Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt - Night (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE first collaboration between pianist Simone Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt is billed as a unique partnership that unites folk, rock and classical worlds.
It’s an often beautiful, sometimes beguiling but occasionally underwhelming listen that, nevertheless, we’d like to hear more of.
Dinnerstein is a Juilliard-trained classical pianist from Brooklyn and Merritt is a singer-songwriter from North Carolina whose father taught her to play by ear. Despite differing backgrounds, once the two met they immediately bonded over a shared passion for music and performance.
Their subsequent collaboration, Night, features new songs written especially for the duo by Brad Mehldau (I Shall Weep At Night) and Patty Griffin (Night), as well as Merritt’s own songs and classical selections.
It also features the world premiere recording of The Cohen Variations by Daniel Felsenfield, a solo piano piece commissioned by Dinnerstein based on one of her favourite songs, Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne.
Of the highlights, it’s one of the aforementioned piano pieces that really stand out – The Cohen Variations is an enchantingly beautiful composition, delicately delivered and playfully teasing that well known Cohen standard. It finds Dinnerstein at her most assured.
Beautiful, too, is Prelude in B minor from The Clavierbuchlein, which again dazzles by virtue of its subtle restraint and tenderness.
Tift Merritt’s Still Not Home rates as another favourite… a breezy slice of acoustic folk-pop that features a seductive central vocal and a traveller’s tale.
While the duo’s cover of I Can See Clearly Now, the Johnny Cash standard, rounds things off in classic style, and on a welcome note of familiarity.
If there’s a criticism surrounding some of the album, it’s that there are several songs that are too understated and serene and not enough of the breezy, folkier numbers to really offer diversity.
Hence, moments like I Will Give My Love an Apple are followed by similarly stripped back, sparse tracks like Colors and leave you pining for a return to some of the more lively material.
Night is, therefore, an album to aproach advisedly and when you’re in a thoughtful, even reflective mood… it’s also an album to appreciate in a tranquil environment rather than plugging into it on the commute.
And though there are criticisms, it’s very best moments are, without question, worth visiting.
Download picks: Still Not Home, I Can See Clearly Now, Night, Prelude in B minor from The Clavierbuchlein, The Cohen Variations, I Shall Weep At Night