…BUTTERFLY RAPTURE is a many faceted jewel… with sparkling composition and a resonance that sticks with you long after the last song plays.

New Age Music Reviews

BUTTERFLY RAPTURE has an intoxicating energy… sure to inspire and delight!

MainlyPiano.com

A talent worth watching

Keyboard Magazine

Stellar piano work. Great fluidity of line, wonderfully elegant.

TAXI A&R Review

...the swing and complexity of melodic jazz and the studio precision of Steely Dan...

East Bay Express

MORE CRITICAL ACCLAIM

RECORDING REVIEWS: Butterfly Rapture (piano solos)

Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicWhat a beauty! The expressive piano speaks a language of utter serenity and tranquility and makes any day a special one! From the sparkling melody that Brian plays out so beautifully on the piano on “Butterfly Rapture” to the soaring “Room for Sky”….the stark beauty of “Winter Aura”, the ethereal melody of “Playing My Heart”….the seriously lovely “Hills in Bloom”…each track imparts a certain imagery that imprints it on one’s mind. Now I just close my eyes and visualize these tracks :-). Produced brilliantly, this music is as incandescent and colorful as a Butterfly’s wings :-) :-) :-)
.
– Ricky Kej, Grammy® winning composer (5-star Amazon review)

Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicIt’s been a long time since we have received a solo piano album where joy and energy are present in the majority of the pieces. Butterfly Rapture brings us the colorful and intense work of pianist and composer Brian Kelly, made up of twelve compositions that travel intensely between tenderness and boldness, and all embellished with the fleeting light touches of mastery.
.

Butterfly Rapture opens with my favorite piece, “Piano Escapade.” This composition integrates romanticism and hope in its notes, making it one of the most beautiful pieces on the entire CD. The intensity of the melody perfectly joins with the nexus of the notes and chords. Fantastic beginning!

“Room for Sky” is subtly more formal and reserved. Large arpeggios emanate from the left hand, while the right hand covers the keyboard with a rolling and striking melody. Another wonder from Butterfly Rapture.

Returning to Kelly’s musical warmth enters “Flowers at Her Feet”. This piece, together with others of equally brief duration are those that give character to Butterfly Rapture’s radiant energy and light. “Flowers at Her Feet” has a touch of improvisation that offers a masterful stroke to the track.

“Lilac Horizon” is subdued, the first song on the album that breaks the general profile, but in spite of this, it does not stop being an interesting and deep theme.

We return to the happiness that flows from Kelly’s hands. He presents “Chasing a Breeze,” another of the album’s exciting jewels, a theme that invites one to imagine the rapid movements of the pianist’s fingers on the keyboard. A delight!

The shortest of the compositions is sweet and sensitive, powerful to the point of drawing a pleasant smile on the listener. With a classical and minimalist touch, “Spiral Moon” is one of the delights that Butterfly Rapture displays.

“Hills in Bloom” is not as intense as some of the other earlier pieces, but it preserves that same joyful touch.

Brilliant introduction to “Niko’s Delight.” A stroke of dance, the chords accompany radiant notes that are born in the high end of the piano. “Niko’s Delight” gives us the instant affection and delicacy of Butterfly Rapture.

Again, with a romantic touch, appear exhilarating notes. “Playing My Heart” plays with silences, with the fleeting force of notes and chords, and shows us the most tender and sincere side of love. Beautiful!

“View from the Swing” is a musical game, a fun soundtrack. Slightly quick and yes very attractive in its melody, “View from the Swing” mixes melody and jazz touches with tremendous skill. Beguiling composition!

A moment for reflection comes from “Winter Aura.” The piece presents a very original dialogue between both hands, and continues a game between silence and notes of the most pure jazz style. “Winter Aura” is another of the album’s remarkable compositions.

The title track closes the CD. “Butterfly Rapture” is a romantic narration made from music. Like the soundtrack from an animated Disney story, “Butterfly Rapture” delights the senses. The changes in tempo, the melody, and the magic are spectacular. Great, Brian!

Mastery, hues, and harmonies are seen in the new work from pianist and composer Brian Kelly, a perfect display of piano filled with life, capable of invoking deep emotions within the listener. Butterfly Rapture is one of the best solo piano albums of the year, without doubt.

