by Alison Zito
It would only stand to reason that in today's depressed economy, while a still suffering music business continues to lick its wounds, most major labels are not interested in signing new artists. The reluctance of the major labels to sign new talent has left a large pool of well groomed aficionados pounding their drums to the beat of unemployment. The commercial success of most new acts have been almost completely dependent on their ability to compete in the M.T.V. clone wars, a competition which has still yet to include the performing arts. So, for the contemporary performing artist with a meaningful, timeless message, one of character and substance the future might well appear grim.
Certain artists have for centuries, some how managed to defy the gravity of temporary circumstance. Regardless of the price, there has always been room for those clever enough to persevere in the face of adversity. This phenomenon has contributed to the growing number of self released, and independently distributed music now available in your local record stores. With this in mind, it came as no surprise that while shuffling through the latest titles at the Cutler's Record Store, I discovered a thrilling compliment to my CD library and subject of this review.
Music For the Contemplative Mind, by pianist Louis Joseph Crescenti, is a prime example of contemporary brilliance in a self produced, independently released product. A fresh and inventive collection of original piano solos, recorded live on May 4th. 1993, at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts New Haven, CT.
Crescenti presents a repertoire of seductive instrumentals that demonstrate his passion for the classics as well as the unconventional. The composers ability to incorporate innovation with tradition brings to life an elegance that stretches from one composition to the next. Crescenti's rhythms are free and unrestricted, abounding in joy and warmth. His melodies are lyrical and flowing, underscored by a simplicity and charm that is satisfying, without compromise to the intellect.
Improvisation is a recurring theme for this composer. Crescenti's excursions from strict form are challenging and suspenseful. His ability to kindle a single idea, into a labyrinth of spellbinding variations is uncanny. Time and again he ventures from his carefully laid foundation, only to escort his audience to the far reaches of their imagination. These inventions are eloquently decorated, rich in tonality, and cleverly resolved.
While some might feel that Music for the Contemplative Mind boasts a similarity to the George Winstons of "New Age" music category, Crescenti's deep regard for traditional harmony is an anchor that keeps him from drifting into the thin and repetitive criticisms so often associated with that genre.
In the course of listening to this recording I began to realize just how much the Major Labels deprive the public. Deservedly so-the success of this work can not be over stated-it is a thorough and well designed effort to satisfy the entire listener: body, mind, and spirit.