Neoclassical music is some of the most relaxing being made right now. People don’t always even know what to call it, but the peaceful lines and colorful melodies work toward something that can be truly uplifting. With Jesse Brown’s music, you’ll hear a recording style that is refreshingly pure, allowing the piano to ring true. There are not production tricks or a bunch of synethesizers; it is honest, hopeful instrumental music with plenty of heart.
The first track we received was called “Ascension,” an obviously spiritual track that carries with it considerable gentleness. Honestly, growing up in the church I heard a lot of familiar phrasing and style in this track. The piano felt comfortable and relatable on every line.
“Stars” has a bit of vibrancy to it, no doubt on purpose. It feels a bit like the songwriting of Sleeping at Last. There’s a crispness to the stacatto work on the melody with this one. The left hand remains soft and sweet, while the higher element points your eyes up. Sometimes it feels like a music box, honestly. It’s intricate. There are some strings that sneak in on this one in the most subtle way. It’s a treat.
“Good Winter” has some more jazz tendencies to it. It’s not an outright jazz standard or anything, but you can tell from the phrasing that it’s influenced by jazz. The rolling melody that keeps the track moving feels a bit more like a romantic era style, but it all folds back to the jazz root. Rather than some of the tracks that lull you a bit to sleep, this one is more stimulating. It could easily find itself on a film score.
Brown’s cover of the gospel hymn “Amazing Grace” is as soulful as I’ve ever heard. Imagine hearing a New Orleans jazz pianist take on the classic hymn. That’s this version. It’s outstanding and captures the mood of the track without quoting a single lyric. The style and grace on this melt my heart and make me feel right at home.
“Room for One More” has a bit more of a new age vibe to it, moving away from conventions of rhythm toward something that almost feels like spoken piano. The articulation on the notes is phrased like a human voice in conversation in the opening elements of the piece. Eventually the style opens up a bit more, but it carries with it this sort of loving tension. I can’t really know for certain what Brown had in mind with the song’s message, but it makes me think of people I’ve loved in my life. The most prominent image it gives me is conversations on my parent’s porch with family; you’ll think of something else, but you’ll think of something sweet.
The track “Sadness” is a take on a classical piece, but please forgive my heathen heart for not knowing what it is. I’ve definitely heard the opening phrase. If anyone wants to shoot us a message on social media about what this track is sampling, I will edit the review. Anyways, I love the fact that it just feels so broodingly serious. When it breaks around the 1:15 mark, it becomes a much lighter, more inspiring song. But this one feels like a mashup of 18th century classical with a modern crispness.
“The Eagle” is another track that I think feels more cinematic than not. I picture the main character riding a bike or running down a road. There’s definitely a sonic metaphor of movement of some kind with this one. One might surmise with the title of “The Eagle” it could be about flight. I think that metaphor fits as well. Either way, this is another unique texture adding to Brown’s incredible style. Is there anything he can’t do with a piano?
“The First Snow” is a delightfully peaceful piece. Having grown up in the northeast/midwest, most of my life has been spent looking for the first snow. As a child, it was with excitement. As an adult, it is with concern. In both scenarios, though, “the first snow” is a moment that changes everything. It changes the mood and the look of the world. I think that shift in perspective is captured well with this piece. Some of the phrasing feels more new age than other styles presented on the album, but it is easy to be pulled into the emotion of this one.
The lullaby “While You Lay Sleeping” is breathtaking. I don’t know if I can pick a favorite of Brown’s music, but this one would be a serious contender. I adore the positive vibes that it creates. There’s an optimism found in the way the ends of the phrases go up, like human conversation again. Something about Brown’s writing really feels like literature as much as music. He’s somehow emulating these bright, thoughtful conversations. You can feel the positivity in them.
The final track I’ll feature here is a gem called “Jacket Juice,” showing off Brown’s jazz chops yet again. It really shows how jazz is inextricably linked to ragtime. If you like the mood of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” you’ll really enjoy this one. It feels perfectly timeless, giving indications of bygone eras in American music. It’s a delight.
IF you’re not hooked on Jesse Brown by now, then you just flat out don’t like instrumental music. This guy can tickle the proverbial ivories like a champ. It’s great – in a world of glitz and glamour – to hear someone who plays so well with such class. Brown’s songwriting and execution are delightful. I will make my way through his new album Sadness many times over while working, reading, and resting with my family. I feel moved and blessed that I found his music.