There have been many albums over the years by Tim Neumark that have totally resonated with me: he is a quality pianist that has an ability that is so very rare, he can connect with the listener, create emotional pieces, uplift that same listener, and seemingly change course at will, Neumark also has a wonderful knowledge of the technical side of music and today we are about to embark on a voyage through the scales, chords, keys and notes that is so vast, but also all-encompassing, and called 24 Improvs.
As a musician, we all have our heroes; we all have those who have literally touched our souls and their influence upon us if far reaching, in this case Neumark’s dedication goes to Michael Jones, whose music touched Neumark’s heart so very deeply indeed.
So improvisational genius is upon us, it is the ultimate canvas with which to paint naturally, allowing the muse free reign over our minds. Two magical element’s on a piano or a keyboard are the keys and those two words that soon follow are Major and Minor, and so on and so forth, normally I would create a review explaining my views and perceptions on each track, but if I did that here today this review would be about the size of a book, and I believe you want to understand more of what makes this album so special, and this artist one who I regard as one of the greatest creators of piano music currently around today.
24 Improvs starts with a piece that has a Major Key and an upbeat mood, but with such dexterity and skill Neumark manifests a memorable almost anthem like beginning, and also one of the best compositions off the album through the medium of Improv in C Major (Gentle Stream).
There now follows 9 tracks that each have their own special narrative Improv in C Minor, a piece as you would imagine with a reflective touch, Improv in G Major, a track for me bathed in the sunshine of a new day, or we can dive in the darkness of Improv in G Minor, where overcast tones reside, whilst pieces like Improv in D Major lighten the mood with its sunlit uplands.
Neumark’s abilities are far ranging, I have always admired his sensitivity and his amazing ability to manifest music that simply hits the spot every single time. Minor chords and keys always do it for me, tracks like Improv in D Minor a fine example of Neumark’s sense and awareness, or the glory of Improv in A Major, a tune with a blissful majestic quality, then there is the cleverly crafted Improv in A Minor (An Interlude), for me one of the most complex creations on the album, whilst offerings like Improv in E Major offer something for everyone with its delicacy and steady onward progression, and finally Improv in E Minor, an arrangement that has a deep rooted classical energy to its manifestation.
At this juncture of the album I would come across a curiously interesting piece, one that would remind me of the pandemic we have all suffered with, Improv Over One Chord (Social Distancing in B Major). We move swiftly into the second half of the album and Neumark’s intelligent performances take a further step up the ladder of brilliance with tracks like Improv in B Minor, perhaps one of the most emphatic and powerful presentations I have ever heard from the pianist.
We now slide into the arms of autumn and my birth month with November Improv, a piece I can relate to perfectly. I used to hate November in the country of my birth, now in my adopted home of Cyprus it’s my favourite month, and this is exactly what I felt within this piece, a touch of two moods, quite brilliantly done indeed.
Now things get even more interesting as we bring further dynamics into view, for example the track Improv in F-Sharp Minor, a stunning performance by Neumark can be found here, a reflective edge is pronounced, as with our next piece, Improv in D-Flat Major, which captures the mood of a brand new sun rise in its growing energies.
A fascinating offering can be found here on Improv in C-Sharp Minor (Numb), this was always going to be a sad refrain, one that reminded me of our lockdowns, and times that resonated with little help or even hope. Neumark has an artistic skill set to pull musical rabbits from his hat of many magical moments, and on Improv in A-Flat Major (The End of the Road) we have such a track, climatic, triumphant and concluding.
We now softly drift into the last six pieces from the album, some have a specific narrative, others not, the first most certainly so in Improv in G-Sharp Minor (Isolation), music to celebrate my time in lockdown and the success that isolation gave me, sadly more would feel the sadness and tragic elements of this deeply resonating arrangement.
We all need comfort in our lives and for me this next offering spoke of that sense of warmth we all desire and called, Improv in E-Flat Major (Stay Here With Me), while Improv in E-Flat Minor would be the looking glass equivalent of the preceding track, a composition crafted from aloneness. There are many songs that play both sides of the river too, like the ever hopeful Eternity (Improv in B-Flat Major), or the sullen tones of a rainy Monday on Improv in B-Flat Minor, a piece that hovers and offers little light, but through its dark clouds that emotional mood can be touched beautifully.
The penultimate track on this quite amazing album is Improv in F Major (Sunday Evening); the ends to weekends were always bittersweet for me throughout my life, but this song reminds me of that, and the now happy place I am now living within, with gratitude for each of those days I live and breathe, whilst we can conclude this epic journey with the last gift from the album called Improv in F Minor, Neumark’s crafted skill set ends our experience perfectly with a closing piece that is both emotive and inspiring.
24 Improvs by Tim Neumark is the musician laying his art on the line, and bearing his musical soul to all who are open minded and willing enough to listen. It is an enjoyable voyage through the improvisational processes of the mind and genius of pianist Tim Neumark, and in my view the artist has achieved a great goal here, by making a solo piano album, one so vast, that is totally assessable to all who have the intelligence and wisdom enough to dive on in deep and listen too, and if you do so and I am sure you will, there is something residing within the this release that will be the perfect fit for your musical desires, for 24 Improvs by Tim Neumark is a solo piano album of great class, skill, mood and openness and thoroughly recommended by this music writer.
Cover photo licensed by akg-images. The original photo is the property of the National Museum - Czech Museum of Music and can be seen on display at the Antonin Dvorak Museum in Prague.