After enchanting us with solo piano works for many years, Fabrizio Paterlini has expanded his ensemble. While some chapters of his Secret Book have been written for the ivories alone, others include roles for string quartet, synthesizer and programmed drums. This is not an unexpected development; many of today’s most popular pianists have done the same in recent years and have found themselves breaking into new markets, most especially cinema. And while we hesitate to call this music cinematic, it does open with “Movie Theme”, a clear reference to the silver screen. The first hints of a larger sound appear on “Narrow Is the Way”, and while the classic appeal of traditional instruments is somewhat muted by the percussion, at the same time one begrudgingly admits that wider audiences may give it a spin because of the drums.
It’s hard for a composer to know where to draw the line between acoustic purity and crossover appeal. Paterlini splits the difference, including tracks such as “While everything burns” to remind us of his primary talent. When one hears these pieces back-to-back, one experiences a wider range of dynamic contrast than one is used to hearing on the artist’s records, but relaxes knowing that the synthesized tones on other tracks are still considered adornment rather than their compositional core. The most effective blend is on “Space Walk”, where the synth is but a series of beeps, eventually disappearing to highlight the artist at the piano, like an astronaut on a solo walk. The least effective: “shARP”, which begins with synth and handclaps, and later adds synthesized voice. It’s harder to write piano music than patterns, so when patterns dominate, one can miss the complexity, even when it’s there.
The deep azure blue of the cover implies confidence, the opposite of the “blues.” Over the course of the album, Paterlini displays his confidence by switching among tonal styles. There’s something for everyone here. For us, the go-to tracks are the dramatic “Before the storm” and the gorgeous “Leave”; we’re still reminiscing. As we listen, we’re simultaneously happy and sad: sad to lose another artist to the mainstream, and happy at his likely success. The theme has played out over the course of music history between artists and fans; we want to keep them for ourselves, but we also want our friends to like them. Then when our friends’ friends begin to like them, and so on, we often feel like we’ve lost something. But it’s just as easy to feel pride in “knowing someone when”, which is the case here; we suspect this secret book won’t remain a secret for long. See you at the movies! (Richard Allen)