Review by music critic Dan MacIntosh
Ron Leshnower’s Year CD was composed, orchestrated, programmed and mixed by this talented, one-man-band artist. It consists of 12 different tracks, each one named after a month of the year—hence the album name. As his website describes it, “Year takes listeners on an exhilarating musical journey through the calendar.” Leshnower’s goal was to capture the essence of each month and tie it all together, while exploring a wide range of emotions and moods.
Stylistically, it’s difficult to brand this album with just one genre name. There are plenty of classical and jazz elements. And yet, Leshnower admits to being captivated with the possibilities of electronic music, and has been this way for decades, so there are also traces of modern, electronic composition found within these tracks, as well.
One of this album’s swinging-ist tracks is the piece for April, which is subtitled “Anticipation.” It has a semi-classical piano part as its intro. But then it goes into a madly swinging jazz groove; one that immediately brings Dave Brubeck to mind. Although there is no Paul Desmond alto saxophone/clarinet counterpart, there is a keyboard part that somewhat mimics what Desmond used to do along with Brubeck.
With “May: Rebirth,” Leshnower applies a similar rhythm to the one utilized for “April: Anticipation,” only in this case the track is a much lighter, brighter, happier one. It has a bit of a calliope feel to it. It also sounds a little bit like 60s sunshine pop, which was a period during that decade when classical elements sometimes stealthily snuck into pop records.
For “June: Fulfillment,” Leshnower applies a much tougher, and nearly robotic beat to his composition. Even so, the song eventually loosens up enough for some swinging piano playing.
On “July: Euphoria,” Leshnower reaches for a magical vibe. It’s a track that expresses pleasure in its purest form. It is more classical than jazzy, but also quite happy.
The month of August is dedicated to nostalgia. For this one, Leshnower steers away from rhythm-accented music for something a little more free flowing and melodic. It is quite pastoral.
What Leshnower has created for September, which he calls “Passage,” is a recording that skips along joyously. It sounds a little like Disney movie music at times.
For October, Leshnower focuses on beauty. This one has a bit of a Tchaikovsky feel to it in places. It’s classical, yet hum-ably pop, at the same time. It changes speeds in sections, and even has some serious classical piano riffs going on.
November is saluted with a piece concerning gratitude. That only makes sense, as November is the month for Thanksgiving. This piece is quite and relatively reverent.
December is paired with the practice of reflection. December, the Christmas month, is one where many families get together and sometimes take stock of their lives. It is, indeed, a good time for personal reflection.
It’s not clear if the term matched to January, “Anticlimax,” is intended to be funny, but anybody that has ever attended a New Year’s Eve party that didn’t turn out nearly as well as they expected, have probably experienced that anticlimactic feeling on January 1st where things just seemed to be a whole lot less fun than they seemed to be leading up to the holiday. Leshnower’s melody for this one is inquisitive sounding, as though someone was scratching his or her head and asking, ‘Is that all there is?’
With “February: Companionship,” Leshnower has put together a sweet, flowing melody that mirrors the warm feeling one gets when spending time with a dear friend. The music is perfectly fitting for the situation.
Music, such as what’s been composed for Year, creates different images for everybody. The song/month secondary titles suggest vague meanings, but—of course—what they mean to listeners likely varies from one listener to another. Whether these compositions mean something special to you or not, however, we can all agree they’re each examples of nice music, expertly played.
For more information, visit www.yearmusic.com.