Five Easy Pieces is the first EP release by composer Michael Vincent Waller with four solo works for piano, performed by Japanese pianist Gumi Shibata and Chinese pianist Jenny Q. Chai.
released 02 February 2014
Recording: Jeremy Sklarsky, Premier Studios New York, NY.
Mastering: Cory Allen at Altered Ear
Piano: Megumi Shibata (#1-4), Jenny Q. Chai (#5)
"solo piano works that tip-toe the line between 20th century cyclical forms and the Keith Jarrett approach of let’s-see-how-long-we-can-make-this-simmer school of thought"
"Waller holds everything on a tight leash" ... "disciplined restraint"
"Keep one ear on Michael Vincent Waller for the time being, because something is happening." (7/10) - John Garratt
"the music does seem to pick up on minimalist origins but it is imbued with the haunting nature of Erik Satie."
"so French in flavour evoking Debussy but refracted through a 21st century prism"
"These are subtle, finely honed works that hold the attention in a strongly magnetic way and deserve to be heard by a wider audience." - Bruce Reader
"The fruits are heard on an EP released early this year, Five Easy Pieces... the music is subtly affecting and shows his roots in Bartók and Debussy without ever casting a shadow over his own voice and vision." - George Grella
"Waller has crafted romantic trance fragments, revivifying counterpoint and drop-dead melodies, but holding those seeds of potential endless expansion."
"beautiful melodies, chromaticism and the insistence of minimalism breathe anew, when presented with Waller’s sound and structure, and the pianist’s touch."
"I have no earthly idea how they do it, only gratitude for what Waller makes, moving forward and back, forward and back." - Jesse Goin
"Tinges of minimalism appear now and then; patterns repeat but more in the manner of a Ravel than a Riley. More than anything, there's a sense of nostalgic romanticism..."
"Often, when they reach a brief, hazy ecstatic feeling (my favorite moments) I think of Jarrett's Gurdjieff pieces which have a similar, vaguely mystical aura. Interesting, well-molded music..."
"Waller's music has centered around a kind of melodic classicism, the source of which I struggle to ascertain" - Brian Olewnick
"The music makes use of scales and primal harmonies that at once suggest traditional Asian music and also some of the impressionists' stock-in-trade, such as whole-tone scales.
You can imagine this music being played by a koto, or sometimes a gamelan orchestra. It revels in somewhat simple means, expressed simply. But it is by no means formulaic.
Like the earlier volumes of Bartok's Mikrokosmos, it would seem to have real pedagogic utility for the pianist..." - Grego Applegate Edwards
"Five Easy Pieces, like much of Waller’s music, seems to look forward and backward simultaneously... The result is a mixture that should appeal to even the most determined critic of contemporary music."
"The five tracks in this album are uncluttered and introspective, offering an inviting entry into Waller’s accessible style. The pieces on this CD are cast from familiar materials and played with exemplary care, allowing the listener to fully concentrate on the many emotions and feelings imparted by the music. Gentle and approachable, this is music that inspires both concentration and contemplation. " - Paul Muller
"I know I’m always harping on about Morton Feldman on this blog, but there is definitely a link between his and Waller’s music, in the sense that it uses small, slowly-morphing patterns to sort of suspend the sense of time moving forward."
"The individual pieces each have their own distinct character, while their shared ethereality links them together nicely as a whole for the album. There are shades of Impressionism and minimalism, and thereby of gamelan music; “Ninna Nanna” in particular exhibits the cyclical, surreal merry-go-round vibe of gamelan." - Meg Wilhotie
"Incredibly clean it moves slowly lingering over every note ... unbelievable calm"
"Five Easy Pieces” employ tension to great effect. Michael Vincent Waller has written incredibly moody music. Over the course of the five easy pieces the silent treatment is used liberally. The music is pure anticipation. By allowing such deliberate rhythm nothing finds itself fully resolved. Left to chance the piano pieces manage to conjure up unusual geographies. Even the incredible focus on a single instrument helps to add to the overall feeling that the music wants to dominate without interruption."
"Five Easy Pieces is certainly not easy but it is quite beautiful." (7.4) - Beach Sloth
"Each piece is elegantly played by Gumi Shibata (1-4), and Jenny Q. Chai ("Acqua Santa"), aside from their obvious skill - they seem to feel the music in an honest way. Waller's music gave me the sensation of water, of falling rain, somber moods tinged with joy." - K.K.W
Interview with Chris McGovern "Michael Vincent Waller talks Five Easy Pieces... The EP"
Five Easy Pieces named in "50 favorite albums from the last 10 years"