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Poetry without words

By Jim Chappell

Music West: 1987

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This review first appeared in the September/October 1987 issue of A Critique of America.

One of the best things happening in music in the 1980s is the emergence of what is being called "new age" music. This rather unexpected popularity of introspective music drawn from musical sources around the world has freed many of our finest pianists from playing in velvet-encrusted lounges in Las Vegas.

This style has been around for years, but without a handy way to label it it went unnoticed. Record companies showed little interest in the late 1970s for non-classical, non-jazz serious instrumental music – particularly of solo piano.

However, the last few years have seen the success of solo new age pianists like Liz Story and Ben Sidran. Ready to join their ranks, based on the caliber of music on his first nationally distributed album, is Jim Chappell.

The piano has long been regarded as the most versatile of instruments. In the hands of Chappell, it is also the most sensitive and expressive. His music is slower than Story's, his compositions less flowing, more deliberate. He also uses more of his left hand, bringing the lower registers into greater prominence.

No background music, Chappell's music is meditative, able to transport the listener to other places; it is nearly hallucinogenic. It is poetry without words.