Light Lands and
Gratz Music (2008)
Wayne Gratz helped the Narada label achieve its immense
popularity in the late Ď80s with the release of albums
like Reminiscence and Panorama. In the
years afterwards, he developed one of the more identifiable
styles in the new age/adult contemporary instrumental
piano genre. There is something that just "sounds
right" in his music, a quality I first heard in
1993 when I purchased Follow Me Home (my introduction
to his music). That album was followed by 1995ís Blue
Ridge and 1996ís A Gift of the Sea yielding
what may be the finest three consecutive recordings
ever released by any piano player in this genre. Gratz
then released a series of cover tune albums in the late
Ď90s and I admit to losing track of him sometime around
Island Sanctuary (which marked a return to original
compositions) in 1999. He left Narada in 2002 and launched
his own label and this is the first CD from "Wayne
Gratz Music" that Iíve heard. My assessment? Light
Lands and Shoreline easily stands alongside the
best offerings from this talented artistís past catalogue.
by the popular paintings of Thomas Kinkade, Light
Lands and Shorelineís fifteen tracks feature a mixture
of solo piano pieces and songs on which Gratz displays
his usual considerable skill in applying tasteful electronic
textures and accompaniments. Just as his piano playing
is uniquely characteristic, so are the subtle synthesized
tones and instrumentation he adds on selected pieces.
Whenever he layers in an embellishment to the piano,
it always adds to and never detracts from a songís appeal.
He has a great ear for knowing not just "When"
but "How much" as well.
youíve never heard a Wayne Gratz album, his overall
playing/composing style is melodic and flowing, usually
featuring refrains but never in an overly structured
pop music style, more in how the refrains reemerge to
anchor a piece in familiarity between bouts of delicate
soloing or tone poem-esque minimalism. While he seldom
revs things up on this release, he can get quite lively
(witness certain songs on Follow Me Home and
Blue Ridge). On this CD, his songs tend to balance
a shaded form of gentle somberness with undeniable warmth
and friendliness and occasional ripples of cheer and
sprightliness. Since Kinkadeís paintings served as the
creative impetus behind Light Lands and Shoreline
(and if youíve seen any of the manís paintings), you
can rightfully expect that the album will fall on the
softer introspective side of Gratzís continuum (Kinkadeís
artwork is suffused with softness, warmth, and a glowing
sensation of light).
the track titles on the album are picturesque, enabling
the listener to paint his/her own visual images as the
music pours out of the speakers.
Windowís Glow" opens the CD and a nostalgic seafaring
influence is heard as sparse notes glide over a subtle
application of synth string washes and textures. While
more minimal in structure, the piece is still unmistakably
cast in the Gratz mold. "Native American Winter"
is somewhat spirited but carries a hint of sadness amidst
the notes. "Cottage by the Sea" has one of
the albumís more delicately pretty refrains with an
almost lighter-than-air dancing quality to it. "Houses
by the Water" showcases another of Gratzís "patented"
keyboard textures, a sort of soothing whooshing choral
sound which adds a haunting quality to the romantic
nature of the main melody. Reminding me of Follow
Me Home, "Colors of Autumn" has another
keyboard effect which is hard to describe but fleshes
out the reflective piano piece perfectly, giving it
a twinkling atmosphere of sorts.
wish I had more space to detail the rest of the songs
on Light Lands and Shoreline, but suffice it
to say I love this album and can only add that I heartily
give it my highest recommendation to not just fans of
this immensely gifted artist but also to those for whom
discovering Wayne Gratzís many talents will be an all-new
New Age Reporter