– Reviews New Age (translated from Spanish by C. Comella)


Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicButterfly 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!
.
Butterfly Rapture was worth the long wait between albums and is sure to inspire and delight! It is available from www.BrianKelly.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
.
– Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com

Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicBrian 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.
.
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.
.
– Dana Wright, New Age Music Reviews

Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicIt’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.
.
– Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation

Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicFor 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.
.
– Michael Diamond, Music and Media Focus

Butterfly Rapture - solo piano album - Brian Kelly musicThere 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 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.
.
– Steve Sheppard, One World Music

RECORDING REVIEWS: Afterplay

Afterplay - contemporary jazz album - Brian Kelly music“Afterplay” is pianist/composer Brian Kelly’s follow-up to his exceptional 2004 debut, “Pools of Light.” Bright and upbeat, “Afterplay” provides a bit of sonic optimism in these days of uncertainty and change. Don’t get me wrong – this is far from ear candy or sugary fluff. More jazz than new age, Kelly has created a collection of eleven rhythmically and melodically complex pieces that are easily accessible for casual listening yet provide a substantial and sensual auditory experience for many repeated plays. Brian Kelly appears on piano, keyboards, percussion, penny whistle, and voice, and is joined by Eric Crystal on sax, David Rokeach on drums, Ross Wilson on brass, Carol Alban and Viviana Guzman on flute, James Robinson on guitar, and Tim Bolling on additional percussion. “Afterplay” begins with “River Rush,” a piece that is both energetic and leisurely. Piano and percussion give the silky sax a slight edge, providing an enticing opening to the musical pleasures that follow. “Smiling South” is one of my favorites. Beginning with an infectious rhythm and a playful piano intro, this piece dances and swirls with a joyful energy. Ross Wilson adds additional color and pizzaz with trumpet and trombone – love it! “New Vision” slows down the pace a bit, but maintains an upbeat, easy-going mood. “Snowflakes” Rising” is a gentle, sparkling musical confection – another favorite. I also really like “Flavor Seven,” again playful and full of fun with just a touch of mystery. The title track brings back the sax along with piano and some catchy rhythms – smooth jazz with a gentle bite. “Heaven On Earth” is a gorgeous trio for piano and two flutes. As the title implies, it conveys a blissful, floating feeling that is pure musical peace. “Stone Shine” features Kelly on a variety of keyboards along with guitar and percussion. Rhythmic and a little on the dark side, its playful energy is infectious. “Sunchaser” closes the CD as it began, easy and joyful with a toe-tapping rhythm and a warm sense of contentment. Brian Kelly has outdone himself with his second release. If you haven’t yet heard “Pools of Light,” be sure to pick up a copy of that one, too – the two CDs complement each other exceptionally well. “Afterplay” is a real treat for the ears and is good for the soul as well. It’s available from www.briankelly.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
.
– Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com

Afterplay - contemporary jazz album - Brian Kelly musicThis is piano/ keyboard player Brian Kelly’s second effort, the first being his critically acclaimed debut Pools of Light. On his sophomore effort, he moves in a splashy, vibrant and energizing direction, blending smooth jazz with a dash of contemporary instrumental/new age at times. However, it’s the former genre that takes center stage ninety percent of the time. For me, smooth jazz seems to be the forgotten genre of the new millennium. I remember when it was all the rage, but whether it’s that here in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) FM radio has abandoned it, or that the genre really has kind of evaporated, I miss it… at least when it is done with this level of spirit, talent, and chops as well as this album’s lack of overly commercialistic sloppiness. Kelly assembled a crackerjack (does anyone use that term any more? I’m getting’ old, aren’t I?) crew of accompanists (too many to recount here, sorry, but kudos to them all) and they sound like they’re having a helluva good time throughout Afterplay. And you know what? I did too whenever I played the CD! Just goes to show that the genre is far from played out when it’s in the right hands.
.
The lively River Rush kicks off the CD in high gear, with piano, vibes, and assorted wind instruments playing a breezy melody against a backdrop of trap kit drum rhythms. The urgency of the song is complemented nicely by the playfulness of the main melody. Smiling South showcases Kelly’s chops on the ivories from the outset with a snazzy intro and lots of nifty jazz runs up and down the keys. Tim Bolling’s percussion really adds some oomph, as does Ross Wilson’s trumpet and trombone at the song’s joyful conclusion.
.
As I hinted in the opening paragraph, not everything on Afterplay is straight-up jazzy, as some tracks carry a more adult contemporary (AC) or even new age (of the Yanni/Arkenstone/Cianni variety) influence. The more overt use of synths on Snowflakes Rising and the more subdued romantic ballad Heaven on Earth (featuring Viviana Guzman’s flute playing) are more comparable to artists like Lorraine Rousseau and Robert Carlton (the latter track) and Colorado artist Mark Sloniker (the former song and this comparison is based on his earlier recordings). New Vision may remind you, as it did me, of David Arkenstone’s superb Sketches from an American Journey with its cinematic sound and propulsive energy.
.
A song’s title can sometimes throw the listener for a loop, as it does on Celtic Fire. One might expect an Irish-tinted tune, but except for the presence of pennywhistle (played by Kelly himself) what the listener hears is a lively upbeat piano-led number, arguably the most dexterous workout Kelly gets on the whole CD. Hell, for a while, I riffed on Vince Guaraldi during this number – and that is high HIGH praise indeed, coming from me.
.
Closing with the ebullient Sunchaser (another track which reminded me of Arkenstone’s Journey… .CD), Brian Kelly (and company) tear it up on Afterplay, track after track. In all honesty, while I liked Pools of Light, this album came at me like a bolt of lightning. It’s chock full of great tunes, superb musicianship, and I only wish it wasn’t coming on winter here in Minnesota so I could hit the open road with this album blasting from my car’s CD player. I’ve taken my last road trip for the year and, damn, Afterplay would’ve made for a tasty soundtrack for those midmorning drives when I needed something to stir the blood but also music that goes down nice and easy. Fans of early Spyro Gyra (circa Freetime) – this one is a must have. For others, it’s a solidly recommended album, especially for lovers of the smooth jazz/smooth pop genre, as well as those AC/new age aficionados who enjoy the artists I’ve mentioned above. Don’t hesitate because of the word “jazz” because sax (an instrument many new age lovers seem to disdain) only appears on two of the eleven songs.
.
– Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter

