Written by Imani Wj Wright
We all have moments and positive “triggers” in our lives that immediately take us back to places and times that may never be duplicated. But, if they do manage to be duplicated, they do not hold the same potency. Essentially, you hold these times close to your heart. As you take your time to think about what some of those moments are for you, let me disclose a couple of mine. Whenever I se a fried egg, I immediately think of my grandfather’s grill, and the breakfasts that he would cook with so much care and attention. When I feel the sun on my neck, I feel the same sensations from the many family vacations that my family would take to Haiti and Jamaica. And when I hear piano played as beautifully and technically as Harrison Sheckler does on his project An Easy Smile, I’m reminded of many mornings walking down the hallway at the Peabody Institute, hearing piano students rehearse their assigned pieces for hours. At times I would oddly feel like my fingers were cramping, just from the sound of those black & white keys being hit consistently.
I’ve always had a primary focus of vocal music, but I’ve also had my fair share of piano instruction. While I attended Peabody, my private instructor Jannie Lo (now Jannie Burdeti) taught me about “color.” No, not colors like red, purple, and orange, but the color of sound. These are the elements of music that have nothing to do with the fundamentals like dynamics, pitch, or rhythm. Some days I would sit there and not understand what I was doing incorrectly. I figured I was hitting all of the right notes, and creating the right tones. But then I would see Jannie play the exact same phrase and it just had a different sound, there was amore art, there was more feeling, there was more color. Throughout all 15 pieces, whether it is Debussy or Bach, there is no denying that Sheckler understands the piece from top to bottom. There is an asserted and conscious time spent with each one of these pieces. Sheckler’s performance of Bach’s, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 845: Prélude in C Major is a great example of this.
The level of professionalism shown here is astounding. While indulging in Harrison Sheckler’s performances, you can easily feel like you’re front row at a concert hall. The independent pieces aren’t just what standout, but the formatting and structuring of this piece is also alluring. Each piece flows seamlessly from one to another. The transition that touched me the most was Alexander IIyinsky’s Noure et Anitra, Op. 13: No. 7, Berceuse (Lullaby), followed by Maurice Ravel’s Prélude in A Minor, M. 65. The way the last note hangs in the air on Noure et Anitra sets the soundscape for the gentle approach taken on Prelude in A Minor.
Sheckler doesn’t hesitate to show his diversity either. He manages to play pieces from Pachelbel, Bach, Handel, and even himself. Whether he was playing a piece with high energy, or mellow landscapes, his precision seeps through with every measure presented.
This album has phenomenal engineering and is mastered nearly perfectly. And the same holds true on composition #15 written by Sheckler himself. An Easy Smile is a fitting piece to end this project with, as it puts a cap on what was a strong display of Sheckler’s playing. An Easy Smile gives us a chance to bask in his composing abilities, juts to put the cherry on top of the sonic experience.
This was hands down one of my favorite albums to review since becoming a music journalist. Thank you for that Harrison, we’re wishing you the best of luck.
Take a Listen: