Michael Borek: It Happened In June

Solo Franco-Austrian pianist follows the Evans-Jarrett trail, taking a diversion on three pieces into what Messiaen called mode two

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It Happened In June is a 17-track album of solo piano by the French and Austrian pianist Michael Borek. What characterises the album is the subtle blend of classical style and jazz harmony: Borek makes the piano sing with expressive and emotional melodies, yet all in the context of a freer harmonic language than one might expect.

Borek’s stylistic blend perhaps comes from the wide variety of musical influences he had growing up: the classical masters such as Bartok, Satie and Chopin, as well as the jazz players Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. Pianist Keith Jarrett also deserves a mention; his mixture of classical sensibility and harmonic freedom are integral to Borek’s musical personality.

Reading the composition notes whilst listening adds to the experience. We come to understand the meanings behind each piece and improvisation, and instead of just hearing a skilled pianist, we hear a pianist trying to communicate something; whether that be a story, a person or a style, Borek communicates emotion, and delicately so.

The album features improvisations on past compositions, such as The Seashore and Valley Of Silence, as well as new ones in improvisations in E, G, F# and C. We also have tributes in style to masters such as Bill Evans with My Story, as well as to Olivier Messiaen: Cloches Sur Le Lac, La Vallée Des Torrents and La Grotte De Cristal exclusively use Messiaen’s mode two [or, to seasoned jazz improvisers, the plain ol’ diminished scale – Ed].

Once Upon A Summertime-Whispering Your Name and Hatikva-Theme From Schindler’s List are more personal tracks, the latter being a dedication to his grandfather Lajzer Borek, who died in Sobibor extermination camp during Shoah. There are also arrangements of songs: Septembre (Quel Joli Temps) is the pianist’s first attempt to arrange a song from French chanson and he captures the waltz feel as well as the memorable main melody.

It Happened in June is a diverse album full of rich melodies and rich harmony, and an example of a pianist using his instrument as an emotional outlet and a way to stylistic creativity.

Discography
Meditation I (The Seashore); Septembre (Quel Joli Temps); Improvisation In E; My Story; Meditation II (Una Corda Song); Once Upon A Summertime-Whispering Your Name; Improvisation In G; Mediation III (Valley Of Silence); Tears (Improvisation In F#); Hatikva-Theme From Schindler’s List; Mediation IV (La Forza Del Destino); Peace Piece; Cloches Sur Le Lac; La Vallée Des Torrents; La Grotte De Cristal; It Happened in June; Eternity (75.00)
Borek (p). Austria, June 2022.
MVB Records 9825