Afterplay - contemporary jazz album - Brian Kelly musicBrian Kelly’s piano-based instrumental music has a whiff of new age, but don’t hold that against it. Throughout Afterplay, the swing and complexity of melodic jazz and the studio precision of Steely Dan counteract any inherent wishy-washiness. Sax, flute, trumpet, trombone, and more help Kelly’s quiet compositions make a confident statement.
.
East Bay Express

Afterplay - contemporary jazz album - Brian Kelly musicSan Francisco Bay Area composer/keyboardist Brian Kelly follows his brilliant debut release POOLS OF LIGHT with yet another outstanding, compelling collection of originals, this time leaning a bit more Smooth Jazz, but with plenty of new age elements in the mix too. If you loved the highly recommended and highly regarded POOLS OF LIGHT, which I reviewed in 2006, then AFTERPLAY is unquestionably destined for your player. The musical integrity and lyrical sensitivity that Mr. Kelly brings to the table for his projects is clearly evident on this release. He’s created more of a combo sound here, adding flutes, sax, horns and guitar to his musical toolbox, and uses them strategically for depth and richness of texture featuring Eric Crystal on sax (Boz Scaggs) and David Rokeach on drums (Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles). At a time when commercial Smooth Jazz too often heads in the direction of cliché, Brian Kelly’s AFTERPLAY is a refreshing example of how we can keep this music genre exciting and vibrant!
.
– Scott O’Brien, SmoothJazz.com

RECORDING REVIEWS: Pools of Light

Pools of Light - contemporary instrumental album - Brian Kelly music I’ve always enjoyed the New Age elements that the Smooth Jazz format has integrated into its core sound over the years, feeling that it helps keep the genre diversified and rich. With that thought in mind, I’m delighted to recommend the debut CD from San Francisco Bay Area keyboardist Brian Kelly. POOLS OF LIGHT is a lush, sparkling journey into a beautiful world of elegant melodies and brilliant artistry. The music rises and falls in powerful, yet gentle, waves of emotion as you experience Mr. Kelly’s work, which is infused with elements from the genres of Classical, World, and Jazz. Billed as “contemporary piano instrumentals featuring flute and percussion,” POOLS OF LIGHT is a totally captivating collection of original compositions that range from delicate, heartfelt solo piano (“Home At Last” and “Speak Your Heart”) to ensemble performances that are full of dynamic tonal color and intricacies. My favorites include the breezy “Open Sky,” the engaging, jazzy “Cool Blue,” and the equally jazzy and tasty “When the Stars Align.” Brian Kelly’s background, which includes extensive composing and playing, as well as singing and acting, serves him well on this debut project, as he translates complex emotions into engaging musical experiences that both captivate and inspire. I highly recommend Brian Kelly’s POOLS OF LIGHT as a collection of music that I am confident will find a permanent place in the “most-played” section of your music library!
.
– Scott O’Brien, SmoothJazz.com

