“He’s got romance in the marrow all throughout, and his touch is what others dream about. Grab this one!”
I’ve heard about ten albums by pianist Roger Davidson, who usually records in the Brazilian jazz format, and he’s one of the few guys around who just can’t play a wrong note. Whenever I play one of his releases with company, inevitably someone will ask who that pianist is. He’s that attractive.
This time out, he delivers a dozen solo improvisations ranging from 4 to just over 8 minutes, and each one is a lyrical gem. There are gentle waves of drama on “Ethereal Ocean” and ruminating reflections on “Forest Prayer.” Stories sound like they are being told over a camp fire on “Desert Light” and “Journey of Wisdom” and he takes you on a journey to the Iberian Peninsula on “Blessing.” His Schubetian touch is evident throughout, but comes out strongest on “Fountains of Life.” He’s got romance in the marrow all throughout, and his touch is what others dream about. Grab this one!
The biggest problem with Roger Davidson’s solo piano album, Temple of the Soul, is defining its genre. As the liner notes explains the album is a collection of rhapsodies and meditations “one-hundred percent improvised.” Call it jazz. On the other hand, if you skip the liner notes, close your eyes and listen, you could easily imagine yourself in a concert hall listening to a classical recital, and didn’t those classical composers improvise as well. Call it what you will, but make sure to call it beautiful, imaginative, and transformative.
Roger Davidson is a masterful pianist, and this new album shows him at his creative best. He knows the literature of his instrument and he works with it and builds on it. The title piece that opens the album has passages that evoke Gershwin. You hear it again even more emphatically later on in “Blue Voyage.” “Ethereal Ocean,” which follows, has touches of Erik Satie. Indeed, the Satie sound can be heard in a few of the pieces. Davidson himself points out the influence of the Impressionists in “Fountains of Life,” and I hear it in the shimmering quality of “Forest Prayer.”
Jazz? Classical? Temple of the Soul is one beautiful album.
“…music that reveals new meanings and nuances the more you listen to it.”
Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies and Meditations for Solo Piano is the genre-defying debut solo piano recording by Roger Davidson and his twentieth album to date. Initially a self-taught pianist/composer, Davidson has traveled the world learning as many styles of music as pos-sible and studying with masters of the many genres and eras of music that interest him. Known mainly as a jazz and classical pianist, Davidson is also known for his chamber, symphonic, Latin, Brazilian, tango, Klezmer, choral and children’s music. It is no wonder then that Temple of the Soul has such an international flavor with so many influences coming into play – influences that have seamlessly become a part of Davidson’s musical soul. All twelve of the tracks on Temple of the Soul were improvised in the studio, flowing from his heart and spirit without technical restraint or stylistic boundaries. The album was recorded on an impeccably-restored 1876 Steinway grand and was produced by Pablo Aslan, Adam Abeshouse, and Davidson. Davidson is the founder of the Society for Universal Sacred Music as well as his recording label, Soundbrush Records.
Temple of the Soul begins with the title track, a piece Davidson says “felt like the beginning portal into the spiritual journey that this album is.” The piece has a Middle Eastern feeling in much of its 8 1/2 minutes, but there are also some very strong American influences. Sometimes big and exhilarating and sometimes quiet and reflective, this piece alone is quite a journey. “Ethereal Ocean” was named for its feeling of ebbing and flowing. Very free and in constant motion, it evolves and develops organically and in the moment. Nature has a strong influence on Davidson’s music, and “Forest Prayer” expresses his connection to “trees, birds, and everything in the forest” – a favorite.
“Fountains of Life” reflects Davidson’s love of the French Impressionist composers in a piece that he refers to as a “celebration of life.”
“From the Rising Sun” is based on the scale played on the Japanese Koto, a thirteen-string zither. Cinematic to meditative, it’s a beauty.
“Blue Voyage” hints of Gershwin and the blues-infused popular music of that era. Peaceful yet edgy, I think this is my favorite on the album.
“Freedom For All” comes in a close second with its references to African-American spirituals and gospel music – very earthy and soulful. The impassioned “Journey of Wisdom” suggests difficulties and hardships along the way to enlightenment – a struggle worth enduring. “Waves of Reflection” brings this evocative album to a thoughtful and peaceful close.
Temple of the Soul is an amazing musical journey. While it may be more of a listening challenge than much of the music I review, it is music that reveals new meanings and nuances the more you listen to it. Roger Davidson is an extraordinary pianist in so many ways! This album is available from Amazon, iTunes, and many other music retailers. Recommended!
ROGER DAVIDSON/Temple of the Soul: No one can ever accuse Davidson of not knowing his way around a piano and his skills have taken him around the world and around the genres in fine style hitting all the stops of from classical to Brazil. This time around, we find him opening up the spiritual side he’s been harboring for himself and his insiders, now opening it up for all. On a solo piano set that has a very impressionistic feel, Davidson plays what he feels reaching for the inner soul sounds like. A crafty sonic mixture of where he’s been and where he’s probably headed, this is a nice bag breaker of a release for all of you who think you know the multi-faceted, multi award winning player well enough to take him for granted. A finely dramatic works that really sets the table for something different.
“..a gorgeous collection of solo piano works.”
“…an enlightened soul letting the music do all the talking.”
