Patrick Beckman - American Scenes Volume 1 & 2 by Jeff Perkins, - February 09, 2009 My musical perspective of America, from the other side of the Atlantic at least, tends to conjure up place names such as: Nashville, New York, and, of course, the home of the king, Memphis. When jazz pianist and composer Patrick Beckman set out to write a set of musical pieces attempting to capture the essence of some of the major cities of America he too, turned to these iconic musical places. American Scenes Volumes 1 & 2 is the result. It is a journey, over two CD’s, that takes us from the legend of Motown to Miami, calling in on the likes of Kansas, and Philadelphia on Volume 1, and Chicago, and New York on Volume 2. It is a work that takes the musical pulse of each and every place visited. After Patrick Beckman received his Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in Piano Performance he went on to study piano literature with Soulima Stravinsky, chamber music with Kenneth Drake, and jazz piano with Ron Elliston. He later served as musical director for the Station Theatre at the University of Illinois. During his time there he composed music for avant-garde productions, dance, and even his own musicals. In his ‘spare’ time he also played with an R & B band. Subsequently he has seen many of his piano compositions performed to wider audiences. His choral work has also achieved greater attention and he is a solo pianist for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. In 1985 his first piano sonata was released by the Contemporary Recording Society of Philadelphia. Three years later saw the release of his second sonata. His third was written for the 20th Earth Day Celebration. His well received “Homage To Franz Schubert” was first performed at the 10th annual Chicago New Music Festival and also makes a welcome appearance on this set, sitting nicely at the end of disc one. Patrick started his musical travels in 2006 with American Scenes Volume 1. It opens with the lively “Motown”. His style encompasses contemporary jazz, and classical elements, all of which is underpinned with often complex rhythms, and ever shifting twists and turns of atmosphere. Each piece captures something of the ‘soul’, both urban and suburban, of each city visited. The ‘soul’ of “Motown”, or Detroit, is, of course, an inspirational place to begin such a journey. From here we venture off to “Kansas City” and immediately it becomes clear that each piece homes in on the individual musical DNA of each city. American Scenes is an inspirational journey not only across America but through Beckman’s own use of sound and style. In one moment it can be dynamic, passionate, energetic, and alive with jazz vibrancy. In the next there is restful easy listening. As the music moves from city to city, mood to mood, through subtle swings in tempo, style, and feel, the individuality of each becomes more defined. However, the whole somehow seamlessly sits together, wrapped within the America that binds it tightly. In 2007 Patrick Beckham recorded Volume 2 and has delivered a set that, like its predecessor, succeeds in capturing the contemporary heartbeat of each of the additional places visited. He starts in the city of “Chicago”, with “Stony Island Jump”. He then takes us on an atmospheric and exciting trip through the nightlights of clubland “New York” with “Harlem Night Wind”. From the bright lights of a city by night he takes us to the peaceful landscape that surrounds the Country music capital “Nashville”. This is beautifully portrayed in his piece “Adagio/Hoedown”. Meanwhile the absorbing and compelling composition for “Birmingham” is simply called “Shout!”. “Miami – South Beach At Dusk” brings Volume 2 to an atmospheric and memorable ending as the waves encroach on the sand and the sun finally vanishes from view. Individualistic, innovative, and inspirational American Scenes Vols 1 & 2 provides a highly polished musical experience expertly written and performed by one of the country’s leading Urban jazz pianist/composers.