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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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  1. Wild Rose Lane
  2. Trees
  3. Amusement Park
  4. Commons
  5. Holy, Holy, Holy
  6. Lake Minnetonka
  7. Bike Ride
  8. Soda Fountain Happiness
  9. Water Street - Summer
  10. Water Street - Winter
  11. Excelsior Bay Fireworks
  12. Whoville
  13. Goodbye Carousel
  14. Cemetery On The Hill
  15. Bygone Era
  16. Excelsior In a Dream

Bill Carrothers (piano)
rec. October 2010, Studio La Buisonnes, Pernes les Fontaines [60:36]


Pianist Bill Carrothers has titled his latest album 'Excelsior', 'the sort of town Norman Rockwell or Currier or Ives would have painted'. It's a town of 3,000 souls and Carrothers was one of them; this was his hometown. To celebrate it, or paint it in music, he went naked into the chamber - no tunes, no chord sequences, no nothing. This, then, is pure improvisation, a Minnesotan soundscape with evocative artwork to boot.

This, for a jazz pianist, is also a plangent and nostalgic album infused with classical feelings. Wild Rose Lane is like Satie, only with richer harmonies; the reflective nostalgia that pervades the disc is established from the off in this track, and so too is the MacDowell feeling. Trees has hymnal chording, Carrothers evoking memories of his youth with singing refinement; Ives without the ambiguity. Then, for Amusement Park, he takes us to another place, a frisky, off-beat hall of musical mirrors, a kind of bop boogie. The Commons is another richly voiced essay in nostalgia, before we're back to the church for Holy, Holy, Holy in which the hymn is spiced by light, but again non-Ivesian dissonances.

Lake Minnetonka is nicely filmic; if they film more Garrison Keillor it should do nicely. Then it's cocktail hour time in Bike Ride, in which he seems to quote What a Wonderful World. Is he using a prepared piano in Soda Fountain Happiness - something's on the strings, jangling away, accentuating the funky grooves. Warm, hazy and bluesy - that's Water Street - Summer whilst the Winter version has more filigree, crystalline runs reflective of the season. Excelsior Bay Fireworks has quite a pawkily voiced left hand against the slowly rolling right, whilst impressionist, Debussian harmonies infiltrate the hymnal reverie of Cemetery On The Hill. The drifting interior memories of his youth are pursued in the final track, Excelsior In a Dream.

This wistful, reflective delightful disc defies easy categorisation and is all the better for it. It's been beautifully recorded as well.

Jonathan Woolf

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