MainlyPiano.com – Kathy Parsons
1. Water Diamonds
2. Looking Back
Album Notes (continued)
A sadness descends like a light fog
Over the ebbing of Summer and the arrival of Fall
I have never felt so’
Do we feel cheated, as years go by,
At how fast the seasons now seem to pass’?
I become aware of the pull of time, as not before’
Time, the not so ‘gentle-leader’,
On the leash of life. AS
As a little girl, at the age of 6, I asked my Mother if I could have some type of musical keyboard. My cousin had a toy keyboard which I had found absolutely fascinating and that was what I imagined when I made my wish known. Christmas morning of that year a beautiful new Hammond Organ stood in our den. Lessons soon began but for the first year I had to stand to reach the pedals. By the time I was nine, a teacher informed my Mother that to truly develop technically, the piano was the next step. That Christmas a beautiful Black Baldwin turned up in our den, the organ now lived in our kitchen, (which may seem a bit odd, but since that’s where all my Mother’s parties ended up, it was actually quite fitting!). Throughout my young life, my Mother was always there for me and wished to give me every opportunity if I showed an interest. She carted me to all my lessons and always with such support, and the belief that I would really accomplish something extra special in life. What’s tragic, and in life’s twists and turns, ironic, is that she never even got to hear one of my CD’s. I lost her to Cancer at the age of 18.
I believe that all the roads I have traveled, in all facets of my life, have led me to the music I have created over the last decade. One such road led me to the man I would later marry. When we first met, he told me of the time he had driven by my neighborhood with the feeling that he ‘needed to come back one day’. He said he even saw me a couple times and he later photographed me, but it would be several years before our meeting. And when this beautiful man did hear me play for the first time, he decided that without hesitation, I should record a CD – my first. Now he is not only my husband, but my Photographer/Visual Director.
It is not just the creation of this music, but what happens once it is shared. The content in the cards, letters and e-mails I have received over the years shows me that indeed, there is no doubt of this path. I know also, that despite the boundaries of the physical world, my Mother knows that I am doing what I was destined to do, and what she gave to me so early on enabled me to pursue my dreams as well as fulfill my destiny.
When it was time to visit colleges my Father took me to Indiana University and the University of Michigan to audition for their Music Departments. The day we were at Indiana was a gorgeous day. It had to be the first day, in a long Winter, that promised Spring was truly on its way. I do remember wondering as I walked down the halls of practice rooms, why all these students were inside hammering away at the keys for hours on end instead of reveling in the outdoor beauty for awhile. Looking back, I find it equally amazing that so very many talented classical musicians never write and perform their own work, but choose instead to merely replicate the brilliance of centuries past. Ultimately, I took a detour from the Classical World, wanting to embrace the rhythms of the Natural World and to be utterly free to create, unencumbered by the rules of Academia.
Forging well ahead, a couple years ago, I was visiting my Father at Christmas, and he said he had a surprise for me. Never having touched a piano, he had apparently bought one, found a teacher and had been taking lessons for two years. For two years he practiced, for two years he kept it a secret’ until that Christmas. (Christmas always seems to bring such magic’.is it any wonder?) His Study door opened and inside he was poised to play a song, one for which he had received a gold star from his teacher. His hands were shaking as he nervously sought to perform it perfectly for me. My Dad, an internationally high-profile executive, now retired and in his eighties, had decided that he wanted, needed, to somehow get a better understanding of what it actually took to do what his daughter was doing.
My Mother was ever present during my formative years but in adulthood my Father and I have bridged a gap that too often happens in Divorce. Despite this polarization in my life it somehow seems as if things have come full circle, and now Grey Sky and Bittersweet is the seventh album in a decade of releases, culminating at Imaginary Road where all things are possible. Working with Will Ackerman has been a WONDERFUL experience and the entourage of musicians that have worked on my project have been terrific as well, not to mention the magnificent talent of Will’s Engineer, Corin Nelsen.
