With the release of her new EP All The Best Returns, Pt. 1, much ado will be made of Robin Spielberg’s return to composing and performing original tunes after grand ventures featuring fresh interpretations of classical pieces (Re-inventions, 2020) and cherished showtunes (Give My Regards to Broadway, 2021).
Yet in considering the vastness of her career, the relatively brief (less than 20 minutes), emotionally expansive solo piano collection represents something more significant – the capping crown on three extraordinary decades since her 1993 solo debut album, which sold over 300,000 copies and launched her multi-faceted career. Since then, the multi-talented artist and internationally acclaimed performer has released over 20 albums, performed live on PBS, NPR ABC News, CBS Saturday Morning at and at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Concert, become a massive star in Asia and has now been heard by over 300 million listeners on Pandora. Among many other creative endeavors, she is currently in her 23rd year serving as Artist Spokesperson for the American Therapy Association and is a founding member of the Mindful Music Association.
Emerging as we are now from the collective physical, emotional and spiritual anxiety of the Covid era, All The Best Returns, Pt. 1 is truly the soothing balm and uplifting and optimistic musical light we need as we face the road ahead. Recorded on vintage Steinway pianos – including four on her rebuilt 1896 Victorian Steinway Model A during the pandemic - the five alternately dramatic, softspoken, reflective, soulful and anthemic tunes powerfully celebrate the virtues and values we were sorely distracted from for far too long – resiliency, hope and the power of positive thinking.
Spielberg grabs our ears upfront with the dramatic introductory chords of “In Search of the Forest Fairy” before easing into a lilting, forward thinking adventure featuring moments of gentle, meditative reflection and whimsical flurries of high notes that truly soar like the fairies and angels we must summon to guide us through. It’s essentially a piece about looking beyond the darkness and remembering and looking forward to fresh light. As the title indicates, the lush, reflective ballad “One Step Closer” offers a cautious sense of hope, but in subtle, soft spoken, sometimes heavy and dark, sometimes shiny and sparkling ways – as if, before we celebrate our breakthroughs, we must go through a period of slowly readjusting our mindset.
The centerpiece of the EP is the brief, meditative title track, a gorgeous, soulful expression of a theme that is important to Spielberg. Usually when we offer birthday greeting, we customarily say, without much thought, “many happy returns.” This graceful piece, and the collection itself, shares her wish, in music, for us, her attentive, open-hearted listeners to enjoy many happy returns in our own lives. The pianist stays in an intimate, low key mode for what is probably the collection’s most achingly beautiful number, a slice of melancholy reverie touching on the seasonal reality and deep symbolism of “The End of Summer.” She wraps the set with a passionate and purposeful filled rendition of the “Ukraine National Anthem,” a tune most of us probably never heard a year ago but which is now crucially important as we support the country’s courage as its people and leadership struggle for survival.
The fact that Spielberg calls this wonderful and inspiring EP “Part 1” would indicate that it’s the auspicious start of a series that will take her into her 30th official year of recording and beyond.