I love the piano. I love solo piano recordings. Some of my favorites over the years have included Keith Jarret's Koln Concert, Michel Petrucciani's Oracle's Destiny, and the great Bill Evans' Conversations With Myself, among others. Add a new one to that list: Houston's own Joe LoCascio's 2008 release Ghosts. (Blue Bamboo)
This recording features 13 original compositions by LoCascio, each telling a unique and insightful story. As with any solo piano recording, the proof is in the player, the performer having to demonstrate a mastery of the instrument that surpasses the "cocktail" player and moves into a virtuosic ability to convey stories with emotion on a percussive instrument without the advantages of "vocal" techniques that a vocalist or wind instrument can provide, such as bends, vibrato, and timbre changes. LoCascio proves himself to be a true bard from days of yore, weaving truly beautiful tales over lush, rich textures. There is depth, beauty, insight, imagination, energy, and grace to his performances over the compositional vehicles which he provides.
With exceptional technique and voicing, LoCascio enters his saga of tales on "Emotion Sickness," a piece with a repeated ostinato line with Jarret-like chord-melody floating above. Quite simple in structure, the complexity of the piece comes from LoCascio's performance and rich harmonic lines over the sustained theme. There is a definite folk-aspect to the composition, as if in a lilting, countryside atmosphere. A lovely introduction to the stories to follow, with an innocence and beauty to the flow of the performance.
The next track is a work that has been heard many times performed by groups LoCascio performs with in Houston, "A Widow's Tale." In this incarnation, the introduction is flighted, and pulls the listener into the story as if following a butterfly, but only to find yourself ensnared in the spider's web, captivated by the intense theme and even more energetic tale of the improvisation. The ideas flow one directly into the next with hardly a breath in between. Again, LoCascio's virtuosity is evident in his beautiful voicing of the instrument, the clarity and evenness of the harmonic line providing a clear base for the beautiful lines flowing over it.
As one navigates the recording, each new composition has a unique story to share, from the insightful and demure "Gently Criminal" to the conversational "I Thought I Heard Ben Turner Say" to the relentless rolling of "Crumbling Divinity" as well as the other wonderfully enchanting chronicles.
Of particular note, though difficult to single any one tale out of this collection, is the exquisite capturing of the beauty and spirit of the namesake of the composition "Audrey Hepburn." LoCascio's work and performance drip with the sensitivity, innocence, depth, beauty, and charm of the lovely lady herself. One can hear, musically, the subtle smile that she wore that allowed a brief view to the truth of the intelligence, genius, grace and true sincerity and deepness that lay beneath.
It is difficult to point to one tale as the masterwork of this recording as, indeed, they all work together in concert to satisfy the listener as only a true master story teller can. Joe LoCascio's Ghosts reaches deep, both within the pianist/composer and the listener, to expose an honest, beautiful, graceful, and emotional collection of musical tales that will touch the human spirit. The music-stories transcend the instrument and just surround the listener with joy, fire, beauty, intellect, and grace that leave you melting like butter and sucked into the moments of masterful story-telling at its finest.
It is no small coincidence that, as I listen to this wonderful collection of musical narratives, I find Joe LoCascio's name listed between two other famous jazz "Joes" in my MP3 collection; Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano. Each Joe has inspired me and been a guiding force in my own musical journey and Joe LoCasio surely belongs in that place with the other "Joes" on my list as a master and grand story teller in the musical world of jazz. His Ghosts is particularly very much a worthy addition to my collection of favorite solo piano recordings. I'm sure it will be a welcome part of your list as well. Hopefully, it will not take 20 years to hear the next solo installment of stories...
Track Listing: Emotion Sickness, A Widow’s Tale, Gently Criminal, Crumbling Divinity, Angelo, I Thought I Heard Ben Turner Say, Leaving Bridgeport, Badlands, One I Hope To Love, Audrey Hepburn, Nightingales, I Thought I Heard Don Wilkerson Say, These So Called Memories
Buy CD Here: