great fun & very exhilarating! ... a must have!
Drivin’! is pianist/composer Kathleen Ryan’s fifth solo piano album, and this one will come as a bit of a surprise to those who are familiar with her earlier recordings. A few of the twelve tracks are the mellow piano sounds that make up much of Ryan’s previously recorded material, but on Drivin’! she also really cuts loose and demonstrates her bluesier, high energy side. The combination makes for a rather eclectic blend, but it’s great fun and very exhilarating! I applaud any artist’s attempts to blur the divisions between one musical form and another, and Ryan has done an exceptional job of that on this album. All but two of the pieces are original compositions, and she certainly makes “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Summertime” her own as well. Complete liner notes with the stories behind the pieces and samples of the music are available on Ryan’s website, www.kathleenryan.com.
Drivin’! begins with “Complete With Angels,” an elegant ballad that portrays “how life and music are given to us.” Very flowing and calming, it gives no hint of the surprises to come! Ryan claims that the title track was written by her first car, a little red Toyota that thought it was a sports car. It begins with a “drivin’” rhythm and big attitude that mellows in the middle, very gradually building energy while exploring a variety of themes. “Meanwhile on Foot” is dark and funky with a walking tempo and parallel seventh chords throughout - a favorite. “It’s Liquid, Though” is Ryan’s homage to George Gershwin. Very slow and languid - almost dreamy - I think Mr. Gershwin would be very pleased. “Blue Paradise” returns to a bluesy funk that I find addictive. “Lazy K” is an easy-going charmer that doubles as a portrait of Ryan’s favorite cowboy. The effortless-sounding rhythm belies the complexity of the chords and of this terrific piece itself! Ryan’s arrangement of Robert Johnson’s blues classic, “Sweet Home Chicago,” is a classic itself. If you can keep your feet still through this one, something is seriously amiss! “The Donkey Drag (Mr Darcy’s Lament)” is a musical portrait of Ryan’s donkey, who doesn’t like going for walks on a lead rope. Colorful and full of fun, this piece should elicit smiles as you envision the donkey’s antics. Ryan’s exceptional arrangement of Gershwin’s “Summertime” is pitch black and sultry. “The Golden Passage” ends the album with a beautiful tribute to “Energy - Movement - Friendship - Music!” Graceful and evocative, it’s the perfect ending to this unusual and very exciting album!
I love piano blues, and if you share that love, Drivin’! is a must have! It is available from www.kathleenryan.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com (April 17, 2012)
Under the Greenwood Tree
the emotional content is always conveyed passionately and honestly
Under the Greenwood Tree is Kathleen Ryan’s third solo piano release, and it’s my favorite so far. A classically-trained pianist/composer, Ryan’s music has been influenced by a wide variety of musical genres ... but Ryan’s musical voice is uniquely her own. With the creative goal of making the piano “sing” with the expression of the human voice, some of these twelve pieces are lyrical while others are more improvisational; the emotional content is always conveyed passionately and honestly.
The album begins with “Wings On the Breeze,” a musical breath of fresh air. It originally appeared on Ryan’s first album with a different title that she never liked, so this is a lovely reincarnation of sorts. “Sunlit” is one of my favorites. The gentle serenity of the piece is so inviting - like a patch of sunshine when you’d like to take a nap! “Never, Never in These Mountains” is a folk lullaby that Ryan arranged as a piano solo. Slow and relaxed, each verse becomes a variation on the theme, going from quiet to big and powerful and back to peaceful. “Water In a Dry Land” is another favorite. With vivid depictions of the thirsty earth and the water needed to sate it, this beautiful piece is almost cinematic in its visual scope. “The Phoebe Returns” is a piece that overflows with the carefree joy found in sharing life with nature. I also really like “Above The Shining Clouds,” a piece originally composed as a love song. Light-hearted and contented, life really doesn’t get better than moods like this! “Love Like the Earth” went through a long evolution, but Ryan certainly got it right when she was ready to record. Slow and hymnlike, it is almost conversational in tone - a beauty! “How Hope Became Love” is pensive and reflective, slow and heartfelt - and elegantly beautiful. The title track is the closing piece whose title was inspired by a passage from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Soulful and serene, it paints a lovely picture of the West and the mountains.
Under the Greenwood Tree was certainly worth the wait between albums, and I’d say that Kathleen Ryan has really hit her stride. ... Recommended!
Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com (September 16, 2009)
The Rebirth of Light
seasonal standards in totally fresh versions
the one you’ll put on while you sit by the fire to write your holiday cards
The frenetic pace of the holidays is all too often accompanied by endless renditions of Christmas classics pumped blaring through shopping malls—a far cry from this lovely, contemplative holiday CD by pianist Kathleen Ryan, of Mountainair. While many of the holiday melodies here will be familiar, there are no screeching voices or ringing bells. This recording is the one you’ll put on while you sit by the fire to write your holiday cards.
... People who like George Winston’s classic December album will probably enjoy Ryan’s compositions, which are written in a similar vein.
...[S]he plays with emotion and amazing sensitivity throughout.
Emily Drabanski – New Mexico Magazine (December 2008)
Kathleen Ryan’s The Rebirth of Light has high musical interest and superb playing, containing originals as well as seasonal standards in totally fresh versions (check out her “Drummer Boy”). The opening title cut is just a gorgeous ray of peace.
