Laraaji, "Sun Piano"
Enigmatic Afro-Transcendentalist figure Laraaji has a long, fascinating history with music and is still very active at the age of 76. He is known for being "discovered" by Brian Eno, and working with such underground darlings as Sun Araw, Dallas Acid, and Blues Control. He studied piano composition in college, and then found himself with Eastern mysticism and began improvising with zithers and mbira. This album finds him returning to his roots with an all instrumental piano meditation.
Recorded in a church on what sounds like a grand piano, these pieces have an open air feeling that fills in and traces the contours of that large hall. I can envision the sunlight streaming in the sanctuary as if by divine light, and the character of these pieces matches the peacefulness of that setting.
Harmonically, these brief songs are actually similar in sound to certain turn of the 19th century composers such as Scriabin, Revel, and Debussy. As one track title suggests, "Flow Joy," the pieces unfold like a joyful conversation, meandering gently and contemplatively with a bright outlook and some hints of the 1950s African-American music that influenced Laraaji as a child. He skitters lightly around the keyboard, only to include a sudden idea of a blues lick, or a diversion into a march like a gospel chorale.
The whole album is so airy and dreamy that it would suit as music for one of Laraaji's laughter meditation workshops well. Deep listening is transportive to a lighter emotional plane, something I think we could all use during these times of challenge and stress. Sun Piano is the first release in a trilogy from the same session, and follows the full length releases Sun Gong, Bring on the Sun, and Sun Transformations also on All Saints. A companion LP, Moon Piano, and an extended EP of piano/autoharp duets will follow later in 2020.