CD Reviews
Review by Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications


The Sounding Joy
Matthew Cook
2004 / Arianna
57.4 minutes

“The Sounding Joy” is a very comprehensive solo piano collection of Christmas music presented in a straightforward and accessible style that includes jazz, folk, and new age elements. The collection includes sacred and secular songs as well as some standard pop Christmas classics. Matthew Cook's playing style is easy-going and yet sophisticated, unpretentious yet impressive. Most of this CD was released on cassette in 1992. It was remastered in 2004 and five new songs were added, bringing the selection up to twenty-three tracks. Highlights include a poignant arrangement of the “chestnut,” “The Christmas Song;” an expansive and heartfelt “O Holy Night;” an elegantly flowing “What Child Is This? “ a sweet, bluesy rendition of “Santa Baby” that is sure to bring a smile; a country-feeling “Blue Christmas;” a light-hearted arrangement of “Christmas Island” (a rare holiday song I've never heard before!); a graceful “The Christmas Waltz;” and a heartfelt “White Christmas.” A lot of Christmas CDs focus on the sacred or spiritual side of the holiday season and others emphasize the secular side. This one does both, and provides a warm, easy-to-listen-to compilation that will be wonderful while decorating the tree, opening gifts, enjoying a holiday meal, or just kicking back after a long day of running errands. “The Sounding Joy” is available from www.matthewcook.com and cdbaby.com.

Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications

The Sounding Joy
Retail Value: $13.00

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Review by Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Publications
Redwood Reflections ” is a collection of twelve original piano solos “from the Heart of the Redwoods.”

Matthew Cook has previously released six albums of covers, and this is his first album of his own material. I hope he will continue to release collections of original work. It is full of energy, and Cook excels at a variety of playing styles from blues to new age to rock, pop, jazz, and classical. In other words, he does it all and does it well.

The suite, “ Redwood Reflections ,” is made up of seven pieces that flow together like a medley. “Morning Fog” opens the Suite with a beautiful musical portrait of the cool, soft fog that we often encounter in Northern California. In the Redwoods, it is stunning - there are no hard edges anywhere, and when the sunlight filters through the mist, it takes your breath away. “Passage” is a bit more intense and melancholy - I like this one a lot! “Sanctuary” is smooth, elegant, and very beautiful. “Can't Keep My Mind on Business” is my favorite. Deep, funky piano blues - great stuff!

The other five non-suite selections range from the sweet ballad “If I Could Fill Your Cup” to the gentle rag “Benson's Soliloquy” to the jazzier and more upbeat “El Cuervo,” which reminds me a bit of some of Spencer Brewer's jazz stylings. There must be something in the water up there since “ Redwood Reflections ” was recorded in Brewer's Laughing Coyote Studios!

Matthew Cook is a fascinating artist with his versatility and beautiful playing style. “ Redwood Reflections ” is available from mathewcook.com, amazon.com, and cdbaby.com.

Redwood Reflections
Retail Value: $13.00

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