Michael Gettel is back! Over 20 years since the release of his final release on the Narada label, The Journey North (1999), he now presents The View From Here. It is, in many ways, reminiscent of his debut album San Juan Suite from 1986. Old fans will immediately recognize Gettel’s signature sound, while people new to his music will be amazed by the expressive and well-crafted compositions and incredible performances. The album takes the listener to solo piano heaven in less than three minutes – and the view from here is nothing short of breathtaking!
Michael Gettel was born in 1958. He is a recording artist, composer, music teacher and pianist. Gettel’s musical aptitude revealed itself at an early age, and by age 7, he was surprised by the gift of an upright piano and a trumpet. He became one of the youngest members of the Golden Youth Symphony and toured Europe during the summer when he was 13. Gettel graduated from the University Of Northern Colorado in 1980 with a double degree in Music Theory and Composition.
He debuted with San Juan Suite in 1987, and two more albums followed before Places In Time was released on Narada’s Equinox label to successful reviews and charted quickly on Billboard’s New Age charts. Then modern classics such as Skywatching and San Juan Suite II – A Day in the Islands followed (see his complete discography on Wikipedia – there is a lot of music here to be discovered for new fans). The Journey North was, as mentioned above, released in 1999. With the exception of a few Narada compilation releases, and the significant release of the new double album set San Juan Suite I/II in 2006, no new material was recorded during the next 15 years. In early January 2021, Gettel felt a strong pull to once again jump into composing with the intention of releasing the new material to the public. He reached out to his longtime constant companion in the studio, engineer/mixer Frank Bry, as well as studio owner Robert Lang, and both welcomed the opportunity to be reunited in Seattle after a 20-year hiatus.
The View From Here
The album opener is, simply put, a tour de force kind of track. It blows away all competition and establishes a connection with the listener. It shows that Gettel still is on par with the best of the best. It is a two-part piece, where the first part is the introduction. After a few sharp chords rise a thoughtful melody that balances melancholy and optimism splendidly. Then it abruptly stops, before something new and unexpected enters the stage. It is sharp, loud and fast, as if a sudden realization or something happens out of the blue. It is beautiful beyond words and sets the bar incredibly high for everything that follows. Bravo!
At this stage, you might think that there must be a significant drop in musical excellence – but Oh So Many Stars has its own kind of elegance, that even surpasses the previous piece by gazing upwards and taking in the enormity of space. That view is the most terrific of all. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for the replay button, because Oh So Many Stars is solo piano is a genuine solo piano jewel!
Samples, especially sounds of nature, played an important part in solo instrumental albums in the 1980s and 90s (and still do, in some cases). Listening to Odiles Garden you will understand why. The magnificent bird in the intro and ending, and the rain in the mid-section, are terrific! These samples set the mood, while Gettel follows up and fills the audio canvas with colors and interesting contrasts. It is nature-meets-art in the best way possible.
Stepping Stones Under Water is one of those piano pieces that could easily carry the whole album. Fast and joyous, it takes the listener on an enjoyable expedition into the unknown. Gettel has complete control and knows exactly where the trip is going; Occasional jumps on slippery underwater stepping stones are just part of the experience. You will have to listen to it quite a few times before you notice all its intricate details.
There is plenty of room for reflection here too. The gentle intro to Lone Tree makes the mind wander. But around two minutes and 50 seconds, things start to happen. A gray and lonely landscape is suddenly filled with colors and life. It is, among others, contrasts like this these that made Gettel’s previous releases so great. Listen to the next piece, Rise, and you will understand what I mean.
Feelings such as love, joy and a strong sense of belonging are what make the next part of the album unforgettable. The hopeful A Beacon To Guide You Home, the picturesque Medano Creek and the heartwarming The Embrace, are both uplifting and moving. It is music for the heart, but also the intellect.
The end is near as Van Gogh Sky and The Parting Glass come on. Thematically speaking, the album expands into new and interesting territory. The familiar and unfamiliar are mixed, providing striking tableaus and showcasing what a versatile artist Gettel is. If you ever had any doubt, then let the album closer Aerial convince you. He is a piano virtuoso in every sense of the word. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself:
In conclusion: You know the feeling of meeting an old friend, and it is as if your conversation picks up almost right where it left off, even though there may have been decades in between? I had that feeling the first time I listened to The View From Here. Even though the material is new, Gettel’s music has the same sound and atmosphere as his previous albums, especially the fan-favorite San Juan Suite.
Over 20 years have passed since Gettel’s last album, but that is quickly forgotten. The album has that certain 1980s solo piano flow that so many fans of this genre cherish and return to, again and again. But it would be wrong of me only to gaze back, especially since The View From Here is an album that points towards the future. I hope that this will be the beginning of a new, rich and rewarding chapter in Gettel’s discography. This world of conflicts and social unrest desperately needs his positive and carefree music, perhaps even more than in the late 1980s.
The View From Here by Michael Gettel is, in short, a fabulous return by this one-of-a-kind artist! It will improve even the finest playlist of solo piano music. Highly recommended!