the world found a way to connect through this beloved instrument. Here are just some of the many beautiful releases and performances that caught my ear.
Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres – “Dancing Trees” [Blue Spiral Records]
Anna Yarbrough – “Somewhere in a wooden cabin”
In a way my less-than-acoustically-ideal apartment with all of its weird shapes, glass doors, and abundance of fridges (groan) became the perfect environment for this little EP…I wanted to write in a way that made you feel like you were in the same room with me when you put your ear buds in… every creak, every noise, a sound that was intentionally “unpolished” in the right way.Anna Yarbrough
Bing & Ruth – “Gigantic (Pixies)” [4AD]
You have to listen attentively to the cascade of florid notes to pluck out the melody of the classic Pixies tune “Gigantic” in this sumptuous and beguiling Bing & Ruth solo piano interpretation. The track is part of a compilation of songs from deep into the 4AD catalog given inventive new covers by a variety of artists that have more recently appeared on the label. Bills & Aches & Blues is available digitally with standard vinyl and CD editions due in July and a deluxe vinyl box-set later this year. Profits from the first 12 months will be donated to The Harmony Project, a Los Angeles-based after-school program for children from communities and schools that lack equitable access to studying the arts or music.
Brueder Selke – “Junctions”
Also known as CEEYS, brothers Sebastian & Daniel Selke tease a pair of upcoming projects as Brueder Selke with the beautiful repeating piano & cello patterns of “Junctions”. The brothers are also founders & curators of their own special annual event, Q3Ambientfest, which is being held digitally this year with a fantastic array of contemporary classical and experiemental composers and musicians.
“Junctions” is based on our upcoming Brueder Selke – Go East II – Pianos library on Canadian content provider LandR (meaning Left and Right – the stereo channels) and inspired by our upcoming duo-piano album ‘Marienborn’. It features two sequenced pianos and prepared rhythmic sounds from the piano’s physics.
Didacte – “Katarina Kyrkogård” [piano and coffee records]
Taking its title from the name of a centries old cemetery in Stockholm, “Katarina Kyrkogård” has been a track I’ve listened to countless times the past few weeks. The wistful piano lines are beautiful enough in their own right, but the soft crackling textures and mellifluous synths give it a unique sound that is incredibly inviting. The song appears on Didacte‘s new Revenir EP which has just been released by Piano and Coffee Records with cover art by Jordan Amy Lee.
glacis – “Ten” [221604 Records]
Scottish composer Euan Alexander Millar-McMeekan, aka glacis, didn’t come up with a single piece for Piano Day – he came up with ten. Making it a family affair, he has offered them all in a limited edition CD release each of which comes with a cover designed by his children which the purchaser can request or simply leave to the imagination of the artists. Digital copies are also available and feature The Great Fire of London by Sullivan Millar-McMeeken, aged 6.
Hania Rani – “Live from Studio S2”
Hania Rani is an award-winning pianist, composer and musician who splits her life between her home in Warsaw and Berlin where she studied and often works. In this stunning live session recording at Poland’s Studio 2, she performs “Hawaii Oslo” and “Glass” from her debut album Esja as well as “Leaving” and “Buka” from her latest record Home. In addition to the video, two of the tracks can be purchased as a digital EP (see link above). Many artists on Piano Day will evoke references to Nils Frahm in one way or another, but few can match the brilliance and intensity of his live performances as Hania does here in this delicate tour de force.
I decided to rearrange some of my favorite songs, which I have been performing live for years recorded live and captured in the iconic Studio S2, one of the recording studios of Polish Radio in Warsaw. The hall is fully covered with light wood, which reminds me of other Radio Studios all around the world – like Funkhaus in Berlin for example. There is a kind of intimacy when playing the little piano in this huge and also very high venue.Hania Rani
Jacob Pavek – “Padre”
Minnesota based multi-instrumentalist and composer Jacob Pavek offers the tenderest of solo piano pieces here in an endearing musical response to a note from his father after Jacob just became one himself. The music and his own words speak for themselves.
As I was soon expecting my first child, my father wrote me a note saying that his one wish was that I would take what he taught me as a father, and echo that even further to my son- to be an even “better” father than he was. It took me aback wondering how I could possibly be a better parent than he was, though he did have a point: The hope is to take everything we learned from our upbringing and expand upon that to ensure each generation progresses just a little bit further.Jacob Pavek
Jessica Roch – “Power Dynamic”
This carefully layered piece by London based multimedia composer & multi-instrumentalist Jessica Roch teases an upcoming EP of the same name due out later this month. Just a beautiful combination of pulsing piano lines and subtle electronics with swoops and crosses from the violin.
Julia Andersson – “Luna” [Moderna Records]
At this time of year, it is always worth checking out what Moderna Records is up to. This charming nocturnal piece by Finnish pianist & composer Julia Andersson comes from the label’s Piano Day compilation Splices which also features Jacob David, Daigo Hanada, Julia Gjertsen, Atli Örvarsson, Hideyuki Hashimoto, Pêtr Aleksänder, Jerroen Dirrix, and Taylor Deupree.
The word ”Luna” means moon, as this piece was brought to life during late night hours by the piano, all while beams of moonlight were shining brightly through the window. I wanted to create a piece that reflects on the pace of nighttime – something that’s calm, peaceful and gentle, yet always flowing and moving.Julia Andersson
Rose Riebl – “Over Salt Sea” [INNI]
Australian pianist & composer Rose Riebl makes her first appearance on Iceland’s INNI label with an evocative new piece entitled “Over Salt Sea” given a mesmerizing performance in the just released video shown here. Having composed for film and television as well as performing in concert halls throughout Asia, Europe and Australia, she will soon be releasing her debut full-length solo album on the label entitled “Do Not Move Stones”.
Sofi Páez – “Hammers”
Filmed in a live session was recorded in February in San José as part of a Piano Day celebration for 2021, this video features a memorable performance of quiet intensity from Cost Rican pianist & composer Sofi Páez. The song, we are told, is an ode to her piano and the relationship they’ve had for more than 10 years.
Taylor Deupree – “Mur” [Dauw]
Well known for his pioneering work in electroacoustic ambient as a musician, curator, and mastering engineer, Taylor Deupree stretches the boundaries of his work even further with this filigreed collection of piano-based meditations released on the Dauw label featuring artwork by Jelle Martens. Of the album’s title, Deupree says it is “as if there’s always something about my music that’s like a murmur”, resulting in a murmuring effect when pronouncing the names of each track.
Tiny Leaves – “The Sweetness of Morning”
Our journey ends with a Joel Nathaniel Pike aka Tiny Leaves whose piano and glockenspiel converses with Andy Lowe’s saxophone in a luminous ode to spring mornings. The digital single is a precursor to a new EP slated for June and features a cover image by botanical artist Coral G. Guest.
A new quiet filled the air last spring as nature had the chance to become loud again through lockdown. Instead of the sound of traffic, I noticed the chorus of life in the garden: the abundance of bees, birdsong and new blooms. I wanted to respond to this in music, with sounds equally as hopeful, light and delicate as the unfolding of life in spring. I hope it brings some joy.Joel Nathaniel Pike