Easily one of the very best piano releases of the last 30 years

(reprint of complete review)


By Mark S. Tucker

Veteran Music Critic

Mark S. Tucker is a writer, editor, graphic artist, Commercial Jetliner Systems Analyst (747), martial arts quasi-trainer, paralegal, and holistic medicine interne-practitioner, among myriad other pursuits. He’s been published nationally in i/e, Progression, Expose, Sound Choice, E/I (founding co-editor), OPtion, Signal to Noise, Camera Obscura, and other magazines. On the Net, he intermittently critiques music and conducts musician interviews for Perfect Sound Forever and reviews CDs for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME) and The Buzz About. As well as being a decade-long past member of Rowrbrazzle, a cartoonists / animators / writers society, he was also published at – a sickness, granted, but he’s now better, though his 116 articles there were destroyed by the publisher, Rightie-in-hiding Rob Kall. Nonetheless, thousands of his articles and reviews have appeared over the last two decades, often formulated to piss someone off……….you, perhaps?

PETER SALTZMAN – Blues, Preludes, & Feuds: A Musical Memory, Pts. 1 – 4 (2016 / no label cited) 

Solo piano collections are gatherums existing only on three levels: they’re either 1) to be feared as goop, 2) to be accepted as pleasantly competent compendiums, perhaps even as much as intriguing, or 3) cognized as wondrous beyond telling. The New Age movement has been egregious in the extreme regarding the first zone while Liz Story, George Winston, and others nest comfortably in the middle rankings, but releases like Phil Glass’ Solo Piano, Lamont Young’s Well-Tempered Piano box set, of course Cage, and a double handful akin to them index into the lattermost…alongside all the rest of varying stripes: Ellington, Monk, and so on. 

Well, you can slide Peter Saltzman’s Blues, Preludes, & Feuds: A Musical Memory, Pts. 1 – 4 right in there with Glass, Young, and Cage but also Jarrett, Corea, and the top-shelf intellects of the tinkling keys ‘cause this release is a wonder, among the most lyrical inspissations I’ve ever heard in damn near all levels of piano work rolled into one extremely intriguing continuing narrative. I in fact place it tooth and jowl with the landmark Nonesuch Era of pioneering electronic, operatic, and outside musics, most especially with Pete’s near-namesake Eric Salzman, who crafted the still-beyond-its-time Nude Paper Sermon. Saltzman, hands down, is a master musician and composer, and few are capable of such daredevil feats as he. I do not speak lightly here. 

As a crit who loves the work of Keith Tippett, Keith Emerson’s far side (his noiseuring with Bernstein’s “America” as well as most everything pre-Love Beach [retch!!]), and the progrock line of fusionoid color-outside-the-lines artists, I’ve long been especially enamored of the unknown Greg Mills (Exiles) and have to say Saltzman would at least force an impasse but most likely win a competition against all of them – Keith, Keith, Greg, and the rest crowding in afterwards to check into this maddeningly trenchant set of aesthetic insights in near-occult comprehensions that I, for one, find impossible to critically analyze, the science of it all well beyond my grasp…but, lord!, what Saltzman’s mind and hands can do!  

This DEFINITELY is going in my Year’s Best of 2016, easily one of the very best piano releases of the last 30 years, interestingly responding to all levels of listening, from the lightest and most easily titillated all the way up to the attentions of master craftsmen long versed in layers and layers of subtlety and outrageous invention. For those wanting the backscatter,Blues, Preludes , & Feuds is a musical interpretation of a 60s Chicago teen muso starting in early jazzhood on up through classicalism and everything in between. The story of the whole, delicious, well-seasoned enchilada can find it on Saltzman’s web page:

Pete’s concert-debuted the entirety, by the way, on Oct. 1 in Chicago, and I would’ve given my eyeteeth to have seen that. And in case you think I’m frothing over this, I am but so is CMJ, where the disc has already debuted at #2 on their ‘Top Jazz Adds’ chart. That’s just the start. A whole arkful of venues is very soon going to be singing this guy’s praises.