“At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree” is the debut album from pianist and composer Terry Lee Nichols. Comprised of seventeen tracks spanning just over an hour, Nichols has drawn much inspiration for this album from deeply personal experiences and events occurring throughout his lifetime. He is joined by other musicians on varying compositions, including Luis Conte on percussion, Joel Taylor on drums, Craig Sharmat on guitar and Hussein Jiffry on bass. Farzin Farhadi is the album’s producer and also lends soprano sax, while Franz Pusch is the recording’s engineer. A live string orchestra is prominently featured throughout, infusing much of the music with a sweeping and cinematic feel.

The title track sets the mood for the rest of the album with its melodic ensemble of piano, guitar and string instruments. Nichols often lends a delicate touch to his playing that is accompanied by sweeping stanzas with a sentimental flair. Several of the compositions feel distinctly seasonal in nature and I particularly enjoyed the ones that reminded me of autumn and winter. The beautiful “Timekeeper” is one such example which bears a cinematic quality that would deem it perfectly fitting in a Christmas themed fantasy movie. Its glistening textures and light bell-tones mimic that of falling snowflakes, as the hurried pace of the piano and accompanying strings feels like rushing to reach a destination. A particularly intriguing moment on the album includes the highly realistic sound of a passing train on “Train to Dachau”, which eventually comes to a stop before leading into a tender arrangement of piano and strings. The magical “A Winter’s Tale” is another favorite of mine in which a haunting piano melody moves through minor keys amidst gossamer strings and streams of light. “Last Train Home” is another traveling piece that features piano, bass, guitar and percussion. Its steady rhythm mimics that of a moving train while the overall composition bears subtle elements of smooth jazz. I’m also particularly fond of “Autumn”, which is characterized by gentle strings and a peaceful piano melody. Its added chimes sprinkled over a symphonic and tender arrangement of instruments perfectly capture the sun’s golden rays peering through a tree’s turning leaves.

Overall, I found this album to be positive and uplifting with much of its content seemingly fitting for a Hallmark Channel movie. Most of the compositions exude an emotionally tender and sentimental quality, while incorporating an overarching theme of travel, time and changing seasons. Those who are especially fond of neoclassical, contemporary instrumental and cinematic piano-ensemble music will likely find much here to appreciate. ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes, Terry Lee Nichols

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