Big Sur Reminiscence


Genres: Contemporary & Modern, Classical

Big Sur Reminiscence
  • Released: June 15, 2014
  • 10 track(s)
Reviewed 2/7/14 by Cathy Oakes

In this beautiful, impressive CD, Michael Martinez showcases his mastery of the keyboard, his sensitivity and his excellence as a musician. This is NOT just another CD of cover songs! Michael Martinez possesses an incredible technique. And his artistry and arrangements make these pieces uniquely his own.

With its visual setting in one of my favorite places, Big Sur, this cover immediately captured my attention. Having visited the historical Bixby bridge, which is pictured on the inside cover, I could relate to the beauty and splendor of this place. It brought to mind visual images of sparkling blue water, majestic redwood forests that stretch right to the edge of the ocean and crashing waves. And surprisingly, for one so young, Michael portrays exactly those images in his magnificent music.

I loved his arrangement of “Classical Gas” – an upbeat, jazzy and energetic beginning that says, “Hey – listen to this!” LOVE the jazz improv near the middle of the song! In the very first notes of “Chariots of Fire,” Michael captures the drive of the marathon runners who inspire him at mile 13.1 of the Big Sur International Marathon, where he serves as the Grand Piano Man. The delicacy of “The Feather” is so beautiful. “Big Sur Prelude,” “Big Sur Reminiscence” and “Pacific Grove” are original tunes from Martinez. The opening chords of “Big Sur Prelude” bring to life the crashing waves, followed by the beautiful musical impressions of sparkling blue water and the waves playing with the shoreline. In “Big Sur Reminiscence,” my favorite piece on the CD, the haunting melody sings of the glorious beauty of this region, while continuing to portray the waves and sparkling waters of the Pacific coastline. His arrangement of “Scarborough Fair” brings a freshness and originality to this timeless piece. “Pacific Grove,” the third of Michael’s original pieces, is a tribute to his hometown. It has a sweet, wistful innocence and beauty with an almost playful melody. “Annie’s Song,” one of my all-time favorite ballads from John Denver, is performed perfectly to communicate the emotion of the song. The beginning notes literally brought a smile to my face. How does one “sing” praises on the piano? One does that exactly the way Michael Martinez does in his brilliant arrangement of Hallelujah! He does not need words to capture the worshipful and awe-inspiring attitude of this song.

This is Michael’s first CD and what a CD it is – beautiful from beginning to end! The whole package – gorgeous music, beautiful photography on the cover, sound of the Steinway concert grand piano, mastering – it’s all there! This young man is going to be on the hearts and minds of solo piano music lovers for a long time to come. WELL DONE, Michael!!! At the risk of “starting at the top,” I can rate this CD at nothing less than 5 stars! Highly, highly recommended!!


Rating: RatingRatingRatingRatingRating 1 review

  • {name}

    {name} June 15, 2014


    Big Sur Reminiscence is the exciting first recording by Michael Martinez, a 23-year-old pianist/composer from the central California coast. Michael is the third very young artist I’ve reviewed recently (after Zachary Bruno and Paul Spaeth) and it does my piano teacher’s heart good to know that the wonders of the piano will continue to thrill with very capable younger hands. Big Sur Reminiscence is an exquisite collection of seven classic movie themes and pop songs and three original piano solos all played with spirit and aplomb that never overshadow the music. It’s obvious that Martinez has a breathtaking technique, but he also knows when to keep it simple and when to let ‘er rip. Martinez has been the Grand Piano Man for the Big Sur International Marathon since 2005, playing for the runners on the nine foot concert grand near the Bixby Bridge. The CD cover photo and a couple of photos inside were taken at that spectacular landmark.
    The album begins with Mason Williams’ classic, “Classical Gas.” Martinez really makes this piece his own with powerful energy and lots of jazzy touches that should grab even the most jaded listener. I would imagine that “Chariots of Fire” is an annual favorite at the Marathon. While faithful to the original, Martinez plays this with a huge amount of passion and heart. Love it! The delicate “The Feather” from Forrest Gump is almost fragile at the beginning, building as it evolves but always tender and very sensitive. “Big Sur Prelude” is the first of the three originals and what a beauty it is! Flowing freely and sparkling at the same time, it was obviously inspired by the spectacular area it was named for. The title track is equally gorgeous. Smoother and more peaceful at the beginning, it gradually becomes more majestic, quiets, and then builds again - an incredible piece! John Barry’s theme from “Out of Africa” overflows with grace and understated emotion. “Scarborough Fair” has been a favorite song of mine for decades, and Martinez’s almost 6 1/2 minute arrangement is perfect. Flowing with heartfelt emotion, it’s one of the best versions I’ve heard. “Pacific Grove” is the third of Martinez’s originals. Named for his hometown near Monterey, the graceful melody and elegant performance paint a lovely picture. John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, and Martinez captures the love and wistful dreaminess of the song flawlessly. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is another longtime favorite, and even without the lyrics, Martinez gets the point across. Sometimes very simple and sometimes fuller and more fleshed out, it’s a poignant close to a fantastic album.
    Michael Martinez is off to an awesome start to his recording career, and I’m thrilled to help introduce him and his music to the world! Big Sur Reminiscence is available from, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation! Bravo!!!

    Kathy Parsons

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