Art on the Piano
By: Holly Jones
Written by: Steve Sheppard
There are few albums in this world that when I listen to the first few opening bars I exclaim one word, one expression “wow”. Holly Jones and Art on the Piano is that album, and in my opinion it is the best work of solo piano I have heard for literally ages.
The journey starts with one of the best opening gambits for eons entitled A Blackberry Sky. The style whilst new age in arrangement, has another element that is almost mainstream, and the mixture of the two bring forth one of the most emotionally connected tracks I have listened to for a long while. There are several structures here from major to minor and back that are perfectly built into the composition and done so well, it reminded me of Elton John’s wistful and emotive performances of the 70’s.
Solo piano is a genre that is literally jam packed with performers, but if this album is anything to go by then Holly Jones is going to be right up there with them. Next up to prove that point is the delicate and almost classical Butterfly. If you ever wanted to hear the artistic endeavours of creating a build and progression in a composition on the piano, then this track is a fine example of that skill, textured, tempered and one that literally glides you all over the dance floor.
There is a slight sense of longing in this next piece entitled In the Quiet. Jones seems to have an amazing ability to create mood and a full range of emotions with every brushstroke of her piano. I found myself almost wanting to invent lyrics and sing to this offering, it had that quite addictive hook to it that made it completely undeniable.
We seem now to be moving deeper into the darker realms of the album now as we come across the title track Art on the Piano. The musical narrative and constructed melody is once again strong in this one, it is easy just to float along this gallery of music with the composer and enjoy the ride. I also enjoyed what I perceived to be an almost European motif within this offering as well, that added a little extra flavour to the overall nature of the composition. This piece is the longest on the album at just short of six minutes, and I for one am very thankful of that, this is magical in every sense of the word.
At the half way marker we come across a charming offering called Stillness of Brilliance. There is a beautiful lightness of touch and colour within this performance that makes this composition so lovely to listen to. Jones also adds a layer of hope into the weave to once more manifest something truly fluent and passionate, in an arrangement that is guaranteed to lift the spirits in the same way that one feels when they have managed to climb that amazingly tall hill on a glistening summers day.
Slowly now we make our way down the hillside of our latest musical endeavour, and to aid us on our way we have a track called Cry For Happy, which lifts our energies and carries our musical soul homeward. A really warm composition can be found here, and its cleverness comes from its uncomplicated nature, the structure and narrative here is simple to enjoy, and thus something accessible is born to all, a wonderful moment at the centre of the album indeed.
I must admit I’m glad I found this on my desk this morning, it has brightened my day and improved my mood, and that continues with the shortest piece off the album called Jellies, yes I did say Jellies. At less than three minutes we have a track that seems to float along on the haze of a summer’s day, but underneath there is once again that little classical motif that makes this yet another fascinating offering from the album for us all to enjoy.
The footfalls of our journey have now taken us into somewhere filled with musical cobwebs, memories of a past so much longed for, where one wears sadness on his shoulders like a worn out over coat, such was the track The Room for me. A deep and dark offering perfectly played, one could through the performance, see the white dust sheets of the past hover on furniture that has seen many eons and memories fly past in the twinkling of an eye, and the dropping of a few tears, over many, many years, this was a marvellous performance packed with emotion and stylish playing, this was with ease one of my favourite pieces off the album.
Repose, time to relax and gaze back over our shoulders at our musical journey thus far, Jones here gives us a moment to revel in what we have heard so far, and to a track that has a range of depth and awareness about its own construction as well. There was a sublime sense of peacefulness about this performance I adored, one that allowed an ambient sense of tranquillity to take over control of my mind.
The penultimate offering off the release is a track called Walk with the Trees. There was something almost transcendent about this offering that I loved. Jones performance and her ability to create such wonderful musical structures brought forth for me a sensitive yet magnificent offering to enjoy. The minor aspect to this composition was divine and seemingly awe inspiring at times.
So to round off this quite breath taking album we have an almost camp fire song to finish with a flourish so to speak, in the track Light on The Water, but don’t take this track too lightly, it contains yet another stylish performance that concludes one of, if not the best, solo piano albums I have heard for many years.
Art on the Piano has to be rated by all that delight in really good music as one of the best new releases of the year in any genre, Holly Jones is obviously an artist in more than one sense of the word. Each track on the album is crafted with care and attention to detail, but also each composition is its own art form, its own portrait of a moment in time now, never to be forgotten. I urge you all to allow this album to come into your lives; you will be fulfilled and soothed by its utterly charming musical narratives. I have been searching for a solo piano album like Art on the Piano for years, and proudly at last that search is concluded, as it now resides within my own music library and the good news is, it can in yours too, this my friends is one really not to miss out on.