When I read about this release, that a classically oriented pianist recorded a disk of improvisations, I said to myself, "I must hear this."
After five listens I must say I am very glad I did. Ola Gjeilo's Piano Improvisations (2L 82) comes in a set--a version on Blu-Ray disk and the recording as a high-quality audiophile CD. I don't have a Blu-Ray player so I cannot tell you how that sounds, but the CD sounds terrific.
And the music? A thing of pretty great beauty. It turns out that Ola has listened to Keith Jarrett's solo work and has taken something from the approaches that Keith favors--gospel-flavoring, singing right-hand lyricism, harmonically rich voicings, mesmerizing pulsations of a funky sort, though perhaps a little more classically primed in the musical undercoating here....and a tasteful classical-romantic rubato. No Liberace-itus, in other words. No relation to the "Warsaw Concerto," if anybody remembers that pseudo-Rachmaninovian vulgarization...
It is an extension, transformation and fresh start using these and other original elements to create a full program of inspired pianism.
There are a few composed pieces that sound well and then there are long passages of beautifully post-Lisztian, ecstatically sweet rhapsodizing.
Ola Gjeilo may well be a huge success with this recording. It's one of those recitals that should appeal to many: those who love beauty in music will gravitate toward it, so that would include the new-agers (though this is miles beyond a George Winston), the classical listeners, the ECM-Jarrett lovers, Brad Mehldau fans....
And it is very. very lovely to hear.