After contributing his style to many other artists albums (Jill Barber, Donovan Woods, Rose Cousins), Toronto, ON, musician R. (Robbie) Grunwald has now released his first solo outing. A beautiful tribute to his 96-year old grandmother, who has lived in Chile after fleeing her native Poland in 1946, “Oma” is the German word for ‘grandmother.’
The eight tracks found on “Oma” aren’t what some will expect from Grunwald’s minimalist piano pieces. Songs like “Wood Meets Water” and “Age” are cautious and pensive, at times, almost atmospheric. The latter is probably my personal favorite tune from this collection. It plays like you are listening to a song at a slow speed, and all the tracks and notes have been removed except the absolutely essential. Subtle and charming; each and every note is emotionally played to tremendous effect by Grunwald.
After the gentle opening track “Wood Meets Water,” Grunwald makes a great acceleration of the record with “Determination Of The Crossing.” It bursts out from the silence lingering between songs with a quick tempo and flighty melody. Listening, I can picture a sailing ship in the midst of a storm, trying to stay afloat. As the melody breaks, the ship flips on its side. The listener is submerged. Dulled and deliberate notes make up the middle breadth of the song.
Grunwald’s use of space between notes is impeccable. He leaves enough room for you to absorb the full emotional impact of each key stroke before moving to the next. His playing is delicate, expressive and never forced to be more complicated than necessary. This is solo piano music for people who appreciate patience in songs. An effective collection of songs which fans of Brian Eno, Philip Glass and Chilly Gonzales should be certain to check out.
Photo credit: Jen Squires