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  • Jonathan Widran


In my write-ups on Shoshana Michel’s earlier and equally stellar solo piano albums Reflection (2019) and Impressions (2020), there was quick focus on some fascinating biographical details of her life leading to her emergence as an artist with Soul Whispers in 2015. It was heartwarming to learn, for instance, that she was inspired years earlier by legendary new age piano heroes like David Lanz, Suzanne Ciani and Jim Chappell. Also intriguing was the fact that she was classically trained yet her first pro gig was playing ragtime at Knott’s Berry Farm. Also mentioned in these pieces were the many accolades she received for her initial recordings from, Enlightened Piano Radio and One World Music Radio.  

Though Shoshana insists that she chose the title of her latest collection Storyteller purely because she likes it, it really speaks in a deeper way to the emotional development of her artistry and how she uses her beautiful melodies and variations in rhythmic movement to create wordless narratives that chronicle meaningful moments and share affection for special loved ones in her life.

Though by design there is no overriding concept or theme that emerges over the course of the album’s 13 tracks, there is, with the exception of the gentle, contemplative and slightly dark hued Chopin inspired “Prelude” and the lullaby “Starlight and Crystal Dreams,” an energetic spirit of joy and exuberance in relating tales for all seasons – from the graceful and shimmering opening dance “A Winter’s Enchantment” through the warm, decidedly sunny and optimistic “Summer Nights – whose Spotify rendition is illustrated by roasting marshmallows over a blazing campfire (truly a whimsical summer ritual!).

The inclusion of “Summer Nights” reflects one of the most intriguing aspects of Storyteller – that timing is everything. A handful of the pieces were written a few years ago or originally for a different project, but now come to perfect fruition as part of this project. For instance, she intended to put “Summer Nights” – inspired by sweet childhood memories of eating dinner in the backyard - on her second album Dancing on the Wind eight years ago. She made attempts to record it but it didn’t seem to work for that project so it was shelved until now. Likewise, Shoshana wrote the super-infectious, charming and lighthearted gem, “Heartsounds” a few years ago but waited till now to record and release it. Likewise, she composed “The Enchantment,” whose dazzling and gossamer flow comes later in the tracking, a few years ago but never finished. She kept returning to it because of her attraction to writing music with a fantasy/enchanted feel to it.    

Two other pieces, the soft-hearted, nostalgic and introspective “Joyful Remembrance” and the hypnotic, elegant and uplifting “Song for Clara (Revisited)” have remarkable stories behind their appearance on Storyteller. The first was conceived as a combination of the pianist’s own composition and a public domain melody that her father would sing that he remembered from Shabbat services. Shoshana recorded it for Dancing on the Wind but chose not to include it because she wanted her second album to feature original compositions only. She later rewrote the piece to make it fully her own.

A heartfelt ode to her sister, the original version of “Song for Clara,” performed on a felted piano, appeared on her 2022 release Mélange. But after she released it, she began hearing the sections in a different order, and since she knew she would be recording Storyteller on a non-felted piano, she felt compelled to revisit it. Both versions offer a sparkling magic, but the new twist has a brighter tone because of the use of the non-felted piano. And speaking of cherished family members, Shoshana includes wonderful pieces dedicated to loved ones of different generations. She titled the delightfully breezy “Strolling Along the Strand With Dad” to help our mind’s eye center on the lovely image of a walk she took with her father along the Strand in Redondo Beach when he was in his 90s.

Shoshana wrote one of the album’s true emotional centerpieces, the tender and lilting “Starlight and Cystal Dreams (Frida’s Lullaby)” upon the birth of her grandniece. Giving equal time to beloved pets, the pianist infuses “Simi” with a lively, peripatetic flutter to approximate the life, energy and spirit of her parakeet that lived only a short while but made a lasting impact, musically and otherwise.

Beyond those unique thematic threads, Shoshana also pays homage to “Periwinkle” (one of her favorite colors), the fast-paced, unpredictable and mystical dance of snowflakes (“Snowdrops”), the ever-intriguing notion and possibility of time travel (“The Time Traveler”).     


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