It’s still Piano Day somewhere in the world (West Coast of the USA in fact, for another few hours) so here’s another song to feature piano as the only instrument.
“Preservation” is a track from a solo album released late last year by Spain-based English singer-songwriter John Howard.
When John Howard’s 1975 album “Kid In A Big World” was reissued to wide acclaim in 2003, it marked his return to writing and recording after twenty years of silence. Whereas his previous most recent ‘comeback’ album – ” John Howard & The Night Mail” – was a band album, “Across The Door Sill” is very much a solo work, featuring just layered piano and voice, and songs investigating the process of dreams, inspired by 13th Century poet Rumi’s Quatrains.
The influence of John Howard’s own songwriter heroes – Laura Nyro and Roy Harper in particular – are often mentioned in reviews, because of the nature of the long-form, languidly organic compositions and absence of the usual verse/chorus/middle-eight song structure.
However, there’s also much in common on “Across the Door Sill” with the kind of territory John Grant claims today when he sits at a piano. In other words, some richly detailed storytelling (or reflecting on life, the universe and our place within the puzzle), and some elegant dynamic and ever-shifting piano playing.
While the playing here is a kind of classic lounge-pop style of piano rather than jazz, there’s a flowing, fluid, almost improvisational wandering feel at times during the album which reminded me of the playing of multi-instrumental jazz musician Alice Coltrane when I first heard “Across the Door Sill”.
The album – 5 songs stretching out to 8 or 9 minutes – is a late night listen for me. It’s not exactly ‘difficult’ music – it’s too approachable and melodic for that – but it does require a bit of attention and a few listens to reveal its full mastery.
And, because it’s Piano Day, here’s a video of a grand piano… played by a youthful John Howard in a 1975 TV performance: