There is nothing like starting the day with music and today I get to sample the delights of Butterfly Rapture by Brian Kelly. The album opens with the lively Piano Escapade, while the tempo is up-beat; there is a real up lifting segment cleverly woven into the composition that creates some beautiful imagery, this is very stylishly performed indeed.
Room for Sky, this is one of those pieces that seems to manifest an emotion all of its own, the performance is vast and whilst the tempo is up-beat, it also retains sense of longing and with only two tracks into the release, Brian Kelly has already shown us a very distinctive style, one that at times reminds me of Isadar.
The powerful beginning to the album continues, but this time using a wonderful picturesque performance of Flowers at her Feet. I guess my feelings and emotions are still with the loss of Keith Emerson, but on this piece Kelly’s style really reminds me of those magical moments when Keith became the incredible creator of solo segments for the band, this is a really stunning composition, and one of my favourites.
Now for something completely different and in fact this almost borders at times on the classical, we now hear a delightful track called Lilac Horizon. This piece is played so beautifully one can almost see fields of Lilac blowing in a gentle summer wind.
The next track fits well with the preceding one and is called Chasing a Breeze. However that gentle summer wind I referred to in my last paragraph has now become a frisky early morning Breeze, the energy and performance once more allows our imagination to create a picturesque back drop, packed with vitality.
At the half way point we come across a piece called Spiral Moon, the beginning of this composition was so revealing, one could see the moon appear from a late night cloud and then starts beginning to emerge from the heat of the waning day.
It’s spring here in Cyprus; there is a glorious sense of colour everywhere and in this arrangement, Hills in Bloom, we see that very sense in the performance from Brian Kelly, this is one track that drifts back and forth as we take in this awe inspiring sight.
It’s time for a dedication, as we listen to Niko’s Delight, smooth and gentle tones are carefully and respectfully played, with an elevated sense of energy towards the latter part of the piece, which lead us right into the open arms of the next piece called Playing My Heart, this is one lush arrangement that is also incredibly sensitive and played from that heart centre, the performance is played with a meaningful intent, with a good deal of passion as well; a complex, but entirely captivating track this one.
View from the Swing, I love titles like this, makes me feel like I have walked into an art gallery and in a way I guess we have dear reader. Here is a track that seems to reinvent itself from memories past along the way and in a way could be seen as an anthem for happy childhood thoughts perhaps. Brian Kelly has a signature sound that is totally unique and one can really appreciate that most on this piece.
We now knock at the last but one door of the album Butterfly Rapture, and listen to the penultimate piece called Winter Aura; it does indeed feel like we have gone through all four seasons during this journey, I listened to this one several times and each time its mournful repose thrilled me, again Emerson in style, but creative beyond belief and so incredibly performed, manifesting a little winter magic with the wave of a hand and a build and progression of complexity like never before, perhaps we have a new genre, Progressive Piano?
The last port of call for us the title track itself, Butterfly Rapture. We end with the majesty and grace that the opportunity of a title track deserves, the melody is charming and the performance light, but yet again incredibly skillful and deeply thoughtful.
Butterfly Rapture is an album that crosses borders on several genres and even creates new ones, this is one of the most exciting and unique albums I have heard for quite some time and as such I can completely recommend Brian Kelly and Butterfly Rapture as an album you seriously should get as quick as possible.
I am delighted to learn that Butterfly Rapture charted #4 on the Zone Music Reporter Top 100 Radio Airplay Chart in January 2016!
Special thanks go to the radio program directors, producers, and hosts for sharing my music with your audiences; and to Ed and Stacey Bonk for promotional support.
Butterfly Rapture by Brian Kelly is now playing on Pandora. Please create a “Brian Kelly” station today and “thumbs-up” my music there.
I appreciate your support!
Happy to share this feature article about my Butterfly Rapture solo piano album.
