You can, of course, listen to Tom Eaton’s Abendromen at any time of day. It’s just that I’ve come to prefer it as evening comes on, a long day dwindling into twilight, preferably with a glass of good wine close at hand. It’s an easy, beautiful album that massages your temples, yet also offers up thoughtfully composed music that blossoms in a focused listen. The elegant equation at play here seems almost ironically simple, considering its emotional impact. Eaton sits down and pours his soul across the keys of his piano, then lightly augments the background with electronic strings and washes to give everything an airy, dreamy undertone. Some of the songs work up from this stepping-off point to turn into ensemble pieces, and Eaton also works in some jazz touches and at least one pop of vibrancy. “Sunday/Slow Rotation” kicks off the album and grabs your attention with its graceful and unabashedly romantic piano melody. It has a touch of sadness to it that might be a bit of remnant heartache. This is one of the “simpler” (quotes all mine) pieces here, one that lets just this duet of piano and accent do all the work. “Monday/Midwinter” takes a similar approach, but adds in a lot of powerful, heavy playing, driving up the drama to further punctuate that keys-and-electronics chemistry. The backdrop sounds also become somewhat more present, engaging in overt direct back-and-forth with the piano. Having established his emotional baseline, Eaton provides himself room to spread out on the tracks that follow. ‘Thursday/For Orion” is where things take on that additional vibrancy. It blends a classic “New Age” visage with the snap and catchiness of a dance tune. The shuffling beat drops in from the start, with the piano and synths adding their short starting phrases. And when Eaton suddenly drops in some raw-edged guitar, I admit it wowed me a little. He lays in a big, wobbling, whammied chord by way of introduction, then has it step back to a supporting role. A great, fun track. One place where the hint of jazz pokes through is on “Tuesday/Compass.” What catches my ear is how Eaton plays with a three-note phrase that gets repeated between synth and piano. Each time, the piano then takes it and spins a new angle into it. This unfolds into something that sounds like a small jazz ensemble has slowly entered the room and joined in. It’s not capital-letters jazz, but it’s the soul of the stuff, applied smartly. If you’re ready for an extra tug on your heart strings, there is something about the almost-country piano trills of “Friday/Patience” and the bright tones behind them that dig right into me. Guitar makes another notable appearance here as the piece rises up to fullness. The main idea of the album takes us through a week’s worth of music, Sunday through Saturday, and then Eaton tags on three pieces featuring what’s basically the ambient-wash backdrops we’ve been hearing. So once Saturday rolls around, it’s time to get our hush on and drift. It’s no surprise, considering how excellent the first seven tracks are, that these ambient pieces are simply a pleasure to ease into.
Tom Eaton has made a name for himself as a producer. Abendromen is his first solo album, and it’s a revelation. Eaton’s piano playing is so captivating, I sincerely hope he eventually produces a solo piano album in the future. In the meantime, I will listen to this album over and over. Eaton notes that these songs were “written and recorded in the longest nights of [winter],” and every song is filled with the kind of quiet reflection and gentleness that might suggest. Although this is a “first” album, this is no rookie effort; from composition to execution, this is a breathtaking set of work, easy to enjoy but rich and complex and beautifully structured. This must be what a good week sounds like. If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the deck with my wine and Abendromen.