Friday, September 22, 2023

Afterthoughts Gary Schmidt



Gary Schmidt

Written by

Steve Sheppard


It’s been a while since I have bathed in the calming refrains of a Gary Schmidt album, if I remember correctly it was in the year that everyone wants to forget 2020, and we relaxed with Gary in the realm of A Classical Meditation, skip forward 3 years and we are at a new place in time and tide as Gary Schmidt now presents to us a 10 track album full of colour, positivity, new beginnings and hope, in this amazing fresh release Afterthoughts.

The opening foray is startlingly brilliant; a lively up-tempo offering entitled This New Day, here Gary plays with a flourish, a passion for life. A true excitement can be felt within his performance, one that is like pulling back the curtains on a beautiful early summer morning, as there is just about everything to look forward to from the cadence of the day. Listen carefully for the crafted interplay between major and minor, in a largely forward thinking offering, tinged with a clever little mood of reflection.

One of my personal favourites, of which there were many, would be this following composition called The Stillness of Flow, whilst Gary played the piano with such emotion, it was easy for me to visualise a river in full flow, then those quiet moments when the waters find a drifting eddy with which to float and just be, much like life really. This for me is true artistic flair and emotive brilliance, and all presented with such passion and desire.

Ancient Time Telling was released as a single earlier on this year and contained such a delightful string section which with ease danced with the maestro’s piano, for me this was and is one of the pianist’s most memorable pieces, a timeless refuge of memory, reflection and storytelling, all brought together by a thoughtful hand on the musical tiller. 

It is time now to just relax and enjoy the classical styles created by Schmidt on this next arrangement entitled Transcendental Etude, a composition, that from my research, is one of the most difficult to perform, and considered a triumph of piano literature. Here that technical side of the artist comes forward and completes this presentation with an unbridled success, this is a piece to sit down and listen to without distraction, and then stand and applaud at its conclusion, it really is that good.

We arrive at the half way juncture and as we do we come across light hearted reverie entitled Face that Lights My Face. The magical energy about this specific piece is the beautiful fluency and flow of the track. Schmidt manifests something so incredibly beautiful, and with the touch on each key a new tone is brought into our musical reality, this is a classic feel good creation.

A short form narrative is now before us called simply Impromptu and composed originally back Sibelius back in the 1890’s, as an arrangement this is quite forward thinking and was also part of the romantic era in classical piano too. Here the artist gifts us a gentle fluent composition that holds a slight note of mystery and passion within its constraints.

One cannot help but love this next piece entitled Ellen's Song, here is a track bathed in loving respect, the warmth that flows from this composition is like a warm hug in the middle of winter, one will find added strings within the composition that add a delightfully sublime layer and texture of a calming reverie into the piece.

The short musical narrative of Berceuse (Cradle Song) is up next; here Gary in less than two minutes brings peace, tranquillity and serenity to the fore in charming heart-warming performance, one that leads us beautiful into the final segments of the album.

We now reach the penultimate track off the album and it is called Simply Reflected. Schmidt pulls off one of his best performances on this offering, one that is artistically sublime, but also technically brilliant. Again this is a track that needs to be enjoyed with the attention towards the structures of the arrangement, the sublime melody which for me illustrated one of the finest solo piano juxtapositions I think I have heard for years.

The concluding creation is a composition brought into this world by Shuman and called Dreaming. Schmidt leaves us with an arrangement that nestles into the arms and breathes a sigh of peace before drifting off into a night time reverie, a delightfully warming way with which to leave an album indeed.

Afterthoughts by Gary Schmidt is one of those blissful albums that you could spin in a moment of happy solitude, and bathe in the moment with, it’s music to ease the mind and sooth the soul, where the artist highlights his technical prowess, his studies on reflection and his tender touches of emotional understanding. Afterthoughts by Gary Schmidt is an all-round fantastic album, the phrase is indeed old, but there is indeed something for everyone within this new offering of piano mastery.

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