Monday, January 2, 2012

Harold O'Neal: A Hidden Gem

Product DetailsProduct DetailsI don't think many people are aware of the highly talented Harold O"Neal, and if you are not then by all means pick up his latest on Smalls, entitled "Marvelous Fantasy." This is 70 minutes of incredible solo piano, with all the tunes penned by O'Neal himself.

"My goal with Marvelous Fantasy is to journey with the listener side-by-side on a path of full life experiences reminiscent of youth's first adventure. From the tale of Atanos The Great to the mysterious dance in the pale moonlight, and from Mr. Piccolo's adventure to when the lovers first meet. Each piece is an entire world within itself."

This record would fit well in either the jazz or 20th century classical sections of your music store. It is modern american music to be heard in a concert hall, or at home at dusk with good company. The music is played with dexterity and a light touch. Whether you hear traces of Ravel or Debussy, Ellington, Mehldau, or other outstanding solo pianists in the music, you are hearing a young master composer and player at work. The opening numbers each establish a gentle mood, gradually building to the centerpiece of the disk "Marvelous Fantasy", which starts out quietly, builds to a wonderful crescendo, and then resolves itself in its soft-spoken conlcusion. The passion of the composer is evident in his use of dynamics to set and maintain the changing moods in the piece.

O'Neal had one previous CD as a leader, also on Smalls, working with a quartet including alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, a more upbeat, "jazz" record to hear and enjoy, whose antecedents are more along the lines of "standard" jazz quartets; and shone with Bobby Watson on his 2008 disk "From the Heart". Hopefully we won't have to wait long to hear him again; in whatever vein he wants to play, O'Neal is a monster talent.   

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