Happy Note 2022
Out of his comfort zone and into the fire: San Franciscan driver of ivories ponders the past and the present.
Calling himself the Xman may seem preposterous, yet though such a moniker doesn’t lend Charles Xavier any supernatural powers, it’s let the pianist consistently land on mysterious plateaus since he proclaimed “Expect the unexpected” a decade and a half ago. So while the provenance of this platter is quite apparent, the Californian musician approached each composition spontaneously, rather than permitting the downtime’s languor permeate improvisatory surprises of playing at daybreak. Creating the album in piecemeal manner, Xavier was able to not only evoke a variety of moods and images but also to condense additional outstanding instants into a series of 30- and 60-second radio tags appended after the principal plethora of tunes have run their mesmeric course.
Despite the new-age ambience peppering its reflective sonics, “Pandemic Piano” is not simply meditative: being overtly jazzy, the record is easy to relate to – must be, given its intimately resonating opener bears the trust-building title of “You Know” and cut called “Covid Oddity” offers a synthesizer-enhanced, slightly dissonant cosmic adventure. There are echoes of Mehldau in the minimalistic romanticism of “Perfect Mold” and of Satie in the elegiac “Ascended Masters” which focuses on the momentary wonders of sound, whereas “Expectations” and “Grand Happiness” solemnly, and deliberately unevenly, swell with hope, and “When I Think Of You” with homely warmth. Further on, the vibrant “I Sat Outside There” introduces another spacey delight that the crystalline haze behind “Sexual Vibration Chakra” will unfold into an epically introspective adventure, yet if there’s conceptuality in the playful “Evening” following graceful “Morning” into a compellingly sparse, dynamically alluring reverie, the robust passages “Profile Rock” should shatter the dream and usher reality back.
It’s only natural, after all.