Big Sur Reminiscence
Reviewed by Cathy Oakes
February 7, 2014
In this beautiful, impressive CD, Michael Martinez showcases his mastery of the keyboard, his sensitivity and his excellence as a musician. This is NOT just another CD of cover songs! Michael Martinez possesses an incredible technique. And his artistry and arrangements make these pieces uniquely his own.
With its visual setting in one of my favorite places, Big Sur, this cover immediately captured my attention. Having visited the historical Bixby bridge, which is pictured on the inside cover, I could relate to the beauty and splendor of this place. It brought to mind visual images of sparkling blue water, majestic redwood forests that stretch right to the edge of the ocean and crashing waves. And surprisingly, for one so young, Michael portrays exactly those images in his magnificent music.
I loved his arrangement of “Classical Gas” – an upbeat, jazzy and energetic beginning that says, “Hey – listen to this!” LOVE the jazz improv near the middle of the song! In the very first notes of “Chariots of Fire,” Michael captures the drive of the marathon runners who inspire him at mile 13.1 of the Big Sur International Marathon, where he serves as the Grand Piano Man. The delicacy of “The Feather” is so beautiful. “Big Sur Prelude,” “Big Sur Reminiscence” and “Pacific Grove” are original tunes from Martinez. The opening chords of “Big Sur Prelude” bring to life the crashing waves, followed by the beautiful musical impressions of sparkling blue water and the waves playing with the shoreline. In “Big Sur Reminiscence,” my favorite piece on the CD, the haunting melody sings of the glorious beauty of this region, while continuing to portray the waves and sparkling waters of the Pacific coastline. His arrangement of “Scarborough Fair” brings a freshness and originality to this timeless piece. “Pacific Grove,” the third of Michael’s original pieces, is a tribute to his hometown. It has a sweet, wistful innocence and beauty with an almost playful melody. “Annie’s Song,” one of my all-time favorite ballads from John Denver, is performed perfectly to communicate the emotion of the song. The beginning notes literally brought a smile to my face. How does one “sing” praises on the piano? One does that exactly the way Michael Martinez does in his brilliant arrangement of Hallelujah! He does not need words to capture the worshipful and awe-inspiring attitude of this song.
This is Michael’s first CD and what a CD it is – beautiful from beginning to end! The whole package – gorgeous music, beautiful photography on the cover, sound of the Steinway concert grand piano, mastering – it’s all there! This young man is going to be on the hearts and minds of solo piano music lovers for a long time to come. WELL DONE, Michael!!! At the risk of “starting at the top,” I can rate this CD at nothing less than 5 stars! Highly, highly recommended!!