Spencer Zahn’s latest collection further refines the hushed palette of solo piano lyricism captured on his previous Cascine full-length, 2021’s Pale Horizon. Inspired by the fresh start of a recent relocation to Los Angeles after a lifetime on the east coast, he acquired an upright piano and set aside a window each day to commune with the keys. Certain pieces were conceived in advance, while others were born from improvising along with various favorite recordings, finding “compositions in the holes of music I love.” Zahn cites the instrument itself as a central muse – “upright piano just conjures a certain mood.” The results are delicate, nimble silhouettes of melody and reverie, set adrift on crisp Pacific breeze.
Aside from “Lawns” – an interpretation of a tune by California pianist Carla Bley – the collection’s other eight tracks are all originals, yet they share a sense of soft-lensed classicism that feels uniquely out of time. Nothing dates the contemplative beauty of “Snow Fields” or “Lullaby For My Dog;” their watercolor landscapes of piano, resonance, and room tone could pass for a lost gem from the ECM catalog anytime in the past four decades. Zahn’s touch skews neither showy nor retrograde, conjuring instead the ageless elegance of Satie, Jarret, Sakamoto, and beyond.
This is music of clarity and craft, unpolluted by passing fads or distractions, guided by the quest for poignancy and a deep purity of motive: “When composing solo, I always ask myself, ‘Would I want to listen to this? Does it move me? Does the emotion come through?’”