Having established her name with albums of rich, orchestrated New Age music often loaded with an All-Star roster of guest musicians, Fiona Joy sends the band home on Signature – Solo and sits down at her 1885 Steinway for 40 minutes of introspective solo piano music. Landing neatly between neoclassical and straight-up contemporary instrumental music, Signature – Solo has “end of day with a glass of wine” written all over it. “Ceremony” appropriately opens the proceedings, alternating exuberant passages with catch-a-breath moments fringed with melancholy. The lower chords explode, the highest notes sparkle. “Fair Not” spins its ballad with a touch of gypsy flair. Joy serves up two versions of “Once Upon Impossible”–a solo and one accented with wordless vocals. I like them both, the song is beautiful, but I do have to admit that on the vocal one, something in the voice actually made me wonder if she was covering the Twin Peaks theme song. Both versions find extra beauty in hesitant pauses between notes, the song’s tale spun out slowly and with just a touch of sadness. Joy revisits the song “Grace,” which appeared on the Grammy-winning album Samsara from Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman. (You can see the lovely video of it here.) This solo version lacks none of the depth and beauty of the her duet with Kellerman. “From the Mist” begins like a delicate lullaby, and blossoms into a classically inspired piece, once again showing that practiced understanding of how to let emotion pour into the space within a pause. I will admit that I flinch a little at the overly showy down-the-keyboard slides in “Invisible Train,” but it’s one of the rare moments where Joy decides to go over the New Age top—and it really only sticks out because of how honest and heartfelt the music is when it’s not sent that way.
Certainly, there has never been any doubt of Fiona Joy’s deserved place in the roster of New Age pianists, and I find it surprising that this is the first time she has stepped into the solo spotlight. The fire and emotion that has always been present in her work gets amplified here, taking more potency from the acoustic vulnerability of the unadorned performance. Signature – Solo will quickly find a favored spot next to all your preferred contemporary instrumental pianists. So pour a glass of something nice, get comfy, and enjoy.
Available from Fiona Joy’s website.