“Orchard” is pianist/composer Alicia Bessette’s follow-up to her 2002 debut, “Reservoir.” “Orchard” contains eleven original solo piano pieces, most of which are full of longing and introspection – sometimes quiet and contemplative and sometimes fiery and passionate. A self-trained pianist from an early age and also a writer, Bessette effectively tells stories using the language of music and paints vivid pictures with the colors of sound. Her complex harmonies and intricate rhythms may make the music a little less accessible for some, but repeated listens will open up the music, revealing its secrets and inner workings.
“Orchard” begins with the quiet and beautiful “Semuhenna,” which refers to an old hiking trail in New England. Very tranquil and contented, it’s a lovely beginning. In French, “Revenant” means “returning,” but in folklore, a “revenant” is a visible ghost or a corpse who returns from the grave to terrorize the living. There is nothing dark or threatening about the music, so the title must refer to a return of some sort. Gentle and thoughtful, it’s quite an uplifting piece. “Hamadryad” refers to a nymph that lives in trees. Light and playful, this is a favorite. “Treetops” is another favorite with its dreamy mood and softly swaying rhythm. “Cliffwalk” has an energy that suggests wonder and the trill of being on the edge. “Telling (Isn’t Easy)” is a charming piece with a simple, but heartfelt melody that speaks a simple but emotional truth. I also really like the mysterious yet playful “Doorkeeper” and the way its melody evolves through a series of variations on the theme. “Hawks In the Orchard” is my favorite track. Beginning softly and peacefully, the birds must be coasting effortlessly on the wind currents. As the piece develops, the pace picks up, becoming lively and animated – almost dancelike – winding down to a slower conclusion. “I Never Left” feels like it carries the truth and honesty of a soliloquy. Passionate and expressive, it brings this fascinating album to a close.
“Orchard” was worth the six-year wait between albums, but we’ll hope Alicia Bessette’s third album will come a little sooner! Recommended!