LISA SWERDLOW, Lasting Impressions
Considering how her previous album Voyager resonated with me long after I had listened to and written about it, I find it intriguing and utterly spot on that pianist/composer Lisa Swerdlow chose the title Lasting Impressions for latest collection, an emotional and powerful yet tonally and thematically very different follow-up to that critically acclaimed 2018 set.
Inspired by the fascinating and inspiring history of NASA’s twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft – which became the first human made object to enter interstellar space – those songs were not simply reflections on space flight or one particular journey. Thinking metaphorically at the time, I wrote, “It’s one that explores and expands the dimension of what’s humanly possible.”
In an era where artists often drop streamable tracks in rapid succession to keep fans interested and gain fresh listeners, it speaks to Lisa’s rich artistry and sense of creative integrity that she took 20 months to compose the nine melodically stunning, rhythmically diverse pieces that comprise Lasting Impressions. (Note: there are ten tracks, but she graces us with both solo and a lushly orchestrated version of one of the set’s emotional touchstones, “Listening from the Heart”).
The likely reason it took this amount of time is simply contemplation. As we ease from the soft, gentle opening notes of “Listening from the Heart” through the playful and whimsical holiday themed “Sing Me of Winter” (which her dear friend Paul Landry encouraged her to pen), we realize this is not an exploration of outer space, but inner space. Listening to that still small voice inside for revelation and divine expression takes time. Love and passion must unfold at their own pace, beyond artificially imposed commercial parameters.
The deliberately relaxed rhythm and slow building momentum of the title track perfectly reflects this reality. That song and the more lighthearted, sweeping “Pentimento” forge a slightly new direction for Lisa, who up till now has only recorded as a solo pianist. With drums and electric bass by Paul Kraushaar, “Lasting Impressions” has a jazz trio vibe, and both tunes soar to transcendent emotional heights with dual magic of Kristen Autry’s violin and Alexandra Roedder’s cello.
Another unique element is Lisa’s first-time inclusion of a thematically related three song sweep she calls “The Dream Trilogy.” It begins with “Slipping Into Dreams,” which begins as a beautiful fluttering lullaby before easing into a meditative sendoff to where the subconscious mind can take over we enter a new realm where playful, soaring flights of fancy and deeper emotional adventures are cultivated (“Dreams in Motion”). On the next piece, Lisa helps us slowly awaken and face the dawn, where me can ask introspectively, “Was it All a Dream?” It’s a prayerful piece perfect for morning reflections where the day’s intentions are set.
Lisa is among numerous new age artists who could never have imagined how the world would be changing – and how much more deeply needed her music would be – soon after they composed their albums that would be released during the first half of 2020. Then again, she always aspires to create music that helps heal and bring a feeling of uplift to people’s lives. “Dawn Contemplation,” which follows “The Dream Trilogy” in a soft-spoken mode before dramatic, powerfully chorded bursts of emotion pour forth, emerged from a premonition Lisa had last winter that something dramatic and intense was on the immediate horizon.
She follows that with “Still Here,” a triumphant, emotionally free-flowing musical dance that takes stock of her multi-year relationship with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She’s faced the fear darkness before and overcome the obstacles via the power of music – so come what may, she’s ready to kick anxiety to the curb and seek and embrace life’s many joys in the midst.
“Some music charges the energy in our feet and solar plexus, but I want my music to charge the energy of the heart,” Lisa says. “Where Voyager was definitely a concept album, “Lasting Impressions is more a musical journey into the subconscious realm. As a composer, music shows me something about my life that has been there all along, but often out of my view. With the exception of ‘Sing Me of Winter,’ the album speaks in each song of how I’ve arrived where I am through different memories, brushes with mortality and influential people who have crossed my path. All of these have left Lasting Impressions. All my music feels like it’s describing some essential truth that I’ve come to learn on this karmic adventure.”
Listen to Lasting Impressions here: https://open.spotify.com/album/77JdoTjurqJEZ12A4gBEWJ