All us kids who took piano lessons can relate to at least the beginning of Ed Bazel’s extraordinary musical journey, those many years when his parents forced him “kicking and screaming” to take instruction. Obviously blessed with an innate gift for performance, composition and interpretation most of us didn’t have, the latest leg of Bazel’s multi-faceted, adventurous musical and entrepreneurial life is one that usually only happens in dreams.
With two highly acclaimed previous albums, a popular online radio station (The River of Calm – Music To Soothe Your Soul) and a dynamic array of Stateside and international accolades behind him, he set out to fulfill a very important element on his vision board – following in the footsteps of the Beatles and other legends by recording in Abbey Road Studios’ famed Studio 2. Recording The London Sessions: Reflections from Studio 2 was for the multi-talented artist the musical equivalent to one of his other vision board achievements – hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro.
For obvious thematic and marketing reasons, his evolution from watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan as a wide eyed seven year old to laying tracks on hallowed ground is definitely one of the compelling stories told on these 12 bright, eloquent and decidedly dreamy, whimsical and optimistic tracks. The back cover image even shows a somewhat impressionistic treatment of a photo of him in the famed crosswalk from the Abbey Road album cover.
His two choices of Fab Four songs to interpret are however not from that masterwork, but among the band’s best early songs generally attributed to Lennon (who wrote the lyrics to “In My Life”) and McCartney (“Yesterday”) separately. From its gossamer opening notes and occasional dancing ivory flurries to the deeper reflective energies of his warm soulful interaction with the strings, Bazel creates one of the definitive instrumental versions of “In My Life.” His similar, heartrending piano-strings take on “Yesterday” is likewise memorable, bringing out the deeper melancholy strains of McCartney’s simple but legendary lyrics of sorrowful regret.
Considering the opportunity Bazel was gifted with, the easiest thing and most commercially astute approach to take with the album is to have made it a full-on Beatles tribute. Based on those two gems, such an album (if he gets around to it) will be a magnificent contribution to the new age piano genre and the tradition of Beatles-influenced recordings. But the deeper, more impactful story of these London sessions is the fact that Bazel’s incredible ten originals stack up so perfectly and seamlessly with the Lennon/McCartney gems. In many ways, he’s exploring the themes of gratitude, love and loss inherent in those songs.
From the chipper, top o the morning sparkle and flow of “Morning Glory” to the bittersweet haunting reflection “I Will Think of You,” Bazel is all about pouring out his heart and showcasing why he is ultimately grateful his parents pushed him to play piano. Along the way, he takes us into the clouds (figuratively, yet then again, maybe literally) to experience the breathtaking feeling of “Mountain Serenity, the exuberance of “Mountain Joy” and the peaceful fulfillment of “Soaring” after our dreams. Bazel also has his feet firmly on the ground for a spirited, deeply meaningful visit with “Old Friends,” a quiet “Evening Stroll” and a visit to places in the heart where our sweetest “Daydream” can open a door to reflecting on life’s incredible and sometimes heartbreaking passages.