In April 2010 I did an interview (see special) with the rather unknown, but excellent keyboard player Andrew Roussak. In this interview he told me the story of his life: how he spent his years in Russia, his current life in Germany and how he was educated to be a classical trained piano player, but eventually became a rock musician in Dorian Opera. On his solo album No Trespassing he showed all of his talents. It was very easy for me to conclude that Roussak is of the same caliber as people like Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman, who both are classical trained musicians too.
When Andrew Roussak asked me whether I was interested in reviewing his latest solo effort Blue Intermezzo, I didn't hesitate one single moment. He also stated that this wasn't a progressive rock album, but a record on which he only plays the grand piano. He asked me if such an album could be reviewed for a progressive rock oriented website. Well, I told him that both Emerson and Wakeman released distinct piano albums with classical oriented music. They got reviews too for Background Magazine, so why refuse Blue Intermezzo? Many prog heads listen to classical music on a regular base, thus a review is certainly in place here!
An album consisting of almost fifty minutes of piano music is something I don't quite often listen to. Moreover, I'm not specialized in classical music, but I know of course the well-known names and music in the genre. Just let me give it a try. The ten pieces on the album have all, except one, been written by Andrew Roussak who plays the Kawai GE-20 grand piano. Only Greensleeves is a traditional English folk song. This is a well-known tune that sounded very familiar to me right from the beginning. The opening track All Good Things I heard before either. That's not so strange if you're familiar with No Trespassing, Roussak's debut album. This piece is an unplugged version of the one on that album, but this way it sounds completely different!
The other eight pieces are more difficult to grab at once; they have to be heard several times. It's evident that Andrew Roussak has been inspired by classical composers during the writing process. He mentioned them in the liner notes which he wrote for all individual pieces. Strange Tango for example was inspired by the music of George Gershwin and Isaac Albeniz. Two tracks were borrowed from a Colossus Project. For the album Progressive Duels On Grand Piano he wrote Iliade Book 6 - Swap Armour and Iliade Book 8 - Divine Withdrawal. The first composition is a rather fast piece while the second track has a slower pace, but both pieces are certainly worth-while. The last two pieces are bonus tracks. These are two cantatas by J.S. Bach: Schafe Können Sicher Weiden and Wir Eilen Mit Schwachen Doch Emsigen Schritten I never heard these pieces before, but they're certainly not the most popular tunes ever written by Mr. Bach. Andrew Roussak didn't fall into the trap to record only the well-known classical pieces by Bach. This way rather unknown pieces get more attention. The album shows how talented Mr. Roussak is on the grand piano; he performs the Bach-pieces with a lot of passion just like the other pieces on this release.
Looking back at the listening sessions I must admit that I enjoyed the piano variations from time to time. It depends on the mood you're in whether you like Blue Intermezzo or not. Above all the music gave me some rest and piece of mind. People who like fine keyboard playing, but are not fond of classical music I would like to advice to listen to the albums that Andrew Roussak recorded with Dorian Opera. No Secrets (2008) and Crusade 1212 (2011) are strong prog metal albums that feature some of his finest keyboard performances. But I can also recommend his solo album No Trespassing to people who like the music of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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