Pools of Light - contemporary instrumental album - Brian Kelly musicSmooth Light Travel
.
If you have some preconceived notion of what very good contemporary music ought to sound like, think again. Then go look up Brian Kelly. On his new album, Pools of Light, Brian takes the high road to a place just this side of light jazz and contemporary instrumental music. His lively mix of tunes and themes takes you on a light hearted journey through many doors and at the end of each one is a new and different pool of light. Each one more thought provoking then the next, Kelly’s piano and keyboards orchestrations provide a venue of positive thoughts and inspirational compositions.
.
Contributing to the fresh, energetic album is flute player Peter Cornell, Ben Mawhorter on tablas, and John Waller of percussion. In the summery opening number, Open Sky, Kelly and his friends take to the azure road with a strong duo of piano and flute. Great flow and great energy combine to drag you across the heavens in an open gondola as you swing beneath that big balloon. And what a view!
.
With the title track Pools of Light playing, the sound you hear is the awakening of a planet. You know that golden blush you see coming over the horizon at daybreak. That’s Pools of Light too. Everything takes on a new radiance and a new sense of life as the day is reborn. Kelly’s pensive piano paints the gold and rose that adds depth and color to your day. It is a very good track.
.
From gold we segue into Cool Blue. That’s the name of the next track. It is my favorite color and my favorite track. It has that Bill Douglas feel to it that has power and pulchritude. It has that tack into the wind sailboat kind of feel. Then again it has that even though it is dark blue dusk, life is just beginning feel. Another noteworthy cut.
.
Kelly finesses the keyboards and the piano and brings out the ephemeral on the track Angels Breathing. It is echoing beauty and soft sweet melancholy all rolled into one. This very enchanting tune is dreaming music.
.
Calling For Rain is a straightforward contemporary instrumental piece that has stormy weather written all over it. You can almost smell the ozone as the fat drops that fell out of a swollen gray sky hit the pavement and bounce back into the air. Great piano riffs on this one.
.
When The Stars Align brings the album to a close, but it will keep in your memory forever. Kelly does an exhilarating job with his piano as the song takes on twists and turns of timing and theme. There is a time when everything in your life is just right. It all comes together and the gods smile down upon you. You will be hearing this music at that moment.
.
Brian Kelly, a prolific singer and songwriter, has been involved in music in one way or another since early childhood. He cut his chops mainly on children’s theater and college choirs. His group, The Arts and Leisure Section played jazz throughout the 80’s (Got to love the name!). Kelly won Keyboard Magazine’s Annual Soundpage Reader’s Contest. He continues to produce music for film and media presentations. Pools of Light is his debut album.
.
Kelly’s music has that dream-like quality that comes out of the mist and pulls you towards the light. There are many elements that make up a Brian Kelly tune. Some are vastly complicated, some are childlike and simple. You can hear the classical and jazz overtones with a just a touch of Vince Guaraldi thrown in for good measure. All of it makes for very good listening.
.
– RJ Lannan, Zone Music Reporter

Pools of Light - contemporary instrumental album - Brian Kelly music“Pools of Light” by pianist/composer Brian Kelly is sure to be on my Top 10 favorite CDs list for 2004. An amazing debut, the album is comprised of music composed and played in a variety of styles that include jazz, classical, and world. Two of the pieces are solo piano, and the other eleven tracks include keyboards, flute, and/or percussion. Kelly’s playing style has an easy elegance that comes from a phenomenal technique and chops to burn. His music is rhythmic and lyrical, and the moods range from pensive to joyous to ethereal. Despite the changing moods, the CD as a whole has a wonderful flow and cohesiveness, creating a uplifting and relaxing musical experience. “Open Sky” opens the album with a buoyant, carefree piece that is full of rhythm and excitement. The title track is much more meditative and soothing, and was inspired by a trip to Maui. “Cool Blue” is a great jazz piece for flute, piano, percussion, and bass – this one sounds like fun to play! “Sacred Waters” is a surprising little percussion interlude inspired by a waterfall in a jungle on Maui. My favorite track is “Troubadour,” an ensemble piece where Kelly played all of the instruments himself (piano, sampled guitar, bass, and drums). A little mysterious, it was influenced by Kelly’s years of singing a capella Renaissance music. Parts of the piece swirl and dance, and others are a bit quieter. I really like the energy in this one! “Angels Breathing” is very new agey with floating sounds, gentle bells, and a beautiful piano part. “With Eyes Closed” is another favorite. Rhythmic and kind of dark, it, too, has a compelling energy and spirit that are addictive. “Home At Last” is a gorgeous piano solo with a beautiful flow. “Calling For Rain” is more of a smooth jazz piece, a little dark, a bit mysterious, and there’s that catchy, compelling rhythm again! Good stuff! The second piano solo, “Speak Your Heart,” is much showier and full of passion – it really shows what Kelly can do at the piano. “When Stars Align” closes the album with an upbeat and breezy little jazz piece. “Pools of Light” is an outstanding debut, and Brian Kelly is a very versatile musician who is comfortable playing many styles. Samples and purchases are available at briankelly.com, and the CD is also available at cdbaby.com and amazon.com. Very highly recommended!
.
– Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com