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Solo Piano Reflections

Philip Swanson




“Ikkyu's Dream is cast in the modal, quasi-improvisational style that is strongly associated with fusion jazz of the late 20th century, and the blurred harmonies and piquant sonorities that are rung from the piano will remind many listeners of the keyboard music of Keith Jarrett. Swanson's soundworld is delicate and evocative of reveries in nature and impressionistic scene painting, and the arpeggios , tremolos, and arabesques that decorate his melodies add soft, indistinct dissonances that drift into each other through the atmospheric use of pedaling…  the mix of standards and original pieces keeps the program varied and the listener engaged. The evenness of moods makes this a delightful CD for relaxation and quiet background listening, and Swanson's lush playing makes this a suitable accompaniment for daydreaming.”  [ * * * * ]
Blair Sanderson, All Music Guide - May 2010
"...influences are vastly impressionistic, somewhat minimalist (lots of ostinato action) and inspired by reflections on the poetry of Ikkyu Sojun... Anyone who likes Keith Jarrett’s improvisational albums will likely respond to this as well, though Swanson is quite different than Jarrett, more meditative and technically simpler, but in possession of a tonal palate that is more varied and colorful than the ECM artist enjoys... Swanson’s piano style is not unlike Corea’s... He can also do some interesting things with such classics as My Funny Valentine and two different takes of Miles Davis’s Blue in Green. But I don’t want to short his own music as well, always provocative and well-done, sometimes quite beautiful and sensitive."
Steve Ritter, Audiophile Audition - September 2010
"Philip Swanson has said that lyricism is at the heart of everything that he does. There is not a moment in this 11-piece collection of solo piano music that contradicts that maxim. He presents the material in a consistent manner that, under lesser hands, could produce monotony. There is a pervasive whiff of melancholy (Swanson prefers minor keys), restricted dynamics, and generally leisurely tempos, rendering an overarching sensibility with a concentrated purpose. The effect is, as the title song suggests, dreamy. These are mainly recordings of Swanson as an improviser, which is apparent in his style of playing, featuring a firm bass line in the left hand and a freely flowing rubato in the right hand. More than half of the songs bear Swanson’s name, but even when the original composers are such figures as Miles Davis (Blue in Green, two takes), Richard Rodgers (My Funny Valentine), and Chick Corea (Crystal Silence), the personal imprint of Swanson is firmly felt... Swanson admits influences from classical figures, especially Debussy, but the idiom of this music is essentially jazz. The tradition of that music is immensely rich and varied, but the sound of one figure rings out, a hero of Swanson, Bill Evans. His particular profile sounds through in two ways here: via Swanson’s pulsating, humanistic sense of rhythm, and especially, his infatuation with rich and intriguing harmonies. A jazz pianist could not wish for higher praise than to be mentioned in the same breath as Bill Evans. Philip Swanson has achieved something quite formidable, albeit with stealthy elegance, to conjure the comparison."
Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine - July/August 2010
"Swanson's music has an easy charm, with a strength of clarity and line..."
BBC Music Magazine - April 2010


“Born like a dream

In this dream of a world

How easy in mind I am

I who will fade away

Like the morning dew.”

— IKKYU SOJUN (1394-1481)

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This album offers a series of reflections on Ikkyu Sojun’s poem. It includes both original works and interpretations of works of other musicians. The musical world of the impressionists—Debussy in particular—pervades much of this music.

Ikkyu’s Dream establishes the atmosphere of the album. “Neptune’s Canvas” is a musical rendering of the colors of the ocean I witness in my home town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. “Crystal Silence” has always been a favorite tune and fits this landscape perfectly. “Loss” is just that. “InteriorWinds”, the longest selection, traverses numerous musical worlds. Portions of this work bring to mind the language of Rachmaninov. “The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit” is a poignant, tender, heart-breaking work by Will Ackerman for 12-string guitar—this ismy rendition for piano. “The Other Side” is a set of variations of increasing rhythmic complexity on the simple three-chord progression stated at the opening. “Blue in Green” is one of the all-time great ballads—just a simple 10-bar tune, but what worlds it opens up! “Peace” is another rich ballad, full of developmental possibilities. “My Funny Valentine”, the classic standard, is presented here in a complex polyrhythmic manner—a new take on an old chestnut. “Blue in Green”: “Which take should we use?” is a question I asked Richard Price, my great recording producer. “Use both,” he said. We did. “Into the Mist” returns us to the emptiness from whence we sprang. Enjoy…

— PHILIP SWANSON, October 2009

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Philip Swanson maintains a distinguished career as a trombonist, pianist, organist, composer, conductor and teacher. As a trombonist, he has performed with the Miami Philharmonic, where he served as principal for five years, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, Opera Boston, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and numerous other orchestras and ensembles. He is founder of the brass chamber ensemble Morgenmusik, which features trumpet virtuoso and Eastman professor James Thompson, and performs regularly with several jazz groups including Chamber Jazz Trio and Bob Nieske’s Big Wolf Project. Mr. Swanson appears frequently in concert as a solo pianist, performing his own works as well as his improvisations on jazz standards. He also has collaborated with poet J.D. Scrimgeour, forming the group Confluence which combines Scrimgeour’s poetry with his music. Swanson has composed numerous works for instrumental and vocal ensembles, and can be heard on a wide range of recordings, including two solo piano albums of original works, an organ and trombone CD with organist Barbara Bruns, several small group jazz albums, and performances with larger ensembles, including the Boston Pops under John Williams. Currently an Associate Professor of Music at Salem State College, Philip Swanson teaches music theory, composition, piano and trombone. Since 1991, he has been Music Director of the First Congregational Church of Rockport, Massachusetts, where he serves as organist and choir director. He received a Doctor of Musical Arts from New England Conservatory, a Master of Music from the Eastman School, and completed his undergraduate work at Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Miami.


Ikkyu’s Dream (Philip Swanson)

Neptune’s Canvas (Philip Swanson)
I. Sapphire
II. Azure
III. Glisten

Crystal Silence (Chick Corea)

Loss (Philip Swanson)

Interior Winds (Philip Swanson)

The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit (William Ackerman)

The Other Side (Philip Swanson)

Blue in Green [Take 1] (Miles Davis)

Peace (Horace Silver)

My Funny Valentine (Rodgers & Hammerstein)

Blue in Green [Take 2] (Miles Davis)

Into the Mist (Philip Swanson)

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