Rivers and Streams
Mention that Lubomyr Melnyk is the world’s fastest pianist, playing close to 20 notes per second due to his mastering of the “continuous music” technique and you could, worringly, paint a picture of a stunt-musician. Still, here I am leading with it, since it is news, it is of interest, it is one of the defining qualities in and of his sound, his music.
The Ukranian performer and composer is, as you might expect then, from someone pumping out that many notes per second, prolific, and Rivers and Streams follows closely the gorgeous EP, Evertina which arrived on the heels of recent/ish masterwork, Windmills.
This kicks off with the 13-minute Parasol, and as you get the image of umbrellas spinning in the sunshine, of water – always – nearby, if not surging through the work – it isn’t that far from Windmills’ dramatic onslaught. However, each new Melnyk piece, and the album that houses them, is always just different enough.
Here we can hear the lifelong love of Terry Riley and little glimpses of Carla Bley (particularly on the thoughtful 10-minuter, The Pool of Memories). He continues the technique of riding the sustain pedal and layering so many overtones, his hands slowly – and then very quickly – blurring down into each work, the notes swirling up around him as the music cascades.
The shortest piece here, Sunshimmers, still sneaks easily towards six minutes. The usual solo piano is joined by subtle strings. Again, the title evokes. We are placed by the side of the pool, we are there to catch the first rising rays, we are whisked away to the world he’s creating, riding along on his fingers.
There’s always been the dexterity, intensity, feelings and technique of the very best jazz and classical music informing Melnyk, hints of minimalist music too, which might seem funny given that notes pour from him, are sprinkled over everything, end up tumbling into a deluge. But with this album in particular we arrive at a setting not too dissimilar to New Age music; that’s often seemed some sort of naff world or dirty word within instrumental music. But no here. Not the place Melnyk takes us too.
These meditations calm and soothe, they coax and caress, they are melodically dense, mellifluous, harmonically conservative in the very best ways and the closing 25-minute brace of tunes dedicating to the Amazon breaks new ground for Lubomyr, flutes eerily working within the melodic framework and then outside as if a sound effect. It’s a whole new way to paint an eeriness, a type of haunting, onto the side of the work.