Finn John - Spirit
A new CD just came out that may help control your blood pressure. Here's Dr. Finn's prescription: After dinner, turn off the TV and pour yourself a drink. Sit down in the comfiest chair in your home with some entertaining but unimportant reading material, turn on your CD player and pop in Darrell Grant's new album, "Spirit."
Darrell Grant is a name you'll be familiar with if you've taken music classes at Portland State University. A Portland resident, he's been on the faculty there since 1997, and is now a tenured professor. You'll also recognize his name if you were into the jazz scene in New York City several years ago. In the late 1980s to early '90s, he was one of the most sought-after jazz pianists there, touring and recording with folks like Frank Morgan, Sonny Fortune, Craig Harris, Greg Osby and Dan Braden. He's played in an array of styles on a professional basis - chiefly funk, worldbeat, jazz and classical - in the 33 years he's been playing.
And you can hear it. "Spirit" is the kind of album that incorporates so many different elements that you end up learning something from listening to it. Grant says it was inspired by jazz, spirituals, traditional melodies and pop anthems - and you can hear all these influences in it. But this is no patchwork quilt. In fact, the natural smoothness with which Grant slips from one to the other, often within the same song, demonstrates how closely related these musical genres really are.
Pianists, in particular, will find this album interesting. Darrell Grant is, by anyone's standards, a gifted pianist. Although several of these songs feature backup instruments and vocals, 10 of the 14 tracks are simple, naked piano. It's on these that you can really hear the depths of this guy's talents on the ivories.
The songs on this album are mellow, but they're powerful. There are a couple brisk, up-tempo tracks that will have you tapping your toes; there are some haunting melodies played with a noticeable subtlety; and there are some tracks that touch on spiritual matters, either with lyrics or with musical references to songs we know from long ago. But the real market for this recording is anyone who's got too much stress in his/her life. "Family," which Grant wrote and sings himself, is a gentle reminder of what's most important in life. And "Another Time," sung by Grammy-award-winning vocalist Lari White, is another gentle reminder that we don't always get all the time we need to connect with and appreciate those things. It ends on an almost prayer-like note: "If I had one prayer, it would be always, always, always for peace. Always peace."
One understands that he's not just talking about the absence of war.
On many levels, this album is therapeutic. It's a quiet pleasure to listen to - hypnotic in places, cheerfully buoyant in others and frequently spiritually charged throughout. From a musicianship standpoint, it's also something of a tour de force - showcasing a wide variety of talents in several types of music, all packaged into one seamless opus that is quite a bit more than the sum of its parts.
CORVALLIS GAZETTE TIMES – October 24, 2003