Local Loco

local-pianoWe’re reminded frequently to “support your community and buy local.” It makes sense. Every time you shop at a big chain, although they may be (under)employing your neighbors, the profits don’t stay in the neighborhood, and the locally owned businesses, also your neighbors, struggle to make a living, or often, go out of business—one less independent entrepreneur. Every time you buy a piece of fruit trucked from across the continent, you’re adding to the carbon in the atmosphere. Every time you go to a chain restaurant you help close another not-a-cookie-cutter unique kitchen. Recently I needed a new pair of bicycle tires. I could have ordered them online. Instead I ordered them from the local bike shop. The cost to me was the same as the online order, but even if it had been a couple of dollars more, I still would have spent the money here. That small bike shop provides personalized service that’s impossible to get from a chain, and doesn’t exist online. I can call them on the phone and a real person answers who can actually help. It saves me time, tons of frustration, and makes my life easier. Okay, enough of the lecture, this is supposed to be a music review.

The good news is, it’s a review of music performed locally, by a local musician, and recorded by a local amateur recording engineer. The bad news is, you can’t get this recording. And there’s more good news, after I get a few complaints out of the way.

The piano could have used a touch-up tuning. The recording space doesn’t isolate well from outside noises. It was a recital with an audience and all the usual coughs and shuffles and dropped things—thank you no phones rang. And Seth Trumbore, the pianist, is not a world class technician. Yet, these are all minor nitpicks. Perfection does not exist—though it’s nice to get a little bit closer.

A little bit about the artist. He has a degree in piano performance and pedagogy from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s won a few awards, is a certified Suzuki Method instructor, teaches privately, plays organ for a church. Not too exciting and definitely not impressive—thank you, again. Because impressive biographical stats mean little. What is exciting is his interpretation and expression. He’s one more prime example of the many gems to be found in our back yards. He’s one more reason that making a piddly effort to keep local is well worth it. He’s why you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for tickets for an overcrowded, oversized, over amplified concert hall, to see an overhyped, overblown, overrated brandname performer go through the motions. Instead, you could go to an intimate concert, near home, for a fraction of the cost, and hear great hidden talent give you something you’ve never heard before, never knew existed, and would have been cheated out of hearing had you gone to that big media, big name, big money bedlam.

Seth plays with heart & soul. When I hear performances like this, I don’t care if it’s not technically note perfect. It’s better than note perfect : it soars with emotion. Seth doesn’t play the notes. He plays the music. He’s giving us his music the way he hears it in his head. That’s real talent. Getting the music out of one’s head and into the piano takes enormous skill. There are too many well known performers that, should you actually listen, you’d realize they’re simply on autopilot. They’re playing it by the book. Their technique may be exemplary, and their showmanship impressive, but if you close your eyes to listen, could you say, they’ve put their mark on the music? Would their music launch you to another world? 

It doesn’t hurt that Trumbore selected two of my favorite composers for the piano. Although, that makes me all the more critical. Debussy’s music is glorious, and Chopin’s is transcendent. There’d be no review if he had just played the selections exactly as indicated by the composers. The recital ended with Clair de Lune, one of Debussy’s most popular and recorded pieces. The usual interpretation is quick and flowing, with the arpeggios coming across in fluid sheets of sound—florid and flirtatious. It’s not the most difficult piece of piano repertoire, however for me, it pushes the limit of my skills. I’ve resigned myself to play the piece much slower than the pros. At first I rebelled against it, yet as I practiced, I discovered a beauty in it not revealed by playing it faster. There is an alternative approach that works—and well indeed. Much to my surprise, Seth plays the introduction of the theme quite slowly, but that’s the easy part. After the opening, I fully expected him to pickup the tempo when the arpeggios come in. Surprised again. He methodically retains the leisurely tempo, stretching out the arpeggios gracefully, stressing the melody. For someone who has the ability to play it fast, it takes courage to go against orthodoxy to play it how he feels it. This comes through on every piece, if not quite as starkly. He presents us with marked pauses, extreme dynamics, and subtle twists of rubato. This is what I want to hear in a performance. I want to hear the artist tell me what this music means, not to his teacher, or the academy, or the judges, but to him or her personally—thank you, again.

The recording needs accolades too. Clean, simple, two microphones, closely set (but not crammed under the lid), captured the full range and delicacies of the performance. There’s not a lick of compression, equalization, mixing, or manipulation. You hear the piano so near to what you’d hear had you been standing there in front of it, it’s almost alarming. Not only are there no games or tricks, there’s never a point that a single transient peak even comes close to hitting the maximum. This recording needs to be turned up to appreciate the softest passages, and to get the impact of the loudest peaks. Izzy Marrone, the engineer, records local performances just for kicks. He does this because he loves music, respects the artists, and has fun doing it. These are the best reasons I can think of for doing anything. If you aren’t making your life and the lives of others better, if you aren’t making the world a better place, you aren’t living.

Hear how the living live music.
Chopin, Ballade #1 

Debussy, Clair de Lune

Chopin, Ballade #4

These recordings were done 24 bit, 192 kHz. They’ve been resampled to 16/48 to reduce file size. Because WordPress limits media files to 24 mb, and in order to give you a longer sample of the Ballade #4, I’ve had to reduce its sampling rate 32 kHz. It still sounds pretty good.

local-tascam

Also read about another hidden talent : [Celebrity Worship]

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