At Imaginary Road, egos are checked at the door. Inside, a wealth of laughter, creativity, tears, critique and a professional ethic ‘to be the best you can be’, come together to form a magical milieu in which to record. And it isn’t just about recording, not just about making music. It’s about all of it’ life, shared stories, experiences and ‘going into the clouds and bringing something back’ (WA). I have never felt so free in the recording process and as such found levels of performance I didn’t even know existed within me. Within Imaginary Road, there exists a balance of absolute artistic reverence coupled with a sometimes total irreverent sense of humor that never ceases to delight and amaze!
I suppose all things are possible if you know how to dream, to listen to all that is said silently, and, if you have the indomitable belief of someone behind you. Time may be pulling; my feet are firmly planted, but my spirit remains aloft’ untethered as a vessel in the currents of life, wary of the moorings and the anchors, blissfully adrift’ And in the meantime, there is ever more beautiful music to be made!
Acoustic Guitar (A Winter’s Reverie)
Hopi Drum, Rainsticks (Eclipse)
Cello (Falling, Still; Looking Back)
Oboe (Grey Sky and Bittersweet)
English Horn (Falling, Still)
Native American Flutes (Eclipse)
Fluglehorn (Adrift; Dawn on Red Mountain)
Vocals (Dawn on Red Mountain)
T. Bone Wolk:
Upright Bass (Adrift)
Produced by Will Ackerman
Recorded at Imaginary Road Studios, Windham County, VT
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Corin Nelsen at Imaginary Road Studios
Visual Artistic Direction and Photography by Randy Yoder,
RBY Photography, Salem, MA
Manufactured and printed by DiscMakers, Pennsauken, NJ
Piano Technician: William Ballard
“Ann Sweeten possesses a remarkable talent. A musician whose extensive classical training is immediately apparent, she is also someone who writes from a great emotional depth. As her producer it is a joy to hear someone who exploits the entire potential of the piano, finding both dynamics and beauty in all 88 keys. Her pieces have a broad stylistic range and yet create a cohesive program of music very distinctively hers. This is a brilliant recording from start to finish.”
“On her latest release, Grey Sky and Bittersweet, pianist Ann Sweeten eschews what had previously been one of her strong suits, i.e. deft use of electronic keyboards to complement her melodic piano compositions, opting instead for an acoustic approach. Sweeten carries the listener slowly and genteely into an autumnesque landscape of muted colors, fading light, and reflective moments. Her piano playing has never been better, …superb on both collaborative and solo pieces.”
“Ann Sweeten is a classical pianist/composer/arranger. Grey Sky and Bittersweet was produced by Grammy winner Will Ackerman. On it Sweeten will enamor listeners with her prowess on the piano and the wide range of melodies that are present.
“Water diamonds” runs the gambit in terms of the speed Sweeten portrays on the piano. She tickles the ivories both expeditiously and slowly, giving the song a whimsical feel at times, as well as a more rushed one. This change in musical acceleration might invoke thoughts of a rippling fountain.
On “Autumn’s Last Caress” the piano work continues its silky tone along with intermittent pauses in the intro. The intricate construction of this track will undoubtedly bring a smile to the face of any listener as they envision hearing this song while watching leaves descend from trees during this season full of life and renewal.
With the title track, Sweeten brings forth sensory piano work with a pronounced melody that some listeners might find a touch on the sad side.
Ann Sweeten’s Grey Sky and Bittersweet is an album that showcases her classical instrumental training and gift for composition. On each song, Sweeten exhibitis a smoldering fire and profundity that will certainly transcend to listeners.”
“From radiant solo pieces to delightful ensemble works, Ann Sweeten’s new album Grey Sky and Bittersweet has it all. Great music for us dreamers.”
“Stylish and sophisticated, Ann Sweeten has always presented a fine mix of New Age music with her well rooted classical themes. This time around Sweeten has added a low calorie sweet factor and the results are simmering with splendor.”