When the hair on your arm is in a state of permanent erection and your eyes become instantly wet, you know you’re experiencing something extraordinary. In this case, it was the ménage à trois of some of the greatest piano artists of our time at the prestigious Rheingau Musik Festival: Chilly Gonzales, the fierce musical polymath, Igor Levit, the courageous classical interpreter, and the epitome of lyrical, Malakoff Kowalski. Continue reading
“Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures” – review and reflection
It’s been almost 9 months now, since the virus has turned the world upside down. Time, in which Chilly Gonzales birthed a song with Gary Barlow called “Oh What a Day” (alongside Barry Manilow on the same album), recorded a Christmas album and wrote a book about Enya. Some people would call every single element of each “bad taste” initially. Why? Because what we wear, like and listen to is a form of social demarcation. Take the typical hipster as an example: “somebody trying too hard to be different by rejecting anything that is deemed popular. [...] hipsters aren’t actually different at all, they’re just people that are snobbier and more annoying about their taste in ‘alternative’ things, which are all popular now thanks to the other hipsters.” (Urban Dictionary) The hipster is the extreme representation of a trap we fall prey to in different forms when we transition from innocent, uninfluenced children to beings who have learned about effect, reaction and manipulation. In an attempt to be cool, more distinct and outclass others, we deny things we actually love, and intellectually adopt what we think we should like. We foster those well-groomed pets in the rational chamber of our brains and cage the wild spirits that once lived in our souls and nurtured our emotions in the forbidden “guilt box”. The book is a plea to rerelease our authentic, pre-adolescent, guilt-free selves – or rather that’s the afflatus I draw from it. Continue reading
For most of us, hard work achieves short-term goals that will likely be consumed and seen by a few people — ourselves, co-workers, friends, and so on. Even people whose work is seen by millions of people know that change is relatively constant; web designs that work today will be overrun in a few months, and authors can publish second editions. Imagine you had only one shot to create something to be consumed by millions of people. Continue reading
It appears that Gonzales took his own “Entertainist” lyrics to heart; Solo Piano III represents a gorgeous evolution of solo piano music – a way forward that attracts new fans without alienating current ones. In our eyes (or ears), Solo Piano III is the future; it leads the way into a world filled with musical craftsmanship and beautiful harmonies, where there is time to gaze into the distance and contemplate life, to love, cry, and (of course) have a good laugh. Continue reading
Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for: Solo Piano III will finally be here. Fortunately, we were at the premiere in Geneva. Unfortunately, Gonzo didn’t play the full album – however: Fortunately, the few pieces made my soul rejoice. Unfortunately, the Ostinato made me aware I’ll never ever reach heavenly Aretha’s voice. Fortunately, Gonzo gone Beast for a minute, played the drums like the most freakin’ Muppet. Unfortunately, my amateur rhymes are just a rapper’s spit turned into foam. Fortunately, this idea here killed the white paper syndrome. Unfortunately, “Fortunately, Unfortunately” was the first and only “Soft Power” song he played live in ages. Fortunately, it’s a (re-)start – those pieces belong to the stages.
I know this sounds much better in its original form, but it expresses what the whole concert made obvious: Gonzo embraces his whole oeuvre like never before. The upcoming album is not only a sign of the times, but a statement from a musical humanist.
Back in April 2013, we covered an interview Gonzales had with “Sud Ouest” (a regional French magazine). Within the interview, he indicated that the “inherently imperfect” sound of the piano sounds even more perfect to our ears, and added that there will, “no doubt be a Solo Piano III or a Solo Piano IV album.” Four years later, we’re happy to say that all signs are pointing to Gonzales actively working on Solo Piano III. The first hint we saw was a Twitter response Gonzales sent to someone who had a question:
@ClaraJeffery working on 3 as we speak!
— Chilly Gonzales (@chillygonzales) March 12, 2017
Very rarely are we treated to a nexus of talent that echoes the great duos: Bacharach and David, Webber and Rice, Morrissey and Marr, to name a few. The inability for critics and music services to “pigeonhole” Room 29 is ample evidence of the novel space the album holds; not to say the record companies haven’t tried, with made-up categories such as “Classical Crossover.” After repeated listenings, Room 29 solidly remains in a category unto itself – a musical and lyrical adventure. Feist pointed out that Room 29 (the album) is actually the soundtrack to Room 29 (the performance), but while the majority of us miss out on the added visceral benefits of a live performance, Room 29 (the album) evokes powerful mental images of our own creation – a unique and personalized Room 29 performance for each listener. The review below is obviously based on our own experience (save a few choice quotes) and our familiarity with the unbelievably high water mark Gonzales sets for himself. Continue reading
We are in Hollywood. At one of the probably most legendary hotels of the world. The Chateau Marmont. People famous and ordinary have come here for decades to escape, take drugs, love, hide, fuck, destruct or even kill themselves. A vanishing beauty, whose charm has survived, but whose facade fades. Zoom into Room 29, where Chilly Gonzales makes the piano, which has been there for decades, tell the tales of times long passed, and where Jarvis Cocker translates tunes into deeply resonating words – into a reflection on perception. We are at the stage and album premiere of contemporary song cycle Room 29 at Hamburg’s Kampnagel.
Honing and refining his skill, moving from Solo Piano to chamber music and now to voice and piano (and chamber music), Gonzales’ trajectory appears to focus on re-introducing classic techniques to new audiences. And one senses that listeners are ready for something with deeper and lasting meaning; not since the heyday of disco have audiences been subjected to deep and relentless domination of dance-oriented 4/4 pop – people are looking for a different relationship with music. Room 29 is a collaborative effort, bringing together the witty and insightful lyrics of Jarvis Cocker and the deep and emotional Gonzales piano that we know and love. From the pre-release tracks, it’s easy to hear how well this pairing works, but (as with any Gonzales release), there’s a lot of background to discover and layers to peel back – let’s have a closer look. Continue reading
Summers in Canada are never long enough; nature seems to be able to “cram in” a year of growth in a few short months and we end up trying to do the same for trips to the beach and cottage, and all manner of work that has to take place outdoors. Taking a break from work or school always seems to provide a “tangential” inspiration for a new approach to a problem, or even coming up with entirely new ideas. This year, the end of summer also means that Gonz’s “radical sabbatical” is about 3/5 of the way through, but with his new Apple Beats One show (Music’s Cool with Chilly Gonzales) it appears that he hasn’t completely stepped away from public view. When we read that Gonz will be participating in the Red Bull Concert Academy in Montreal (with a special “Gonzervatoire Masterclass Concert” on October 26th) Continue reading