CD REVIEW: Jon Wirtz - Sea Level
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Jon Wirtz
CD: Sea Level
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Contemporary Piano Jazz, R&B
Sounds Like: Joe Sample, George Duke, George Winston
Technical Grade: 8/10
Weakness: Winded songs & catalogue, sparse musical environment
Accomplished Pianist & composer Jon Wirtz releases his debut CD entitled Sea Level in 2010. Some may recall Jon playing piano for such mainstream acts as Matt Morris, Sputter, LSW, Angine Stevens & even John Commons over the years. Now Jon is in the spotlight all by himself with this being his freshman release. Wirtz himself halls from Denver Colorado.
Logging in at just over 61 minutes the CD gently takes to flight with “Approaching Sea Level” a soothing intro piece with solitary piano, possessing much in the way of dynamics & passion. I especially like how this piece flows & ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. Track 2 “Blue Ridge Drive” shifts gears a bit with sonic intro, lending itself to a tranquil melody that sucks you in with its hypnotic rhythm & mesmerizing musical flow. Track 3 “Running at Sea Level” serves up more of the same impressive piano virtuoso with advanced syncopation & 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 Joe Sample, George Winston, & George Duke. Right from the start you will notice Wirtz feels quite comfortable just letting it all hang out musically, not holding anything back. The overall musical vibe has a nice peaceful & tranquil feel to it. The piano playing is defiantly contemporary Jazz with a splash of Americana, classical & 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, & I give Wirtz high marks for taking this on & 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 Wirtz has with respect to flow & ebb passion playing is as good as it gets. Equally as impressive is Wirtzs’ interpretation of “Black Hole Sun” from Soundgarden. The fact that he put this song on there shows the wide latitude on musical brilliance. The songs themselves are short & sweet musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair, & signature groove. From hypnotic Eventide” to passionate “Ascension”, to tranquil “Despite Appearances this CD pretty much has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Big Bright Burning Yellow Sun” the perfect finale statement to this catalogue
I fully realize this is a subjective art form, but I can't help but wish for more very light & conservative touches of things like drums, stand up bass, strings, cello, violin, & 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 & synergetic in nature.
Sea Level by Jon Wirtz is a brilliant collection of music. 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 & Breakfast & Boutique owners everywhere, & will no doubt be at the top of the list to lull your toddler to sleep. But above all this catalogue will work best on those days you want a solitary musical statement to fill your sonic space. It’s strong suit – the consistency of Jon Wirtz as he clearly knows how to fill the space with peaceful tranquility & amazing playing & composing. For so many years Wirtz has made many an artists sound good, now he’s doing himself justice with Sea Level.
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