For some, music is a hobby or a pleasant pastime. For others, it is as essential as the air they breathe. According to pianist/composer Brian Kelly: “Music is my home. It became my home because it was the constant in my early life. Our family moved around a lot when I was a kid. By the time I left for college, my family had moved 18 times. Music has continued to be my home throughout my adult life.”
This abiding interest in musical self-expression began early and suddenly for Brian. As he described in our interview: “When I was eight, my family took a summer vacation in Maine and stayed in a house that had an upright piano. I’d never really had access to a piano before, and I couldn’t tear myself away. I was playing songs by ear, working out chords, and creating my own pieces. My mother recognized my fixation with the piano. Within a few years, we had a piano and I took a few piano lessons. These lessons were enough to give me a foundation to explore on my own. From that time, I was already thinking about creating pieces and composing.”
Later in his teen years, Brian expanded into taking guitar lessons, playing percussion in the school orchestra, singing in the choir, and more. Although music was obviously important to him, what was even more of a primary focus at that time was acting and theatre, where he participated in nearly twenty productions at the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre, Palo Alto High School, and TheatreWorks in the San Francisco Bay area where he lived at the time. As Brian describes: “It wasn’t until my third year in college that music became my creative focus. An outgrowth of my years in the theatre is that when I compose and play music, I often think in terms of narrative arc, dramatic tension, and character development.”
Another artistic influence was dance. In his words: “A turning point in my musical development came when I played and improvised on piano for modern dance classes. At first, it was a big challenge for me to reconcile the act of playing the piano, which requires a limited range of movement – essentially, moving along a horizontal axis – with dance, which involves a wide range of movement through space. Gradually, I expanded my repertoire of techniques and found ways to convey the movement of dance – with curves, arcs, spirals, and gestures – through my playing. Pieces on Butterfly Rapture exemplify techniques I explored and utilized in the context of dance and choreography.”
Brian’s process of putting this album together had an interesting evolution. As he tells it: “I began assembling material for Butterfly Rapture back when I had a regular gig playing for cancer patients at the Stanford Hospital. I had the luxury of playing and improvising what I wanted, as long as it was mostly gentle and soothing. I used the time to explore my catalog of compositions, finish pieces, decide which of them worked well together, and develop new material. As my melodies floated through the building I hoped to stir memories, raise spirits, and bring solace.”
So let’s take flight on the wings of Butterfly Rapture and see where the music leads us. The album gets off to a strong start with the opening track, “Piano Escapade.” There is a cinematic feel to this piece and I could definitely imagine it as a film soundtrack. One of the things that impressed me right away was Brian’s sense of dynamics and his ability to move between delicate passages and those that were much more powerful. In describing his music, Brian calls it “neoclassical with elements of jazz and other influences.” However, as he pointed out in our interview, genres can be misleading, especially with one like “new age” which has become a catch-all term. In his words: “Genre designations are like skyscrapers that block the sky. The important thing is for me is to find a natural path to creative expression. For this to happen there must be “Room for Sky,” which just happens to the title for track 2. On this jazzy upbeat piece, Brian displays striking keyboard technique and phrasing which really made me sit up and take notice. Just in the first two songs I got a sense of what he meant when he said: “My music integrates a broad palette of styles and techniques that I blend with the aim of expressing a continuous spectrum of emotion.”
The slower, more reflective feel of track 6, “Spiral Moon” provides a bit of a change up from the first five compositions, which are considerably higher energy. I had mentioned earlier about Brian’s experience playing for modern dance classes, and this piece was one that evolved out of that. There is a definite sense of graceful movement here that evokes images of a contemporary dance performance. On “Playing My Heart,” Brian expresses his more romantic side while exhibiting some jaw-dropping technique in the second half.
Track 11, “Winter Aura” has an interesting story behind it. As Brian tells it: “I once attended the funeral of a prominent, well-loved Bay Area jazz pianist. Hundreds gathered to memorialize his life and work. That evening, I composed a piece that far exceeded my abilities at the time. My understanding of harmony and voicings took a giant leap forward. It all seemed to come together effortlessly, as if I somehow I tapped into or received a transmission of his musical knowledge. Perhaps I was playing music that he was not able to manifest while he was alive. That night, I became the instrument and music played through me.” The piece has a different feel than other tracks on the album, which I found quite fascinating, and at times brought to mind piano legend and John Coltrane accompanist, McCoy Tyner. The album concludes with a masterful performance on the title track that highlights Brian’s considerable abilities as a composer.
As mentioned, it’s hard to classify Brian’s music, although if Jedi master Obi Wan was a musician, he might say: “the jazz Force is strong in this one.” Elements of jazz are found throughout the album, and I’m not talking about smooth jazz, but more adventurous and complex forms of the genre. If I had to choose one word to describe Brian’s playing on Butterfly Rapture it would be “passionate.” I had the feeling of him being totally committed and pouring his heart and soul into every song, often digging in with unexpected vigor and intensity. This is definitely not background music. It is powerfully engaging and commands your attention. I am beyond impressed with Brian’s talents as a pianist and composer, and found this to be one of the most unique solo piano albums I’ve heard in a while.”
- Another Time, Another Place – Robin Spielberg, PA, USA
- Butterfly Rapture – Brian Kelly, CA, USA
- My Beloved – Michael Dulin, AL, USA
- Shine – Michael Logozar, TX, USA
- Between Shadow and Light – Neil Patton, OR, USA
- The Sunflower Waltz – Anne Trenning, NC, USA
- Love – Peter Kater, CA, USA
The winner will be announced January 26, 2016.
Brian Kelly – BUTTERFLY RAPTURE: It’s been a while since I reviewed Brian’s fine piano work in issue # 86 – and on this outing, it’s all solo piano, which makes for wonderful Saturday morning listening! Pieces like the 2:32 “Flowers at Her Feet” swirl and dazzle your ears. The dozen tunes are, for the most part, quite short… like “Niko’s Delight” (3:20), but that makes them easy to listen to, and I can guarantee that they will have you coming back for repeated listens. What’s most distinctive about Brian’s playing is that the style is “all his”… nothing copied, all original, and vibrantly full of life. My personal favorite of the twelve tracks is “Piano Escapade“… strong chord work and a floating right hand that displays full mastery of the keyboard. I give Brian a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine piano album. Get more information on Brian’s Bandcamp page for this release.
Brian Kelly is a composer and recording artist who began his musical career when he was a child. Butterfly Rapture is his third album done in the neoclassical tradition with influences ranging from Celtic, gospel and jazz. The album is a crisp solo piano experience, with sparkling composition and a resonance that sticks with you long after the last song plays. If you can stop listening. My play button is getting worn out on this one and what a joy that is.
“Lilac Horizon” is a tender and fluid piece, with layered piano work that evokes imagery of the poignant life moments that linger. Pensive and thoughtful, the winding nature of this track flows together like the never ending gears of time. Always moving forward, no matter what. The horizon is always just out of reach and we struggle to grasp that elusive glimpse of what is to be.
“Winter Aura” has a starkness about it that captures the essence of winter. Cold beauty claims the ruddy umber flavor of autumn and covers the land with delicate ice crystals and a blanket of soft white snow. The deep keystrokes and elemental playing delve deep into the introspective nature of this season of the year and bring forth the longing for home and hearth; of family and the familiar. At times playful and others more contemplative, this encapsulates all that winter has to offer, all from the masterful keystrokes of Kelly’s fingertips.
“Butterfly Rapture” is the title track and last piece on the album. Tumultuous like a butterfly beating its wings against the vast expanse of sky, it opens its wings and shines beauty down upon us all. Vibrant colors move within each well-crafted portion of the composition. The melodies twist and frolic like a meadow filled with small beating wings and the brilliant majesty brought with every nuance and flutter.
