Michael Sokolowski


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After a decade as a primary component in the eclectic Charlottesville, VA, music scene, Michael Sokolowski (piano) further extended his remarkable craft on his solo debut, Monday (2001). Immediately evident is the sizable palette of sounds and styles from which the pianist draws upon. While his work can be inextricably linked to jazz, Sokolowski's approach is much more difficult to categorize. The opening "Dark Beam of the Seine" invokes comparisons to the aggressively melodic methodology of Keith Emerson, alongside the decidedly cinematic and neo-classical aural imagery of George Winston. Sokolowski's innate structural sensibilities are particularly inspired in the seething yet sublime, noir/bluesy attitude of "Through the Miller's Matrix." He unravels round after round of achingly poignant phrases that organically ebb and flow, cocooning the listener into a moody surrealism. Arguably, the most captivating cut is the aptly named "Dwelling in Love." There is a refined, scintillating romanticism held in check throughout the winding refrains as they develop into what is nothing short of an assertive and distinctly motivated finale. "Mercer and Howard" is another of the centerpieces, blending forceful yet dreamy lines atop the delicate balance of disparate arrangements and tonalities. Sokolowski's divergent excursions display his underutilized (at least on this recording) post-bop influence that is swaddled in a solid and soulful resonance. Despite clocking in at over twelve-and-a-half minutes, the extraordinary key changes enhance the selection's full-bodied vibrancy without becoming predictable or fatigued, in fact; the opposite is actually the case. "The Earliest Morning" and the effort's concluding "Muttisong" embrace the essence of renewal suggested by this collection's title. The pastoral passages embrace and deny the inevitability inherent imagery of the word Monday, speaking to both simultaneously. Sokolowski is joined by Tim Reynolds (acoustic guitar) on the former song, providing a refreshing balance that rises to the occasion by supplying a sublime textural infusion. Granted, this brand of instrumental music isn't everybody's cup of tea. That said, inclined parties are strongly encouraged to investigate not only Monday, but also Common Margins (1998), a disc of improv for piano and guitar with Sokolowski and Reynolds.

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