John Howard: Dreaming I Am Waking - Piano Music for My Father (self-released)
All songwriters are essentially composers wearing words.
For this album John Howard has stepped free from the verbal constraints of his natural craft, allowing the music to speak, unadorned.
Inspired by and dedicated to his late father Bert, himself a talented pianist. Dreaming I Am Waking is a touching tribute from one musician to another as well as a mournful gesture of the complexities of loss.
It has a natural elegance and poise.
Reflective but never maudlin, it bestows treasures to the ear.
Using an earlier four track release as the springboard for the enterprise, Howard neatly delves and weaves a journey of sorts, a mystery tour for the soul.
The thirteen tracks are essentially mood pieces for piano that will bring forth something different from each listener, a spiritual response free from the guidance of speech.
It is a brave and audacious venture.
"First Steps" marks the prelude, a suggestion of frost, the charm of an ice-laced dawn, catching natural sparks in early light.
It neatly ushers in the rather meditative but assuredly named "Distances" which in turn introduces "Contemplating" a piece that beguiles.
"Moving" possesses a certain jauntiness whilst "Aloft In The Arms Of Papa" is a delight of sun-drenched remembrance.
"Pour The Cup (For Sleep To Claim You)" betrays the conceit of no vocals, but only briefly as it delivers a wonderfully apposite consideration of his father's involvement as a chorister in the cavernous majesty of churches, with a few monastic choral motifs.
Bell-like and mesmerising.
"The Emergence Of Understanding" counterpoints a certain fleetingness against more sombre tones.
"Theme For A Lost Love" has all the ache inherent in a profoundly affecting lament.
"Crossing" heralds an insistent restlessness which fades like a slow goodbye.
"Emerging" reveals a brief burst of sorrow whilst "Empty Rooms" presents an achingly considered moment.
"Time And Tide" holds a certain panache that reflects upon the endless cascade of decades.
"Growing" marks the resurgence of the earlier "First Steps" a reprisal as conclusion to this musical journey.
Dreaming I Am Waking represents a work of profound yet effortless sensitivity, bravely unadorned it allows the listener the luxury of a natural response.
There are elements of Keith Jarrett, Satie, and Chopin.
Never cloying or overtly romanticised it is the perfect chill pill for dusk or for dawn.
A gentle exercise in emotional exorcism that deserves to be revered and cherished.
A considered intimation of love and respect.
A slight change of direction.
An effortless consolidation by a man at home with his craft.