“Simplicity and beauty abound through the fingers of this talented man…”
People like Roger Davidson receive a gift from a higher power or a superior intelligence at a very early age. At four years old he was drawn to the piano and began playing and improvising. He continues on to this day bringing the solace and joy of the ivory keys through his compositions.
The recently released Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies & Meditations for Solo Piano is a gorgeous collection of solo piano works. The tracks range from classical to new age and on to jazz-infused piano throughout, in any combination of all the genres. This is an album that eases your mind, body and spirit. Yes, the triangle of life receives a surge of energy by absorbing this powerful yet serene music.
On the artist website it states the following: The solo piano pieces on this CD show what happens when Roger, in a reflective mood, simply lays his hands on the keys. The influences of a lifetime flow through him. You may hear nods to Gershwin, Jobim, and Ravel, and to the wealth of styles he has absorbed in his travels. The album, he says, is “not just a journey of the spirit; it’s an intuitive journey around the world. When you have the right color and the right kind of brush to express a feeling or a quality of life, it instinctively comes up and becomes part of the fabric of each piece.”
That puts everything into proper perspective. The simplicity of one man sitting at a piano and creating such beauty is a wonder to me. I listen to many forms of music and some of it is very complex. This kind of experience allows you to appreciate artistry in its finest form. You bear witness to an enlightened soul letting the music do all the talking. I think that is much more difficult than singing along to a tune. Davidson has the ability to make it all seem so natural and flowing; it’s comparable to a river running down a mountainside, giving life wherever it may go. In essence this perception, as the title of the album would indicate, literally feeds the temple of soul.
I found myself not only appreciating the sheer beauty of the music, but what each piece was communicating to me. “Temple of the Soul” breaks the ice, ever so sweetly, while the majesty of an “Ethereal Ocean” of sound sweeps you away with tides of peace and introspection.
“Blessing” holds beauty, proud and strong at the outset, then it allows for tranquility to prevail as it moves along. If your ears are open there is so much to take with you while paying attention to this music. Every track is a special journey that can be translated to your own understanding.
Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies & Meditations for Solo Piano is a good listen for any time day or evening. Simplicity and beauty abound through the fingers of this talented man, Roger Davidson. This recording comes highly recommended from this listener.
Roger Davidson has long been regarded a pianist’s pianist. His ability to bring the soul of the piano to the surface to share with his audience has long been lauded. Eventually, every serious musician wants to lay down music from the soul, music full of heart and spirit, without technical restraint or genre boundaries. For composer and pianist Roger Davidson, TEMPLE OF THE SOUL – RHAPSODIES AND MEDITA-
TIONS FOR SOLO PIANO is that album. For Roger Davidson, music is a world without boundaries. Though commonly termed a classical artist, Roger had developed a fearlessly eclectic reach, both as a composer and pianist. “Music is for the world,” says Roger, whose acclaimed catalog ranges from chamber, symphonic, and choral pieces to jazz, tango, Klezmer, children’s music, and a wide span of Latin and Brazilian projects. As a jazz pianist, Roger was mentored by Helen Keane, Bill Evans’ longtime manager; Keane produced his first jazz album.
JazzTimes has since called him an “impeccable player”; Michael G. Nastos of All Music Guide termed him an “extraordinary” pianist devoted to “reaching for the inner soul.” His remarkable flair for melody helps him cross stylistic lines with ease. In 2008, Roger made his Carnegie Hall debut as pianist in the debut of his Prayer for Peace (for Jazz Trio and Orchestra). As a composer and pianist, Roger Davidson is known for his thoughtful, melodic embrace of every style that interests him, be it chamber, symphonic, choral, jazz, sacred, or Latin music.
Settle back and let Roger Davidson guide you through meditation and memories of more beautiful times.
While the title of Roger Davidson’s new album contains the word “Meditations,” do not expect weak languor, but rather catharsis. This is very animated and emotional music, which captures you from the very first note of “Temple of the Soul” and does not release you until the final chords of “Waves of Reflection.” Drawing you down secret paths of the imagination, it leads you into the hidden corners of your soul and into the most beautiful places in the universe; it will take you wherever your fantasy will allow. Whereas the word “solo” is also on the cover, I will venture to exchange it with the word “duet.” This is truly a proper duet between a talented performer (who works in the most varied genres from jazz and tango to klezmer) and his noble instrument, an 1876 Steinway. With true inspiration they improvise together, creating lyrical and somewhat dramatic compositions, which are at the same time contemplative and passionate, calm and emotional. In short Roger and his piano dive into the very depths of feeling, the abundance of which can bring a lump to the listener’s throat, can summon to mind one’s most varied and important memories and images, and can call forth either pure, redemptive tears or a radiant joy and a light almost weightless feeling which approaches something unbelievably important and sacred. Most likely this is indeed catharsis, the state to which music should lead a person, if it is played professionally and with all of one’s soul.
Nothing I have said can be doubted when you listen to this album, which has been built on the harmonies of classical works from the dawn of impressionism and on bright, spontaneously brought forth melodies, which at times make improbable turns as they are developed by the artist’s will. The album has also been constructed on a light Eastern vibe which is detected between the massive chords, on a new age tranquility, from which the second half of the album is derived, and on a concert energy which is almost jazz improv. This is music that will not leave you indifferent, and that is its main value. This is a superb release, which is capable of giving much even to those who are indifferent to solo piano, but who are prepared to surrender their emotions to the will of the music.