In listening to the deeply meditative, spirit penetrating pieces on Gary Schmidt’s new album Even For a Moment, I’m tempted to speak immediately of the way music like this can heal and transport us, expand our consciousness and invite us to experience life more meaningfully. Over the course of 12 wonderful originals and graceful solo piano renditions of classical pieces by Haydn (“Minuet in G Minor”) and Barber (“Adagio For Strings”), he invites us into a world that he calls “piano for the soul,” a realm infused with simple yet emotionally compelling melodic and harmonic grace.
Before those soaring thoughts on these beautiful songs take flight, however, a question hits me that must be addressed. What took so long? The Colorado resident – who studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto - has enjoyed a full time career for over 30 years as a teacher, performer and composer, performing in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Mexico. Yet it took him till 2016 to gift us as a solo artist for the first time with Landscapes of the Heart, produced by none other than Windham Hill legend Will Ackerman, the patron saint of today’s best indie new age talent. Happily, Schmidt made up for lost time, making an immediate impact in the genre, winning Best Piano with Instruments awards from both One World Radio (Europe) and Enlightened Piano Radio. But it’s hard to imagine this inventive melodic brilliance was simmering so long, waiting to awake and take wing so that we could be so inspired.
There’s always a gossamer connection to the divine (within or without) when a gifted composer keeps his or her expression simple and shares the abundant energy of the heart via solo piano compositions. Schmidt could do this beautifully over the course of 14 tracks if he chose, but what makes Even For a Moment so unique from other piano driven recordings in the genre is that more than half these tracks feature the harmonically empowering – but always subtle and never over-employed – inclusion of a single companion instrument.
In addition to the two classical gems, the piano-only pieces include the wistful, gently meditative opener “If This is the Time,” which counters a hopeful exploration with a hypnotic motif on the lower end; the gentle melancholy moods of “A Train Leaves The City” and the dreamy, uplifting flow of “Crescent Light.”
Fans of solo piano may love those pieces most, but they will be greatly rewarded for venturing beyond the creative safety of ivories only to experience his seamlessly lyrical interactions with his acoustic guitarist brother Roger Schmidt (the elegantly romantic “Face that Lights My Face” and the mystical “Sub Tide”); flutist Sherry Finzer (the haunting “The Breath at Dawn” and the lighthearted, classically influenced “No Greater Gift”); and cellist Hannah Alkire, who adds rich cello counterpoints to create a variety of moods (on the spectrum of ultra-dark to joyfully uplifting) on “Inside The River,” “Even For A Moment,” “Simply By Looking” and “The Light Seems to Move.” Schmidt conclude Even For a Moment in the same space he started, completing a transcendent full circle journey with an eloquent coda “Postlude To a Moment.”