Dr. Christmas – Gerry Grzyb - Appleton (WI) Post Crescent (Dec 16, 2007)
“The Rebirth of Light” is the 10th anniversary reissue of Kathleen Ryan’s wonderful collection of Christmas music that peacefully explores the spiritual dimension of the holiday season. Originally released in 1997, this new version includes additional material. Most of the pieces were arranged for solo piano, but a few have keyboard instrumentation. The collection also features two original compositions. The CD sustains a really nice mood throughout, although some of the songs are joyful and exuberant, most are more subdued and reflective. Having been a piano teacher for more years than I care to admit, I often get very burned out on Christmas music, but I really like this album!
“The Rebirth of Light” opens with the title track, a quiet, exploratory piece that sets the mood with lots of open spaces between the notes, and a very peaceful message. “Angels We Have Heard On High” opens with a series of piano trills that suggest fluttering wings. With an improvisatory section in the middle, this arrangement is quite unusual and very effective. “God Rest Ye Merry” dances for joy, twirling and leaping into the air - a great arrangement! “Somebody Talkin Bout Jesus” goes very dark for a beautiful and soulful rendition of this old spiritual. “Come All Ye Shepherds” is a lively keyboard arrangement that brings the good news. “That Single Star” is the second original piece, and is a lovely meditation. I love “I Wonder As I Wander,” a carol said to have come from Appalachia. Ryan’s arrangement sticks to the melody, and really brings out the soulful nature of the song. “Usher In the Morning” is a keyboard medley of “Ermuntre Dich,” “I Saw Three Ships,” and “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” Upbeat and lively, this is another toe-tapper that brings a big smile. “The Never-Ending Starlit Road” is a haunting solo piano arrangement of “We Three Kings of Orient Are” - one of the best I’ve heard. “The Coventry Carol” is another standout, overflowing with the beauty and tragedy of this ancient piece. “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” are both stunning in their quiet passion and elegance.
“The Rebirth of Light” will certainly make a return appearance to my CD player as we get closer to the holidays! For a reminder and a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas, this is a wonderful choice. It is available from cdbaby.com and iTunes. Highly recommended!
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com (Oct 11, 2007)
...Kathleen Ryan’s soothing style is quite suited to early morning listening. She plays with a firm deliberativeness well-suited to the early morning. Of the traditional carols included on [The Rebirth of Light], I enjoyed The Coventry Carol best. I also enjoyed the moody spiritual, Somebody Talkin Bout Jesus. But I particularly liked when she took a turn on keyboards with Come All Ye Shepherds. It was a little bit like listening to a Caribbean pan band.
Of her own work, I enjoyed The Rebirth Of Light, a languid, contemplation that fits my post-operative world view quite nicely. Her elegant piano and keyboard style is a great fit for me, generally. There is no victory for darkness here. Though Ryan's set concludes with even more irony, in the ever-familiar Silent Night, I know what every moose in Alaska knows: even in the darkest, coldest night, light finds a way.
Richard Banks – ChristmasReviews.com (Sep 15, 2007)
a handfull of quietness
the music is complex, full, and often quite bold ... a fascinating musical journey
From the title, I expected A Handfull of Quietness to be very calm, simple, and serene, so I was surprised to discover that the music is complex, full, and often quite bold. A classically-trained pianist/composer, Kathleen Ryan brings her rich background to her music, presenting us with a collection of nine original piano solos and six that are based on traditional melodies in the public domain. Inspired by a verse in Ecclesiastes, the album was created as a unified work and performed in silence. Ryan calls it “not always quiet music, but music achieving quietness of the soul.”
The CD begins gently with “All the Pretty Horses,” based on a traditional folk melody. Meditative and reflective, it’s a very calming piece. “East At Sunset” continues the peaceful mood simply but very colorfully. “40 Days of Desert” is darker, more somber, and has a mysterious cast to it. “What the Stars Saw On the Prairie” is serenity set to music. It is easy to visualize a gentle breeze blowing through the long grasses—a simple pleasure with no rush or pressure anywhere. Love it! “Something Water, Something Light” picks up the tempo and dynamics, creating a swirling dance of motion and light. “Hymn For Peace” goes inward and conveys a simple but passionate plea. “Veni Creator Spiritus” is from a traditional melody that Ryan imbues with quiet spirituality and a classical style. Open and simple at the beginning, the piece builds to a peak with each variation and quiets to a whisper by the end. “First Only Whisper” is my favorite track. Built around several themes, the piece has a feeling of deep introspection and quiet passion. At almost 8 1/2 minutes, “Bells, The Veil, and Victory” is by far the longest piece on the album. A recurring theme evolves as the piece develops, going from subdued to very big, bold, and triumphant. “Simple Love” is based on a traditional melody, and conveys a sweet but very powerful emotional message—another beauty! The title track closes the CD as it began, quiet and tranquil.
A Handfull of Quietness is a fascinating musical journey, reflecting a wide range of moods and emotions. The music has a complexity that will open up with each listen, letting you find something new each time. It is available from www.kathleenryan.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com.
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com (Sep 4, 2006)
Ryan paints in the impressionism of silence, with notes resonating over the vast plains of the soul. Tasteful and elegant with just enough austerity to avoid sentimentality.