John Burrows

Opus One

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The five piano pieces on Opus One, John William Burrows' self-produced album, are a mix of classically flavored compositions, mellow pop reveries, and lounge-styled improvisations. Because the music seems to ebb and flow between artless noodling and crafty pastiche, it's difficult to get a clear idea of where Burrows is coming from or to understand what makes him tick. The influences of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt are everywhere evident in Burrows' music, and the towering climaxes, vertiginous runs, thundering bass lines, and diaphanous tremolos in the Romance and Waltz in C sharp minor, Prelude and Rhapsody in B flat minor, and Piano Sonata and Waltz in C minor hearken back to another era of pianistic showmanship. In these works, Burrows seems to have stepped directly out of the nineteenth century, with his heart on his sleeve and his trunk full of sentimental parlor pieces. Though none of these selections will pass as convincing copies of the masters, they don't exhibit even the slightest trace of postmodern irony or cleverness, just innocuous borrowing and ingenuous showing off. There are passages where mild jazz harmonies and pop inflections color the music, and such simple, unpretentious pieces as Autumn in Aspen and Mom's Love might fit well on an adult contemporary album. Granting that Burrows is sincere in his emotional expressions and content to create music in a conservative, albeit derivative, style, one can only take his work on its own terms and not expect it to be something else. But Opus One leaves the overall impression that Burrows is a frustrated classicist whose clinging to the past makes his music irrelevant to any but like-minded listeners and this album a mediocre vanity project.

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