Butterfly Rapture is his first solo album and what a magnificent accomplishment it is. Solo piano can, in some instances, feel like a very long extension of the same song but not this album. Each track has its own flavor of music and takes the listener on a journey inside the mind of the artist. From snowy jaunts in “Winter Aura” to the first track “Piano Escapades” where we are first introduced to Kelly’s dazzling style, this album is a many faceted jewel any piano connoisseur will be thrilled to have in their collection.
“Butterfly Rapture is SF Bay Area jazz pianist/composer Brian Kelly’s first album since his 2008 Afterplay and his first solo piano album ever – something I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time. When I lived in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to see Kelly play live several times and he became one of my favorite live performers. I’ve also worked with him by proofing some of his sheet music, so I’ve gotten to know his music quite intimately and love it. Overall, the music on Butterfly Rapture has an intoxicating energy but also has many quieter, more reflective moments. Kelly started playing the piano at eight years old, so his composing reflects a lifetime in music and feels as natural as speaking. The twelve pieces on Butterfly Rapture are a fascinating combination of classical, jazz and new age influences intertwined to give Brian Kelly a unique and original voice.
Butterfly Rapture begins with “Piano Escapade,” a bright and lively piece that (for me) expresses the joy and freedom of getting “lost” in the music. It also clearly indicates that this is someone who really knows his way around a piano! “Room For Sky” has a beautiful flowing quality and combines elements of classical, jazz, and new age piano – a favorite. I also really like “Lilac Horizon,” a lyrical beauty with just the right touch of mystery to make it compelling. “Chasing a Breeze” has a carefree energy that goes in different directions like its namesake breeze would do. Lovely images of an abundance of wildflowers and new grasses gently caressed by a soft wind are evoked by “Hills in Bloom” – warm and soothing. “Niko’s Delight” is a multi-movement piece with a more classical structure that begins with a sweet and simple melody accompanied mostly by blocked chords. The second theme is somewhat more agitated yet beautifully flowing – I really like this one, too! As its title implies, “Playing My Heart” is poignant and sincere, a deeply personal expression – and a very beautiful one. “Winter Aura” goes darker to capture the feeling of winter’s chill. Much of the first half of this piece is played in the bass of the piano, becoming livelier and more percussive and then returning to the original theme – cool! Kelly saved the elegant title track for the end of the album. The various runs throughout the piece are crystal clear and intricate while the smoother and more lyrical passages flow effortlessly. It’s a great ending to a great album!
Pre-Order my new album, Butterfly Rapture, from Bandcamp. Get the CD plus album download. Or just get the download. Downloads are high-quality MP3 and FLAC. Includes unlimited streaming of Butterfly Rapture via the free Bandcamp app. Your CD and download orders will delivered/shipped to you on October 1st, the official release date. Thanks for your support!
- Piano Escapade
- Room for Sky
- Flowers at Her Feet
- Lilac Horizon
- Chasing a Breeze
- Spiral Moon
- Hills in Bloom
- Niko’s Delight
- Playing My Heart
- View from the Swing
- Winter Aura
- Butterfly Rapture
Perhaps the most challenging part of album production for me is naming the pieces! Initially, I identify my pieces by the date of conception (for example, 20140316). Gradually, over weeks and months, I collect titles that evoke the mood of the piece. Then I check iTunes to see if those titles already exist. If so, I eliminate or modify those titles. I’m proud to say, all but one of these titles is unique on iTunes – at least, as of today! The final song list becomes a cohesive set of images that suggests a story and exists as a condensed form of poetry. It’s all part of the artistic process.
Pre-production of Butterfly Rapture, the forthcoming solo piano album by Brian Kelly, is currently under way using the following audio gear: MOTU DP8, running on Apple iMac (3.2 GHz Intel Core i3) OS 10.9.5, MOTU 896 audio interface, MOTU MIDI Timepiece/AV, Yamaha P-80 Electronic Piano, Mackie HR824 monitors, and AKG K240DF headphones.