Devotees of the piano are often spoiled for choice recently, but so often it is the fingers that do the proverbial talking and not the musicianship that ought to reflect the heart of the instrumentalist. Happily this is not so with Diane Roblin. Not only did Miss Roblin remind us of this when she returned to recording in 2014 after a break of some years, but she has given us a powerful reminder of her gifts – both as composer and instrumentalist – once again, on Life Force. The title also aligns poignantly with her dynamism in both aspects of her musicianship on this repertoire as she reaches a level that few performers have attained on the instrument.
Perhaps just as significantly, virtuosity is not so much the music’s aim as expressivity is and Miss Roblin plays with uncommon brilliance throughout, whether she is playing the Fender Rhodes (with plangent radiance) or the wonderfully-tuned concert grand which is vividly captured both By Jeremy Darby and (especially) by Bernardo Francisco Cisternas during Miss Roblin’s elegant and powerful duets with the bassist George Koller. The bassist’s contributions on “Modal Moods”, “Bela” and “Snowy Day Reprise” are carefully shaped, whether he is playing pizzicato or arco (his strong suit, it would appear). “Bela” is an exceptional piece and appears to be written in the brooding style of the noted Hungarian composer, beloved by scores of modern musicians including Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus.
All of the musicians give fine accounts of themselves throughout including drummer Ben Riley, whose rhythmic chatter enhances each melody. Kevin Turcotte plays with full-blooded warmth, Bruce Cassidy brings a mystical element with his electronics and Jeff LaRochelle is superb especially on bass clarinet, an instrument that is diabolically difficult to master. It’s not hard to be challenged to excel with music such as Miss Roblin’s. The creative complexity of the songs and Miss Roblin’s own dynamism is impetus enough to push each of the musicians to the limit and each of them respond with exquisite, idiomatic playing throughout this repertoire.
Meanwhile Miss Roblin is spellbinding as she dives headlong into the music. She plays plenty of insight and feeling without a hint of over-indulgence, She strikes a compelling balance between Romantic volatility and demure elegance. Each pianistic phrase feels carefully considered, yet part of a bigger, cumulative picture which is summed up in the dynamic energy of the music, which when heard in its entirety, embodies in song and spirit, what Miss Roblin refers to as being a Life Force.
Track list – 1: Back on Track; 2: Snowy Day; 3: Suspend Yourself; 4: Modal Moods; 5: Feeling Good; 6: Ballad in 3/4; 7: Bela; 8: Snowy Day (Reprise)
Personnel – Diane Roblin: grand piano and Fender Rhodes; George Koller: contrabass and electric bass; Ben Riley: drums; Kevin Turcotte: trumpet and flugelhorn; Bruce Cassidy: electric valve instrument; Jeff LaRochelle: tenor saxophone and bass clarinet
Released – 2019
Label – Independent
Runtime – 40:51