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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
Bill Binkelman is a long-time icon in the industry.
Other reviews from Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman:
  Vantage Point by New Latitude, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 4/1/2018
  Into The Mist by Fiona Joy, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/27/2018
  Let There Be Light by Tom Moore, reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/27/2018
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Into The Mist
By Fiona Joy
Label: Blue Coast Records
Released 6/2/2017
Into The Mist tracks
1. A Walk In The Park
2. Moon Over The Lotus Pond
3. Opus: Into The Mist (Part 1)
4. Opus: Mist Rising (Part 2)
5. Opus: Mist Before Dawn (Part 3)
6. Through Cloud
7. Feeling Sunshine
8. Grey Sky Morning
9. Galloping
10. The Void
FIONA JOY - Into The Mist
It sounds like hyperbole for me state that Fiona Joy's solo piano album, Into The Mist, is the best thing she has ever done (considering that I wrote the same thing about her last solo effort, Signature Solo), but even though she has had a great career so far, I formed this opinion by the end of the first time I played the disc. And while I have little doubt the Audiophile Super Audio Extended Sound Environment recording process may have had some impact on how good the CD sounds, the fact is that shitty music recorded perfectly is still utter crap. And I'll bet that even if I heard marginal quality mp3s of these ten songs, I'd still be damned impressed. Talent is talent, folks.

To me, the appeal of Into The Mist is three-fold. One is that Fiona Joy's compositions reflect a new level of depth and maturity as well as an abundance of sincerity and warmth. The second is the music itself, which tends to be among the softest and least "flashy" of her career. Not that her earlier releases were too over the top, but more that my preferred type of solo piano has always been those recordings that shaded toward subtle drama or little drama at all, instead of lots of power and thunder. Now, that is my preference and I have given glowing reviews to all manner of solo piano, so don't read too much into that other than, given my druthers, that is what prefer. The third thing I hear throughout the album is the startling control of nuance and shading she demonstrates. The opening of "Moon Over The Lotus Pond" is what I am referring to, as she allows those early notes to sustain like ripples on the titular pond. The noticeably subtle Asian influence is another display of amazing nuanced playing; the feel of Asia is there but in a way that is barely discernible but unmistakable to my ears. As the piece progresses, it morphs into a gentle, more overt new age style number, hinting at minimalism but retaining warmth.

To her credit, Fiona Joy keeps the songs relatively short with only "Opus: Mist Rising (Part 2)" clocking in at over 5 minutes. From my perspective, most solo piano songs should follow this pattern, although some artists can get away with longer tracks. The cheery "Feeling Sunshine," is only a few ticks over 2:00 but burbles and bubbles like a laughing brook on a sunny day. However, this song is the anomaly as most of the music here is cast in a reflective vein, such as the next track on the album, the aptly-titled "Grey Sky Morning." Again, flirting with a minimalist style, there is also some classical influence that I hear at times. The mood is that amazing blend of somber and warm which this artist appears to have mastered thoroughly. The title of "Galloping" might point to an upbeat, powerful piece, and while there is an elevation of tempo, the evocation is one of restrained urgency blended with a sense of heading toward the unknown. Certainly, the song features more energy than most of what is on the album, but Fiona Joy continually brings it back to the overall mood of the album, so the moments of drama do not pull the listener out of what the recording has so far laid out. "The Void" concludes the album in what I discern to be a gothic romantic vein, with the sparse melody played out with ultimate patience by the artist. Not to repeat myself, but the way that Fiona Joy allows those notes to sustain and fade oh-so slowly takes my breath away.

I have been reviewing Fiona Joy's music for quite a while now. I think 2006's Angel Above My Piano was her first album I reviewed, although it might have been 2007's Ice (her chill-out recording). No matter. I will stand by my claim that Into The Mist represents this pianist at her peak (for now). Let's hope this is just the beginning of the next phase of this talented musician's career.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/27/2018
 
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