CD REVIEW: Charles Szczepanek - Winter Day Dreaming
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Charles Szczepanek
CD: Winter Day Dreaming
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Contemporary Piano, Classical, Holiday Music
Sounds Like: George Winston, David Lanz, Jim Chappell, Kathleen Ryan
Technical Grade: 8/10
Weakness: More Instrumentation, a few winded songs
Accomplished Pianist and Charles Szczepanek just released his latest CD entitled Winter Day Dream in 2013. From adding new flair to the traditions of classical music performance, to pushing the limits of modern recording technology, to creating and composing music of all styles and types, Charles is one of a very few remarkable individuals who truly grasp the essence of music and have the ability to put that understanding to work in a wide variety of ways. Winter Day Dreaming: A powerful solo piano album, rich and sonorous, featuring new contemporary arrangements of holiday favorites as well as two original compositions.
The CD gently takes to flight with “What Child is This” a methodical yet soothing intro piece with solitary piano, possessing much in the way of dynamics and passion. I especially like how this piece flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. Track 2 “Silent Night” shifts gears a bit with solitary intro, lending itself to a tranquil melody that sucks you in with its hypnotic rhythm and mesmerizing musical flow. Track 3 “Do You Hear the Drummer Boy” serves up more of the same impressive piano virtuoso with advanced syncopation and brilliant playing that will sure to make your head spin. The CD makes a solid first impression dishing out 3 amazing pieces in a row. As the CD unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic George Winston, David Lanz, Jim Chappell and Kathleen Ryan. Right from the start you will notice Szczepanek feels quite comfortable just letting it all hang out musically, not holding anything back. The overall musical vibe has a nice peaceful and tranquil feel to it. Other times quite intense and passionate. The piano playing is defiantly contemporary Jazz with a splash of Americana, classical and even R&B. Despite the singular musical element it’s quite amazing how versatile the music really is. No doubt more work is required form a musician to fill this sonic space all by himself thus keeping the attention span of the listener all by himself. Brilliant artists can rise to this challenge, and I give Szczepanek high marks for taking this on and even pulling it off. The musicianship is clearly first rate as he pushes the natural accents extremely well. Many forget the piano is a percussion instrument. Having said that the touch Szczepanek has with respect to flow and ebb passion playing is as good as it gets. The songs themselves are short and sweet musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair, and signature groove. From the hypnotic title track to impassioned “Carol of the Bells” and “What Child is This” to tranquil “Snowfall” and “O Holy Night” this CD pretty much has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Auld Lang Syne” the perfect finale statement to an amazing holiday catalog like this.
I fully realize this is a subjective art form, and I know how much people enjoy solitary Piano music, but I can't help but wonder what some of these arrangements would sound like with very light and conservative touches of orchestral drums, stand-up bass, strings, cello, orchestral strings, violin and sparse percussive elements. A few of the songs over 5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line - a microcosm of the entire catalogue. At the end of the day all of the above would just render a catalogue of music more versatile, entertaining and synergetic in nature.
Winter Day Dreaming by Charles Szczepanek is a brilliant collection of music. It’s a pleasure to hear many of these Christmas classics assembled together via this timeless collection. The strong suit of this CD is how Szczepanek makes each one these pieces his own via his remarkable touch and playing virtuoso. Song for song, note for note its rock solid catalogue of music. It just has a nice feel good groove to it. This CD is perfect for Bed and Breakfast or Boutique owners everywhere, and will no doubt be at the top of the list to play when there is snow falling outside. But above all this catalogue will work best on those snowy days you want a solitary musical statement to fill your sonic space. It’s strong suit – the consistency of Charles Szczepanek as he clearly knows how to fill the space with peaceful tranquility and amazing playing and composing.