Gavin Sutherland

Piano Pastimes

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This homemade British disc (the artist's wife serves as producer) offers what in the U.S. would be called piano bar music, but for Britons it apparently has more domestic connotations. "How often has one heard the phrase: 'Ah, those Sunday evenings around the piano' or 'My old dad, he could play anything on the piano -- with all the chords and everything,'" asks pianist Gavin Sutherland. Whether one hears it with a drink in hand or as the family relaxes after Sunday dinner, it's a fascinating and little-heralded subgenre of popular music, carried on at an entirely grassroots level. Except for two short original compositions, Sutherland's program here consists of improvised medleys (recorded live, without editing) of related material: The Music of Jerome Kern, The Gershwin Touch, and so on. Specifically British content is provided by The Magic of Ivor Novello. The art in this music, which is related to jazz but somehow doesn't fall into that category, consists partly in its unique way of moving from tune to tune -- hesitating here, bringing a new tune enthusiastically forward there, backtracking, or rushing unexpectedly ahead. What the pianist produces is a distinct "mix" of songs that, if done right as it is here, has qualities of fantasy and memory. A pleasant disc, especially for Americans who enjoy piano bars and may wish to hear a close relative of piano bar music from across the pond.

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