“The Piano at the End of the Universe” An Album by Scott Reich – Solo Piano / Vocals Reviewed by Kerry Barnes
Before I say anything about this gorgeous creation, I note that Scott reminds me of Leonard Bernstein!! In good company! This recording is truly beautiful, an intimate musical experience, almost as if Scott is sitting right beside you, playing just for you, and singing just for you too. Here are fourteen tracks of pure bliss, with a ‘Harmonic Language’ that almost transcends words. Very sincere and heartfelt work.
TRACK 1. “All Come Together!” The mood is set instantly by a gentle and somewhat jaunty rhythmic landscape, kept beautifully within a compact range of notation. I think I’m right in saying that one of the differences between a Classical setting and a Jazz setting as far as ‘melody’ is concerned, is that in jazz, melody presents itself in a more fragmented way, but even so, the musical dots are joined here, It’s really pretty. I love it!! It makes me feel like coffee and croissants on a Sunday morning!! Left hand chord formations are gently ‘punctuated’, which works well with the playing around of regular beat placements overall. The beautiful tone between the hands is sublime, equal and restful, you will be pleasantly restored. B R E A T H E !!
TRACK 2. “Bedtime Stories I Tell Myself” ………And what a lovely story it is! Has me in a hypnotising slumber. Very modulatory, moving effortlessly between what seems like a lot of different key signatures, on a journey all their own! Beautifully recorded. The harmonic sequences will have you reaching for the Hot Chocolate. The beautiful right hand melody, slowly but surely seems to open out and develop, just like a flower. There’s a six note bass motif in repetition, like a gentle engine in perpetual motion which literally had my body in a swaying motion from side to side as I typed!! I note a somewhat carefree mood.
TRACK 3. “Hymn” This is Scott in a more melancholy and reflective form. The pianistic devices are at play here, with divine use of the sustaining pedal, exquisite piano sound and beautifully simple and sparse in texture. The depths of the piano are reached here. The heights are decorated with strikingly ‘open’ sounding intervals which seem to perch on top of one another in that ‘harmonic language’ I referred to earlier. This is a ‘hymn’ slightly dancing in in either six-eight or three- four time with clever use of the rhythmic three against four patterns in and / or vice versa. 2:36 of sheer loveliness!!
TRACK 4. “The Piano at the End of the Universe” The title track and one of the longer form pieces. Five minutes and thirteen seconds. A lovely beginning, and Scott is using a three-chord ascending motif here with beautiful results!! It describes a ‘lilting’ phrase to great effect, and once again had me swaying!! Musically there’s a warm welcome for us all, inviting us in. I could be wrong, but I feel there are three hands playing here!! This is because I can hear the normal use of the middle thickness of the piano, but then along come bell-like upper range octaves which are so, so, touching and beautiful, but how did they get there??? The reverb on them makes the piano sound like it’s coming from a very resonate medieval church, and somehow have a connection to the previous track “Hymn”. At the ‘concluding coda’, an unexpected little gem of a chord makes a very soft full stop, Scott has given 110% A gorgeous 2nd subject appears…..oh, I sure wish I had thought of this in my own work!! It seems to present itself as an appealing puzzle, and a third episode like gentle dabs of thick paint. Use of the soft pedal in closing is absolutely magical.
TRACK 5. “Another Voice” No empty notes here, just gorgeous textural almost staccato, but detached landscape. A great motif to build on, and as if by magic, out of the hat come richly punctuated 6ths in the upper part of the piano. A catchy hook has evolved and right at this moment I’m feeling a bit of Chick Corea and George Winston. A little flourish of a descending chromatic scale sounds so smooth, and so bluesy, yummy, yum and yum!! I think this piece will really concentrate the mind of the listener. Finishing on a magical chord that could have only been made in HEAVEN!!!
TRACK 6. “Return To Calm” Oooooh, nice and laid back, with occasional ‘call and response’ between the hands. I was very interested in looking at the score for this piece but couldn’t find it, which then led me to think ‘wow, all this beautiful music is contained in Scott’s head with what must be a phenomenal memory’ so scores for him are unnecessary. Anyhow, back to the piece. There’s a sense of the hypnotic here, which is absolutely incredible because Scott combines this with ‘acciaccaturas’ in octaves in the right hand and to balance these two components is really quite difficult, but no, it’s really smooth. There’s one modulatory key change that I didn’t expect and it is so beautiful and still dreamy. Off the scale gorgeousness!!
