Home New Age Music Ola Gjeilo – Stone Rose Review

Ola Gjeilo – Stone Rose Review

stoneroseThe song title is in a way the only lyrics in instrumental music. A few handpicked words describe a whole track. For some artists the name of a song is unimportant, and for other it is essential. When listening to Norwegian pianist and composer Ola Gjeilo’s debut album Stone Rose from 2007 I found that the track name was of great importance. Here the name is a starting point for the imagination, something to tune your mind to. Gjeilo’s music is very visual, and the title gives meaning to the track. Or you may of course let your mind drift away and not focus on the title at all. Either way, you will be enthralled by this fabulous debut album.

Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978.  Many new age piano artists are self thought, or have only a little formal training. There is nothing wrong with that, but when compared to a piano player of Gjeilo’s format – who has studied at the Royal College of Music in London and has a Mater’s Degree in composition at the Juilliard School of Music – the difference is obvious. Gjeilo is nothing less than a piano virtuoso.

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An important aspect of Stone Rose is the high quality recording. It is produced by the Grammy-nominated Lindberg Lyd at Sofienberg church in Oslo, Norway. This means that it is not a studio recording, and you can feel the natural resonance of the room – which I think is a bonus. The piano recording is flawless, and this gives the album a nice and polished touch; you can play it loud, and still there is little or no static noise. The album is being released as a Hybrid Super Audio-CD with 5.1 Surround. The supreme quality of the recording is also audible if you purchase it on iTunes – but if you want the best, you better buy the CD.

Stone Rose consists of 15 short tracks. Most of them are around 3 minutes long. The atmosphere is fresh and uplifting – but also somewhat uncomplicated. It may be too light for some tastes. But at the same time Gjeilo’s style is dreamy and full of impressions. This is perhaps what makes Stone Rose into a typical new age album? It is definitely not jazz or classical. But I must point out that this is not music for meditation either. This is the music you want in the background when you are having your friends over for dinner, or are walking on the beach on a bright winter day listening to your music player. It is a sound track, pure and simple.

The album is not strictly solo piano. On track 5, 9, 12, 13 and 14 you can hear David Coucheron on violin and Johannes Martens on cello. On track 14 and 15 Tom Barber plays flugelhorn. This gives variation to the recording. Especially the tracks with violin can remind of another Norwegian band – Rolf Lovland’s Secret Garden. But there is nothing wrong with that. It is rather a statement quality, since Secret Garden has sold millions of albums.

The first track, Snow in New York, is simply incredible. You only have to listen to the album for a minute or so and you know two things; Ola Gjeilo is a highly skilled piano player and great composer. You can almost see the season’s first falling snow between the skyscrapers. The track has the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to winter and snow.

After the fast and uplifting opening, North Country is more slow and reflective. But it is a beautiful track, not too long either. Track three, Michelle, is happy and uncomplicated. This song is almost like a conversation, rapidly changing speed but the mood stays the same. The Line is the best solo piano track on the album, and the theme around 2min20sec is played with passion and skill. It is jazz and neoclassical at the same time, and an example of Gjeilo’s qualities both as a piano player and composer.

What makes a song played with piano and violin new age? It is hard to point out, but when you listen to track no. five, The Hudson, you feel that there is something meditative and dreamy about the song. It is that thing that makes you love or hate new age music. If Gjeilo wanted to create a standard jazz or neoclassical recording, all hope was out when this song was finished. It is new age, no doubt about that. You can almost see the setting sun over the Hudson when playing the song. Roxbury Park is yet another fresh track, much like Michelle. It is pleasant like a walk in the park.

I am a little bit surprised by the title track, Stone Rose. It is a bit dark and slow. At the same time it has a lot of beauty, in a contemplative way. Stone Rose is the first of three slow piano tracks. The two other are January and April. They are a bit cold, but then so are roses of stone…

The first track, Snow in New York, is simply incredible. You only have to listen to the album for a minute or so and you know two things; Ola Gjeilo is a highly skilled piano player and great composer. You can almost see the season’s first falling snow between the skyscrapers. The track has the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to winter and snow.

The last solo piano track on the album is track no. 10, Manhattan. This song has the rhythm of the big city. The melody is very nice and I found myself hitting the replay button several times – because it is way too short! The 1min54sec is gone in a flash.

Madison has a strong melody, and the cello sounds fantastic. If I were a movie director, I would call mr. Gjeilo right away. This song will fit into any scene where there is rapid character development. Track 14, North Country II, and track 15, Serenity, are together a perfect ending to the album. The flugelhorn gives the songs a more jazzy feel. The solo on the end of Serenity is very strong, and you can sense that this is the last track. A nice touch.

My only objection to Stone Rose is that you cannot hear that this is the product of a young artist (except for the fast opening track Snow in New York). Is it too mature? I don’t know. I think some faster and rougher tracks would have been nice. But then this may be Gjeilo’s next project. The album has a nice blue cover with the moon, and the drawn NYC skyline on the back. For me this is close to a perfect new age piano album. I enjoy the beautiful melodies, Gjeilo’s playing and the high sound quality.

The life of a red rose is short, but a rose of stone has eternal life.

You can sample this and other albums by Ola Gjeilo on the artist’s homepage.