Chilly Gonzales (Jason Beck) is a producer, pianist, MC, and composer that was most known for his Pop music career, but there’s been a swell of interest since he has released Solo Piano I and II. With more focus on the piano and his playing, the Electronic has taken a back seat in recent albums, and with Solo Piano I & II, it’s just him and his piano. My introduction to him was with Solo Piano (2004), and I really think he outdid himself with Solo Piano II. It’s an interesting blend of Classical, Jazz, and of course, Pop music.
“White Keys” kicks off the album with some frantic and quiet repetition, and we follow Chilly Gonzales as he moves around the piano as he changes chords and adds layers to the original melody. It’s a pretty unusual song to start off an album with in my opinion, but maybe that’s what he was going for. It sets up a lot of unease and questions, and he aims to answer them by the rest of the album.
“Escher” is one of my favorite pieces, and a fantastic title. Referring to MC Escher, this song has a lot of repetition and symmetry, just like the artist’s works. The tone of the song carries on the moody atmosphere of the previous songs, and cements in that this is how the album will be. It’s a very enjoyable listen, but it’s not upbeat “happy go lucky” music. “Rideaux Lunaires” gives off a very lovely and lonely feeling that’s repeated now and then throughout the whole album. Each song has it’s personality and they’re stuck in my head with how many times I’ve listened to this record. Solo Piano II comfortable and familiar, but nowhere near boring – I’m always hanging on his every note, trying to anticipate the next movement.
His Solo Piano albums were instantly related to Erik Satie’s work, and I think that comparison is apt. He creates so much with so little, just like Satie’s minimalism. Listening to his videos where he talks about music, he explains that Pop music is all about reduction – maybe Chilly Gonzales didn’t really change musical styles, but just tried to push his music one step further into reduction. I think he strikes a great balance here – too much reduction you end up with Drone or Lowercase.
Chilly Gonzales has a number of Youtube videos where he explains his musical philosophy, I suggest checking them out if you liked this album. One particular series is “Pop Music Masterclass”, where he deconstructs modern Pop hits – it’s fascinating and informative. He often introduces himself as “Chilly Gonzales, the musical genius”, he doesn’t mean that sincerely. He means to get rid of the air of divinity to musicians, to show that everyone has what it to create that magic. He also likens it to a Rap persona – Jason Beck (his real name) isn’t a musical genius, but Chilly Gonzales is. To me, I think think there’s a little of both.