Peter Kater has not released an album of solo piano music in over a decade—which is not to say he hasn’t been playing solo piano. In the liner notes for Love, Kater says that the pieces on the album came together over a three-year period in “‘the heat’ of the moment.” There are five improvisational pieces and seven compositions (the last track is “an improvisation on a composition”), all of which are just a candle and a wine glass away from inspiring heady romance. I am of two minds about this album. There’s no doubt that as far as New Age-style piano albums go, this is a winner. Kater plays with fluid passion, and every piece here overflows with several greeting card stores’ worth of genuine emotion. “Two of Us” literally stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it. I am a number of listens in to this album and I have to admit that it can still move me to the edge of tears. “Keep Loving You” revels in quiet trills and overall takes a sotto voce approach without losing its soul-impact. Even when it swells, like so many tracks here do, it’s in a restrained way. It’s like listening to it start to get its reserve up to say something important, then sigh and go back to ruminating. “Mystery” puts me in mind of a nocturne. Kater’s left-hand runs here are gorgeous, and there is a passage around the 3:20 mark where things get very quiet except for twinkling riffs on the high end of the keyboard, and it’s a beautiful little moment. “Passion,” the track that is an improv on a composed piece, throws in the added pleasure and surprise of suddenly grabbing hold of a jazz vibe. Maybe Kater wanted to let us know that he’s got a little kick to go with the outpouring of love. Love can be fun, after all, right? It’s not all heaving breasts and pounding tickers. Those are the moments I enjoy most on Love, the pieces that show restraint. I enjoy them because they don’t swell and sweep off into the kind of too-big, ideal-of-romance notions that fill everything up with splendid runs up and down the keys. That’s the other part of my mindset regarding this album. There are places where things get a bit sugary for me, but I recognize that it’s very much in keeping with the New Age piano motif. (“Safe Haven” and “Intimacy” are the ones that stand out in my mind.) I also find that, as a listener rather than a reviewer, I’ve usually enjoyed this album more when it’s working as background—at dinner, or just left to play as I go about my business. There, I notice those grander pieces less, and still the pure emotion of Kater’s work firmly takes hold. It’s a very good end-of-day release, preferably when your end of day involves wine and candles. New Age piano fans need to hear this. The quality and beauty of all of Kater’s work is a well-known quantity and this return to the simple beauty of solo piano will surely please his existing fans while making new ones.
Available from CD Baby.