Ed Martin - Journeys (CD)
Ed Martin's Ravello Records debut JOURNEYS could not be more aptly titled. This album of highly original piano compositions invites the listener on a voyage through mysterious realms where the limits of the sensual and the intuitive dissolve – a journey that is at times epic, and at other times epically quiet.
The album commences with Three Pieces for Piano (2006), a modernist melange whose gamut ranges from dissonant serenity to rhythmic agitation. They're perfectly, intimately rendered by pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, who performs the entirety of JOURNEYS with great clarity, structural insight and precision, never losing touch with the primal, emotional appeal of the compositions.
Swirling Sky (2014), dedicated to the pianist, displays the collaboration between the performer and the composer at its most fruitful. Martin has sculpted and captured the peculiar sensation of looking at clouds in the sky with seeming effortlessness; Astolfi performs them with a paradox combination of lightness and depth that is most appropriate.
The album's namesake and centerpiece, however, is the recent, eleven-piece piano cycle Journey, composed in 2015-2017. In more traditionalist terms, one might call this "variations on a theme" – and one would fall horrendously short, considering the vast artistic and psychological scope of the work. The starting point, Soul, whose main idea centers around a humble minor third, is subsequently transformed in the most diverse of ways: The motive appears, recognizable but ever-changing, in deep sorrow in Lament, desperate to the brink of madness in Vexed, collected in Revelation, and cheerfully delusional in Manic. Eventually, a new thought – Conviction – leads to a Metamorphosis and ultimately culminates in the final Transcend, the cycle's (and album's) musical catharsis.