August 17, 2003

For fans of instrumental music, keyboardist Jerry Rabushka's cd "Piano 362" offers up a sonic experience that is at once reflective, soothing, lush & appealing.
Piano 362 consists of eight instrumental keyboard pieces - each around 5-6 minutes in length, each performed on an electronic weighted-key keyboard, each constisting of one stereo take with (i think) no overdubs. Tracks one, two and eight use a grand piano sound. There are also pieces using sounds of a Fender Roades electric piano, classic analog synths, and a harp/koto-like sound.

The eight tracks all make for very accessible listening; all are in even-meters; each stays pretty much centered within one diatonic key from start to finish. There's an overall harmonic quality reminiscent of Dan Fogelberg in much of Rabushka's musical approach. It's a hybrid of rock/country/cabaret/classical/new age/b'way in style.

The pianistic style is one of steady rhythms - strong, even playing - and a pleasant thickness to the sound. He also possessess a flair for the percussive nature of the keyboard, with nicely controlled rolls, volume changes and internal bouncings in the way he depresses & works the keys.

Perhaps a Rabushkak trademark - many of the pieces contain a kind of harp-like playing. As new chord changes occur, they are often caressed repeatedly with glissando-like flourishes or clusters - perhaps reassuring the harmonic explorations, or as a reflective pause before the music resumes movement.

In some ways, "Piano 362" might be considered "new age" - it's a great background to evenings-in-front-of-fireplaces, dinners-by-candlelight, bubble-baths, quiet contemplation and other moody/relaxing situations. But there is a personal/personable quality to Rabushka's music playing that is less "cosmic" & "distant", and more "down-to-earth" & "intimate". Overall, it's effect is more romantic than intellectual.
This is hard to put into words, but much of Piano 362 sounds to this listener like a kind of lonely musical accompaniment seeking an absent melody or soloist. I found myself humming made-up melodic parts over it. Much of it's right hand activity consists of rambling chord-tone arpeggios. Thus, while each piece conjures up certain "feelings" (esp those of sensitivity, earnestness and vulnerablity) - each is vague and/or tentative as to just what is being said melody-wise. Which is ok and which I'm guessing is the intended effect.

My personal favorite track is #7 "Dark LIghts Hover", performed using a chorused Fender Roades sound. It's in a refreshingly dark, minor key, and is perhaps the album's most-dissonant and exploratory offering. I also enjoy "Waiting, Over the Waves", a light-hearted psychedelic endeavor. Here Rabushka employs a classic analog synth patch - and fondly reminiscent of musical approaches by Vangelis, Jon Anderson and Yes.

It is also worth mentioning sound engineer Ryan Smyth and Jupiter Studios of St. Louis, MO - as the recorded sound and mix of "Piano 362" is very rich & full indeed.

Review by Robert Urban
August 17, 2003

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