TRACK 7. With Vocals. “Return” Just a word about Scott’s vocals. As I said in the introduction, it does feel as though he’s sitting right next to you, a performance just for you. Very intimate and simple. There’s perfect intonation, and no vibrato whatsoever which is so welcome. For some reason I’m getting Toy Story vibes, and that Randy Newman feel, he’s a genius and so is Scott!! “Return” is in a mood of reflection, telling us what once was good. But then come the grey colours of ‘losing, searching and leaving’. Scott tells us that if only he could turn back time, and see the face he so truly loves, he even prays this was so. Surely she knows that he prays for her ‘Return’??? If only he possessed the hindsight of foresight, everything would be well again. Scott feels her embrace, but from far away, so what can he do? Wishing upon wishing seems to achieve nothing, and all is fading away. Fading away. Gone.
TRACK 8. “Sweetest Love” Another gorgeous track from Scott!! A longer than usual introduction plays out here with sublime open and rising chords that compliment each other beautifully and they repeat. I tell you what, I have the “Sweetest Love” for Scott’s harmonic language yet again!!! My daughter was listening to this piece with me and she suddenly said “mum, in places it reminds me of “Final Fantasy” ……a globally successful game with an outstandingly beautiful official soundtrack!! A voracious and gradual crescendo had my forearm hairs standing on end!! An overwhelming feeling. Phrases are allowed to breathe once more as the intro chords with stunning pedalling reveal themselves again. Great work Scott!!
TRACK 9. “This Is Why I Love You” A real conversation is going on here (probably with a loved one) the little melodic phrases are asking questions and answering themselves. A lovely meandering four-four stroll in ‘moderato’ sets the scene throughout. 3.16 minutes of loveliness come to a gentle close with a rather unexpected chord sequence that you really have to listen right to the very end ……..because there’s more than you think??
TRACK 10. “Simple Things” Well, this apparently ‘simple’ piece is anything but!! Studying the rhythmic terrain, we have 8 beats, but the accents are on beats two, four and five! Very interesting and very catchy. I love it!!! Well, they say ‘the simple things in life are free’ but I would pay good money to watch Scott perform this! …….and…..low and behold…..Scott’s signature stamp, the ‘unexpected’ closing chord. Beautiful.
TRACK 11. With Vocals. “This Is Your Day Now” Another gorgeous song from Scott! Almost in the same vein as “Return” but with a more resigned feeling to it, something he cannot grasp. Important are the words ‘there’s no hope without love’, that’s a tremendous statement at the heart of the song. In my mind’s eye I can envisage falling wedding rings, in slow motion, and with no sound. Scott decides to add a kind of middle 8 piano episodal link, which works beautifully!! Then we hear him say, “Life is about letting it become what it’s meant to be” Which I find very reassuring. His piano writing whilst singing is less ambitious and that’s the way it should be to allow the vocals to shine. One of my favourite parts of this song is near the end where he sings in unison with the piano, holding back a little, saying, ‘you always knew’ …..(didn’t you)
TRACK 12. “Loving It All” This track is my absolute favourite because it immediately sends me to France, to dance the waltz with Erik Satie!!! I adore it!! A lovely feature of the song is where there are punctuated staccato chords that allow a buoyant pretty melody to float above. Delightful!! Scott really has pedalling down to a fine art, and in one place especially, keeps it to the floor over 5 different chords, amazing!! And that’s all I want to say about this most gorgeous track!!
TRACK 13. “It’s Own Reason To Be” A lovely beginning. A very pretty and modern Alberti Bass sets the scene. Rolling along in a 4 note pattern, quite gracefully, waiting for it’s melody to arrive! The beautiful melody doesn’t need a ‘reason to be’, it just is!! It’s also technically very accomplished. Pausing for breath here and there, waiting for that ‘bass line perpetual motion’ to come back. And it does so allowing for some gorgeous ‘tied note’ melody in the right hand. Am also loving the little ‘rising major 3rds’, a very intimate harmony. Here’s Scott again playing just for you!!
FINAL TRACK. 14 With Vocals. “Another Piece Of The Trail” “When it’s time to move on in life, (don’t worry) it’s just another piece of the trail”……that’s so reassuring to all human beings!! Great lyrics Scott!! ……..and then, “Let the winds fill your sails, and you’ll find the next piece of your trail” (I’m gonna do this today without fail!!) When Scott sings the word ‘trail’ he jumps and octave and the timbre of that note is exquisite, to die for. What a lovely message to end on for us all, ‘no matter what, it’s all going to be ok’ and we are so lucky that there’s also gorgeous piano backing, what a bonus!! Well, in closing, I ‘very highly recommend this album’ to you all. It can be listened to anytime of day or night. BRAVO SCOTT!! Review by Kerry Barnes 25th of July 2020