Exploring a deeper, intimate and more personal dimension of her rich musical artistry, critically acclaimed contemporary instrumental recording artist Anne Trenning showcases her unique voice and multi-faceted compositional power on solo piano for the first time with her highly anticipated new collection The Sunflower Waltz. The album releases today via the artists’ own Shadetree Productions, along with a compilation video of the new music.
Featuring a generous set of 10 fresh compositions and beautiful solo piano re-imaginings of two pieces each from her earlier renowned recordings Suite Tea, All One World and Watching For Rain, The Sunflower Waltz takes a dynamic turn from her established passion and expertise for orchestration, blended harmonies and ensemble settings.
The Chicago born and raised, Charlotte, NC, based performer’s quest to find the perfect instrument to convey this direct, quieter and more straightforward concept led her to Piano Haven Studios in Sedona, Arizona. The perfectly named facility is owned by fellow solo piano recording artist Joe Bongiorno — who engineered and mastered The Sunflower Waltz.
More than simply a gathering of engaging instrumental pieces reflecting different points in Trenning’s remarkable career, the set showcases the power of a singular instrument to evoke a fascinating spectrum of moods, from wistfully contemplative to joyful and infectiously optimistic. “Performing these tunes on solo piano, there’s nothing to distract from their melodic intent,” she says. “This approach has a pristine quality which allows the emotions to emanate in a different way from my previous recordings. Presented in this light, each song takes on its own special characteristics in a lovely way that a larger production might distract from.”
Driven throughout her career by the pursuit of simple elegance, Trenning fashioned the recording’s theme and packaging around her song “The Sunflower Waltz”—not only as a reflection of her deep longtime connection to nature, but also because of the sunflower’s innate characteristics (adaptability, beauty, determination) and their clear metaphoric applications to life. The CD artwork even includes an apropos quote from early 20th century American novelist Willa Cather: “Sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom.”
“I think sunflowers give off a sense of optimism and the music on The Sunflower Waltz embraces their vibrant, beautiful and sturdy presentation,” says Trenning. “The journey grew from the song I wrote with that title, which is ebullient and spirited. I was inspired to expand on this theme and craft the entire musical and visual presentation around it.”
Just as the re-fashionings of the earlier material take the pianist from thoughtful and wistful contemplations of the natural world (“Where Rivers Run,” from Suite Tea) to lyrical, high-impact spiritual expressions (“A Prayer For the World,” from Watching for Rain), Trenning—whose influences include classical, blues, rock, gospel and jazz—runs a deep emotional, stylistic and rhythmic gamut on The Sunflower Waltz’s original compositions.
Inspired by the joyous sounds of an eight-year-old neighbor’s birthday celebration, “Max’s Birthday” kicks off the collection on a cheerful, easy flowing note. Two pieces that embody the different ends of the mood spectrum are the bright, dancing title track and the graceful, delicate and plaintive “Fade To Blue”—the latter taking a fresh ethereal leap away from Trenning’s traditional approach of simple, pop-like chord progressions and melodies. The pianist shares her love for traditional country music with the swaying, hypnotic ballad “Cowgirl Daydream” and her lifelong passion for gospel and choral music on the thoughtful prayer-like “Sing to the Lord.”
Fade To Blue is also the tentative title of a large scale orchestral and ensemble-based recording Trenning is currently working on for release in 2017. The producer of the sonically ambitious project, which will feature both originals and unique arrangements of favorite cover tunes, is Rick Dior, who helmed the pianist’s earlier projects All One World and Watching For Rain. A classically trained percussionist, Dior has worked with everyone from James Taylor and Aretha Franklin to Marvin Hamlisch, Ray Charles, Bobby McFerrin and Lionel Hampton.
“I am really excited about the collaborations on the upcoming project, but right now I am enjoying the opportunity to release this first solo piano project.” says Trenning. “I appreciate simple chord progressions uplifted by melodic straightforwardness, and I absolutely love the pristine sound of the piano on The Sunflower Waltz. The fact that I was able to craft this sound on such a beautiful instrument challenged me to present my songs in their most organic, original forms—which in turn enhanced my capacity to expand my creative palette like never before.”
The Sunflower Waltz, and Trenning’s earlier music, is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon, and CDBaby. One can also listen on Pandora, Spotify and YouTube, and purchase piano sheet music from her official website.
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Beth Ann Hilton
The B Company