Michael Mizrahi: Currents
New Amsterdam Records

As the follow-up to 2012's acclaimed The Bright Motion, Currents is Michael Mizrahi's sophomore album of solo piano works, but it also functions as a single-recording argument on behalf of New Amsterdam Records. Works by two of the label's most revered composers, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Missy Mazzoli, appear on the collection (interestingly, the first commercially released recordings of acoustic solo piano material by them), as does the third installment in Mark Dancigers' Bright Motion trilogy written for the pianist (Dancigers also, incidentally, produced the album). Enhancing the appeal of the recording is the fact that all of the material was written during the past three years, most of it with the pianist in mind.

None of the works featured is minimal in design; they're instead multi-layered, rich, and perfectly tailored to Mizrahi, who brings the recording to life with vibrant playing that's virtuosic but not self-indulgent. In entrancing the listener with the slow dazzle of its intertwining patterns, Mizrahi's rendition of Snider's “The Currents” sets the mark high at the outset. There's a lilting, Debussy-like flow to the material that does, in fact, suggest water movements, especially when the music fluctuates between the rapid motion visible at one stage in a river and the peaceful calm evident elsewhere. The dream-like effect of Snider's opener carries over into Troy Herion's “Harpsichords,” whose elegant trills and intricate patterning are executed impressively by the pianist; as dazzling are Mizrahi's handling of tempo and dynamics, the ease with which he alternates between aggressive and gentle passages. True to its title, “The Bright Motion Ascending” locates itself within the piano's upper region for a series of reflective explorations before darkening it with heavy lower-register chords.

At Currents' center is Asha Srinivasan's “Mercurial Reveries,” a wide-ranging, five-part work in which we witness the composer draw upon her Indian American Heritage. In working elements from Indian classical ragas and Indian classical scales and modes into its overall framework, Srinivasan boldly extends the album's reach beyond American borders without sacrificing any of the characteristic brightness of its overall sound, and in an almost Gershwin-like twist, Srinivasan threads traces of blues and jazz into the compositional design, too. Following Mazzoli's short but nevertheless mesmerizing “Heartbreaker,” Patrick Burke ends the album with “Missing Piece,” which, though inspired by the slow movement of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata, exudes a quietly majestic and plaintive, folk-like quality that sets it apart.

Of course each of the recording's pieces possesses its own differentiating character, but what one takes away from the album more than anything else is the brilliance of Mizrahi's playing, his ability to sensitively render the composers' works and impose his personality so completely upon them.

April 2016