Review: Prélude by Michael Sheridan

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Prélude-Cover

Prélude by Michael Sheridan

Artist Website: www.michaelsheridanmusic.com

Buy or listen to samples via Amazon

Album Repertoire:
Montagne Ste Genevieve – Django Reinhardt (as performed by Stephane Wrembel)
Cello Suite No 3 – J.S. Bach
El Choclo – Angel Villoldo (arr. Roland Dyens)
Nuages – Django Reinhardt (arr. Roland Dyens)
Choros No 1 – Heitor Villa Lobos
The Expatriates – Michael Sheridan
Felicidade – Antonio Carlos Jobim (arr. Roland Dyens)
Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios – Agustin Barrios Mangore
Tango en Skai – Roland Dyens
Berceuse Diurne – Roland Dyens (dedicated to Michael Sheridan)

Review:

NYC guitarist Michael Sheridan recently released an album of mixed classical guitar favourites and arrangements of jazz and Latin American hits. From Django Reinhardt, Roland Dyens, to Villa-Lobos this album has some serious appeal. One thing I like about the album is the nice recording sound – almost zero background noise and a beautiful guitar sound – and the mix of jazz style arrangements to formally composed music. Reinhardt is one of my personal favourites so I was very excited to hear this album.

I suppose the first thing everyone will ask when looking at this album is, do the Rinehardt, Jobim, and Villoldo arrangements work well on a solo classical recording? I would say yes. Most of the arrangements are by the great French guitarist Roland Dyens and that adds a touch of weight to the tracks since many listeners are familiar with his success. Sheridan’s performance of Nuages really shines for its cool feel and elaborate delivery. Montagne Ste Genevieve would not have worked for me but since it was the opening track it was a nice way to kick off the album with a relaxed and meandering start before getting more heated up. It also showcases Sheridan’s pleasant sound and shaping of melodic lines.

El Choclo was a good one! Sheridan is great at making clear musical ideas in terms of contrast and form. The moods are nice and easy to jump onto and he is not afraid to push out notes, get in your face, or be flamboyant when needed! I also love his great glissandos and fun little ornaments. Good times!

The Villa-lobos was also fun track. Sheridan takes much more rubato than I’m used to but it made listening to the track a fresh and enjoyable experience and it sounded so Brazilian! Too many people rip through this work without having fun with the repetitive form. I did a good re-listen on this track just for fun.

The Expatriates, written by Sheridan is a sorrowful little work but not without beauty or moments of hope. The language is fairly traditional with some nice jazzy chords and lines in there. He has an excellent sense of forward momentum. I hope he continues to write for the instrument as I think there is real potential here. This was a nice touch to the album and gives us a closer look at the performer/musician.

The best tracks on the album are the Dyens pieces. Sheridan has a talent for creating moods and soundscapes well suited to the compositions. There are moments of fun, extroverted gestures but then darkened, Earthy moments! I imagine Dyens himself has noticed this as there is a piece by the composer dedicated to Sheridan. Berceuse Diurne is a beauty of a piece and Sheridan does a fine job of the piece. This track really shows a nice gentle side to his playing and is a wonderful ending track. Buy this album for the joy of hearing the Dyens and arrangements as we could all learn a lesson from Sheridan’s keen sense of musical gestures. Love it!

The Barrios tremolo work was good overall but at times I wished his tone and tremolo were a bit more even. However, it never really disrupted my musical experience too much. Overall it was fine but a bit weaker than the rest of the album. The real mystery to this album is how the Bach cello suite fits in with the other repertoire? It seems a bit out of place to me. I suppose it ties a connection to Barrios who was very influenced by Bach. Maybe it is the ‘legitimate’ or ‘time-tested requirement’ of the recording artist in our small classical world that one must add ‘serious’ music (no such thing anyway!) to make an album, but who cares about the status-quo. I for one would have liked the album to stay on track with jazz, South American, Dyens, as well as Sheridan’s own composition. Also, the album track list states “Cello Suite No 3 – J.S. Bach” when in fact it is only the Prelude; that should have been mentioned specifically in case someone was buying it to hear his interpretation of the entire suite. Design issue or misprint? Overall it seems that this track was the weakest among an otherwise well-conceptualized album. I didn’t think the Bach felt much like a prelude either and was played pretty straight, although that approach does work well for the peddle sections. I also didn’t love the ornaments and some of his interpretation of implied counterpoint. Don’t get me wrong, it was generally well performed, a few buzzes and coloration differences that I didn’t like but overall fine. You get the idea…

By the way, this album was part of a KickStarter, you can check out the thank you’s on Sheridan’s website here.

Conclusion:
I really liked the mix of repertoire on the album despite not loving the Bach and Barrios. Sheridan is a great player when he’s in his element. All the jazz, latin, and Dyens worked wonderfully. Sheridan has a wide range of emotion and musical playing. His ability to colour the music and create simple and effective moods for the listener is rock-solid. I could have done without the Bach and Barrios simply because they were up to par with the rest of the album. Otherwise, I’d rate this album pretty high.

A very enjoyable album for music lovers and guitarists alike. Plus a dedicated piece by Roland Dyens! That alone makes it a worthy album for the library. Sheridan should be on the radar of those looking for an album or concert performance that will charm audiences and show the versatile and diverse world of classical guitar. I’m really looking forward to another release from Sheridan.

Buy or listen to samples via Amazon



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