Reviewed Pam Asberry
California native Lisa Swerdlow was raised in a musical family and began studying classical piano at the age of six. She turned to composing at the age of sixteen and has performed in a variety of situations, including playing piano in a rock band and touring with an all female salsa band. After an extended hiatus from composing and performing, she returned to the piano and released her debut albom, “Equus Rising,” in 2017. “Equus Rising” met with great success, climbing to the top of the One World Music Radio album chart and nominated One World Music’s Best Solo Piano Album of 2017. Her latest album, “Voyager,” was released August 17, 2018.
“Voyager,” is a musical celebration of the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. Launched in 1977 for a fifteen-year mission, it is astonishing that they continue to send daily communication to NASA nearly forty years later. These twelve new original compositions were composed and performed by Swerdlow and recorded, mixed and mastered by Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven Studios in Sedona, Arizona.
The title track, “Voyager” is a musical soundscape of outer space and a study in contrasts: high notes twinkling like stars alternating with a darker melody played in in the lower register of the piano; exquisite softs peaking to exhilarating louds. “Edge of Tranquility” is a favorite: gentle rolling chords supporting a contemplative melody alternating with a more intense and mesmerizing minor key section. The poignant “Mindful Moments” offers a powerful reflection on the importance of living each day with intention. The more solemn “Autumn” is peppered with brooding, ominous bass chords perhaps foreshadowing the brutal winter days ahead. The soaring and romantic “Sundays in Paris” is a virtuosic celebration of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
“Gone Too Soon” is another favorite: mournful and tentative, exploring the full range of the piano’s rich sonority and expressing a plethora of human feelings and emotions. “Winter Solstice” is another somber piece, a stroll through a snowy landscape, perfect for listening to on a quiet December night, perhaps sitting in front a roaring fire. “Into the Center” seems to convey a quiet determination, its rich harmonies and movement from high to low finally reaching its inevitable destination. The exuberant “I Saw You Dancing with the Stars” is a sparkling and expressive waltz, again utilizing the full range of the piano and showcasing Swerdlow’s prodigious keyboard skills. “Yuba River Journey” provides the perfect conclusion to this musical journey, the left hand rippling like a current with its beautiful right hand melody flowing over.
“Voyager” is a thrilling musical journey through space and time and will be appreciated by anyone who is a fan of the solo piano genre. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Pam Asberry
Release date June 21, 2019
Lisa Swerdlow is a relative newcomer to the solo piano genre, returning to the instrument after a many-years hiatus on the heels of a grim cancer diagnosis in 2013. To date, she has released two albums of original music to rave reviews; her latest release is a single titled “Still Here,” in which the artist expresses her gratitude for surviving the disease and the life she enjoys now.
Recorded and mastered by Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven Studios in Sedona, the sound of the piano itself is exquisite. The piece opens solemnly, almost questioningly, then the music rises and falls with powerful emotion and wondrous beauty in expressions of the gamut of emotions I imagine one would experience on the heels of treatment for cancer: profound relief, intense gratitude, a sense of wonder about life in general, a renewed excitement about the future, a deepened closeness to loved ones. Happily for all of us, Lisa Swerdlow is “still here” and will be sharing her beautiful music with us for many years to come. Very highly recommended!