Todd Beaney - Piano Praise 2
2010, Todd Beaney
Todd Beaney is a pianist, composer, arranger and educator. He has written or arranged for such groups as U.S. Army Blues; New Orleans Brass Quintet, the Billy Graham Crusade, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Truth. The ASCAP member has four albums under his belt and three volumes of hymn arrangements for piano. In his spare time, Beaney also serves as a piano adjudicator for the New York State School Music Association and serves as Music Director for Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut. The Princeton grad, with Master of Music degrees from both McNeese State University and the Eastman School of Music has made music a lifelong passion. His fourth album, released in 2010, is Piano Praise 2. It’s a collection of piano-based instrumentals covering classic hymns and modern Praise music.
Beaney opens with “I Sing The Mighty Power Of God”, an intriguing first step for an instrumental album. Beaney shows a strong left hand presence early on while allowing his right hand free reign to run at will. Beaney is an active player, not condescending to the passive, new-age evocations of many contemporaries. Beaney shows a sense of drama and passion in the music. “Lord, I’m Coming Home” has a soulful feel and shows Beaney’s own sense of internal rhythm. Beaney lights up the song in an artful and delicate fashion with a sense of confidence that’s part self assurance and part faith. “Oh, How I Love Jesus” has a pretty, rolling quality that is appealing, even if Beaney’s piano style sounds like that of a secondary school choir director.
Beaney brings a bit of Gershwin to “At Calvary”, with an arrangement that sounds like it would be right at home somewhere in the middle of ‘Porgy and Bess’. Fans of Stephen Schwartz will be listening closely to Beaney’s take on “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”. Beaney imparts the same sense of light and melody that infused Schwartz’ early works for the stage in one of the most inspired performances on the album. “For All The Saints” sticks with the Broadway feel; an energetic and active take that’s well-played and nicely arranged. “Brethren, We Have Met To Worship” finds Beaney’s powerful, driven left hand resurfacing. This is a solid performance, but would benefit greatly from additional instrumentation. “Walking In Grace” shows a pretty, airy approach. Beaney creates a majestic feel for the tune, drawing inspiration and energy out of the arrangement in a moment that speaks of glory. Beaney ponders his way through a wandering jazz interpretation of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. The elegant piano-bar style is a bit of a surprise, but is nonetheless enjoyable. Beaney closes with the classic hymn feel of “The Solid Rock”; a musical return to the roots of praise music.
Todd Beaney shows off a progression of sounds and styles throughout Piano Praise 2 that may be the arc of his own development as a pianist. Starting with left-hand driven style of the opening track, moving through the somewhat percussive style of a choir director and then into the more refined airs jazz, gospel and show tunes, Beaney explores the representation of faith in music in a multitude of styles that are uniquely American. This is a niche album, meaning that the market for this material is probably somewhat limited, but Beaney shows enough chops and stylistic flexibility to be of interest to any serious student of the piano in addition to the religious music market.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Todd Beaney at http://www.toddbeaney.com/. Piano Praise 2 is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download. The album is also available via iTunes.