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88 Keys
Carl Schroeder
Reviewed by Kathy Parsons

“88 Keys” is 24-year-old Carl Schroeder’s fourth CD release to date, but his first exclusively solo piano recording. With an impressive set of musical credentials already, Schroeder is a young artist with a unique vision and voice. Most of the music on this CD leans more toward contemporary classical than new age (whatever that means anymore), but is mostly very accessible, ranging from smoothly melodic to more experimental and edgy. Schroeder composes a lot of music for high school and college bands and orchestras, and that feeling of a larger scale of music is apparent in the complexity of the music, but Schroeder is an accomplished pianist who obviously feels very much at home with the instrument. Also passionate about American history and politics, several of these pieces are about American events and places, sharing ideas about these things without ramming a specific message down anyone’s throat. I’m very impressed with Carl Schroeder’s work!

“Mississippi River” begins the set in a distinctively American style. A musical portrait of this country’s longest river, the piece is strong and powerful, but not hurried or turbulent. “Jenny’s Song” is much quieter and more delicate. Full of love and tenderness, the melody is played mostly in the upper registers of the piano. When it comes more to the center of the instrument, a contrasting strength is added to the almost fragile high notes. “Birmingham” is a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoughtful and reflective, a quiet strength and dignity permeate the music, creating a very impressive musical portrait of a true American hero. An occasional phrase from “We Shall Overcome” conjures up vivid memories. “Fenn’s Theme” is very melodic but also very passionate - a favorite. The title track is a fascinating experimental piece that uses every key on the piano only once. “Memories From the Hill” is a very effective series of musical vignettes that range from sweetly melodic to menacing and very abstract. An 8 1/2 minute work, it’s quite a tour de force that covers a lot of musical territory without seeming at all fragmented. The pieces flows seamlessly from one theme to the next even though they are quite different from each other. “Christine’s Lullaby” is a gentle tribute to the youngest victim of the 9/11 attacks. “Snowflake Song” and “Wisdom” are lovely pieces adapted from an original two-movement choral work - very peaceful. “Switch Track” closes the album with one of the “bigger” works that is almost cinematic in its scope. Bravo!

As you can see, there is a wide variety of playing and composing styles on “88 Keys,” and Carl Schroeder does them all exceptionally well. Samples of his music are available at www.carlschroedermusic.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Very highly recommended!

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