Jon Wirtz – Sea Level
Jazz pianist Jon Wirtz debuts with Sea Level, a collection of ten jazz piano solos. Wirtz has already performed for millions of people, has shared a stage with numerous noteworthy artists including Justin Timberlake and Melissa Etheridge, and has performed on a number of daytime and nighttime talk shows, including Letterman and DeGeneres. A musician on the move, indeed.
I knew I was in for a good listen as soon as “Blue Ridge Drive” started playing. It has the raw presence and vibe that I’ve come to love all my favorite jazz musicians for. Keeping with tradition, each track has a ton of dynamics, you almost forget its simplicity and the fact that there are no other instruments. Once “Ascension” came on, I kept replaying it over and over. It is a ballad packed with so much tension and emotion. Almost enough to make me cry. Lucky for me, I’m not the type. Jokes aside, it’s a wonderful song.
All but two of the ten tracks are original. The covers are “Black Hole Sun” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”. When listening to “Black Hole Sun”, it took me awhile to realize I was hearing a very unique rendition of the Soundgarden tune I loved over fifteen years ago. An unexpected choice for a jazz musician to cover, but also a pleasant surprise.
I usually don’t like when critics use the term “musical journey”—even though I’ve done it myself on a few occasions. For me it usually means it’s a journey you don’t want to go on, and the critic is just being nice. But listening to Jon Wirtz merits the cliché appropriately. Sea Level does what it’s supposed to do. These piano solos are beautifully performed and will have the listener drifting off into various emotional landscapes—if I may take the liberty to sound so corny. I get the same sensation with Wirtz as I do Joshua Redman, Herbie Hancock, and even Coltrane.
When listening to the jazz greats, there’s nothing to be nitpicky about. Nothing to pinpoint and say, “Aha, this is where they screwed up!” You simply get lost in the music, to the point of not wanting to find your way out. Jazz enthusiasts should flock to this one; everyone else should to. Besides, he has this awesome “name your price” option on his website: