Album review: Chilly Gonzales “Solo Piano II”

text: Greg Sheer

Chilly Gonzales, Canadian musician, contributing member of German puppet-centric rap-group Puppetmastaz (Gonzales aka Mix Meister Mike?) has released Solo Piano II, the follow-up to his best selling album, 2004’s Solo Piano. Gonzales delivers a 17-track collection of dreamlike musings, highly intentional expressionist strokes, and a bluesy pop sensibility.

Though his work has drawn comparison to French avant garde composer Erik Satie, Solo Piano II also brings to mind the broad, expressive, often pastoral compositions of George Winston. Gonzales’ arrangements feel cinematic, each tune probing into a set of associated imagery.

‘Kenaston,’ lays straight forward blues underneath a jaunty nostalgic melody, and one imagines walking the streets someplace comforting and familiar, that you haven’t seen in a while. These songs exude a familiarity that’s endearing and almost eerie at times.

‘Tarantelle,’ for instance, lumbers along into something brooding and creepy, a rhythm almost teetering over itself, only to slink back into space. There’s an imperious bass line hammering below a skittering arachnid melody.

Or, ‘Rideaux Lunaires,’ which draws on R&B and pop sensibilities, re-appropriating their rhythmic elements to a jazzy and revelrous melody, like smiling through a martini into the glint of a marquee, shimmering across a granite bar.

It’s Gonzales’ ability to do this, take a pop sensibility, and apply it to a minimalist solo piano composition, that sets this record apart; he’s crafted a masterful blend of jazz, blues, baroque-pop, expressionism, and minimalism. If the devil’s in the details, Gonzales must be a very wicked man, to exercise such control.