Reviews of STREAMWALKER by Michael Debbage & Kathy Parsons
Heart Earth Music/2004
"It was a rare overcast day in Southern California, the perfect climate to review the new music of the mellow madman Craig Urquhart. This is the follow up to the solid Evocation and Urquhart once more evokes reflective and understated moments with his graceful and eloquent piano work. The music continues to be embroidered with sadness and sobriety, yet also embellished with style and sophistication, layered with a touch of hope.
Much like its predecessor, Streamwalker does not take the open road to viable commercialism. Craig continues to walk down the road less traveled using the less obvious melodies, draping it with his trademark lamentations, and yet never lacking in self-assurance. This makes the listening experience more demanding. And while the rewards are not immediate, with the patience of Job, the results are worth it.
That said, Craig does a magnificent job with the sequencing of the tracks, opening and closing the album with the most optimistic songs of the album. "Morning Eagle" starts us off with the word picture of a soaring eagle hanging in its balance as it glides on firm but gentle winds. The playful title track that closes out the cd is also one of the albums more sanguine moments. However, "The Awakening” also comes close with the deep and lush performance that we have come to expect from Craig. Written as a birthday gift to his friend and mentor Leonard Bernstein, he is not the only recipient who receives joy from this particular birthday present. This is a vulnerable moment bringing back memories of the early days of David Lanz. It is here along with hauntingly beautiful "Flow On" that we really see the flowing melodies that Craig is ever so capable of playing.
This approach is polarized when compared with the minor key arrangement of the jazzy "Jazzed". Unfortunately, the keys are so odd that this is the one track that prompts the skip forward button. Nevertheless, it is a brave exploration of another genre. Speaking of bravado, check out the ambitious "Thanksgiving" that clocks in at over 8 minutes. Opening with chords reminiscent of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" featured on The Sting soundtrack, the song has several movements that are given many spatial moments. It certainly has a more impressionistic approach that has the feel and technique of the improvising master Michael Jones. The track may be long-winded but it is certainly enduring in more than one way.
Otherwise, Streamwalker can be considered another success story in the life of this original piano man. With just him and his keyboard, Craig Urquhart continues to evoke themes of reflection with his simplified sophistication. If you enjoyedEvocation there is no doubting that this tributary of songs will be equally pleasing."
“Streamwalker” is a beautiful collection of original piano solos by Craig Urquhart that range from gently melodic to more abstract and ambient to jazz. A classically-trained pianist who worked as Leonard Bernstein’s personal assistant for the last five years of the legendary composer/conductor’s life, Urquhart’s music sounds deceptively simple. However the complex harmonies and rhythms as well as Urquhart’s emotional and nuanced playing style allow the listener to discover new facets with each listen. Urquhart leaves a lot of open spaces between the notes and phrases, preferring subtlety and expression over showy pianistics, making this CD a very satisfying experience on a variety of levels.
All of the tracks on “Streamwalker” has its own charm, but I do have some favorites. The CD opens with“Morning Eagle,” a sublimely peaceful piece that was inspired by watching eagles flying overhead while on a canoe trip. It is easy to picture these powerful birds effortlessly gliding through the skies, riding the wind currents. “The Astronomer” is a quietly passionate piece reflecting the awe of losing oneself while looking at the vastness of the night sky. The open feeling of this piece and the deeply emotional expression make this a real standout. “The Awakening” is a piece Urquhart composed as a birthday gift for Leonard Bernstein, and is a bit more classical. Urquhart usually includes one bluesy or jazzy piece on his albums, and “Jazzed” is that selection on this album. Showing a different side of his playing and composing, these pieces tend to be a bit whimsical and fun, lightening the mood considerably. “Interlude” is several shades darker and more reflective - gently melodic and very evocative. “Reverie” is a special favorite, depicting the entrance to the world of dreamtime, the magical state where all living things are connected in peace; this is serenity set to music. Urquhart wrote the haunting “Ghost Canyon” just days after 9/11, observing the empty urban “canyons” of lower Manhattan that were once so full of optimism and humanity. “Impromptu” is a gorgeous, thoughtful nod to Chopin and Schubert that is warmly optimistic and hopeful, and played with a touch as gentle as a caress. The title track closes the CD with a light mood and a sense of wonder. What a great album!