Reviews of EVOCATION by Michael Debbage & Kathy Parsons
Heart Earth Music/2000
"Evocation is derived from the word "evoke," which according to Webster is "to call up; to summon forth; to draw out." Evocationlives up to its title with an aura of class and substance. Though melody is present, Urquhart is rooted in his classical background and relies on more unusual minor cords to draw out the listener's emotions, stirring the soul and touching the heart.
Craig has been releasing solo material since the early '90s. It all began with Songs Without Words back in 1990 and Evocationrepresents his fourth project. He is not a prolific writer considering it has been thirteen years since his debut solo album. This is not a bad thing many artists over-saturate the market in meeting record label demands. Craig avoids this temptation by releasing his material on his own label Heart Earth Music. If the material present onEvocation is any reflection of this artist's catalog then one can only wonder why he has not received greater exposure and attention.
Craig credits much of his influence to Leonard Bernstein as well as his classical training. Playing since the age of 6, Urquhart does not state the obvious musically. In fact, he almost intentionally evades the commercial trappings and brings to mind a young David Lanz prior to his metamorphosis into marketability. Much like Lanz's early catalog, Evocation demands some attentive ears to peel away the lamentations and find the melody. But this will make the music so much more enduring and durable.
This is not always the case as reflected in the cheerful "Fruhling" which in German means springtime. The song gives a feeling of new beginnings and hope of warm sunny to days to come. This feeling of renewal continues by way of the smooth "Strolling." It is reflected by its perfect pace of being neither too slow nor too fast. Much could be said about "Wind Dance," which flows smoothly and brings to mind seagulls floating effortless as they glide in a gentle but firm wind.
Craig's classical roots are most prominent on the dramatic and grand "Nocturne" that will sweep you quietly off your feet. Equally as ambitious is the lengthy "Poem" that clocks in at 7:16. In contrast, other compositions, such as the title track "The Whale's Lament," and "Blues," will demand a few hearings before concluding their effects.
Craig Urquhart does not aim at the more obvious chord arrangements. Many of the songs have understated melodies that will be uncovered after a few visits to your player. Nevertheless, his aim still shoots at the heart resulting in an inspiring listening experience that will touch your soul and water your eyes."
"Evocation” is a stunning collection of original piano solos by Craig Urquhart. The grace and depth of emotion conveyed in Urquhart’s music is a reminder of how profound and colorful the piano can be in all its glory as a solo instrument. The music is accessible and easy to understand, but this is not the sort of music you would use for background music. This is music to be savored many times with full attention, and perhaps in a darkened room without distractions. With nature and environmental concerns as the primary sources of inspiration, most of the songs are minor-key and melancholy, but not without a sense of hope. There is a variety of playing styles and influences, from the light-hearted “Fruhling” (“Springtime” in German) to the tragic “The Whale’s Lament”; the collection even includes to two bluesy pieces. Classical influences as diverse as Bach, Chopin, and Satie can be heard, but Urquhart’s voice is uniquely his own. The pieces tend to be very spare and uncluttered, but are played with such openness and purity of emotion that each piece packs a wallop. Each song carries a somewhat different message, and yet the album holds together as a strong and powerful whole, creating an unusually satisfying experience from the first note to the last. I played the CD three times in a row because I just didn’t want the experience to end. This is a rare CD that won’t sit on my shelf once the review is written.
It is very difficult to point out a couple of exceptional pieces, as they are all incredible. “Poem” was composed for Urquhart’s ailing father, and is a reflection of the peace that came upon his family with the acceptance of passage. It is structured, but has the improvisational quality of a soliloquy or a private and intimate conversation. There is sadness, but also a sense of grace. “Old Trees” is Urquhart’s reaction to a world where ancient trees can be cut down for profit. The tale of the old trees is told from the trees’ point of view, and is a call for mankind to leave a more reverent legacy. The message is heartbreaking. “The Whale’s Lament” represents the singing voice of the whale as he or she makes a lonely journey through the ocean. I can’t imagine anyone hearing this piece and not stopping dead in their tracks to listen more closely. “Wind Dance” is a bit more upbeat and rhythmic, but is still pensive and darkly beautiful.
This is my first review of 2003, and what a great way to start the year! I wouldn’t be surprised if “Evocation” was my favorite album for the year. It is available from amazon.com and craigurquhart.com. I give it my highest recommendation."