Pianist Richard Pellegrin teaches at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. But, when he is not teaching, he flies diagonally across the country to land in Seattle. Then he catches a ferry to Whidbey Island—his retreat from the daily hubbub of making a living. His CD release Solitude was recorded there, at the Langley Methodist Church, on an Everett Concert Grand Piano dating from 1915—not an instrument possessed of a perfection of response or precision of articulation, but one with character, a distinctive tone quality and a sort of spirit-world tone born of dense, seasoned wood.
Pellegrin has previously recorded with his "two horns and a rhythm section" ensemble, fashioning a distinctive modern jazz sound of well-constructed, forward-leaning compositions. But, with Solitude, the pianist changes gears, a shift to an intimate, contemplative solo piano recording, shaping twenty- five cohesive freely improvised pieces entitled "Improvisation I" through to "Improvisation XXV."
Solemnity is a consistent theme. So is sparseness of approach, and delicate and deliberately rendered beauty, with a "Why play three notes when one gets to the heart of the matter" mind-set carrying the day. Playfulness makes its appearance ("Improvisation IV"), along with a sense of wonder ("Improvisation V"). "Improvisation VII" sounds like a pencil sketch of a visualization of reverence, and XIII might be a "letting go" acceptance of spiritual grace, while "Improvisation XIV" feels like a move towards the temporal.
Certainly the beauty and relative remoteness of Whidbey Island had a hand in the sound of the finished product, as did the somewhat incorrigible piano, difficult to play due to a few minor age-related mechanical difficulties, but chosen by Pellegrin for its unique character and full range of resonance. The choice worked out well.