Starr Parodi is a Steinway concert and recording artist who has performed and recorded with a number of artists spanning many musical genres, including having been a regularly highlighted performer on The Arsenio Hall show. Comprised of eleven improvisational solo piano compositions, “The Heart of Frida” was inspired by none other than Frida Kahlo, a Mexican folk painter who transformed her suffering into transcendental art. Recorded on a 1928 Steinway grand piano that once found its way onto the MGM scoring stage, the iconic instrument likewise boasts an impressive resume of its own, including having been the piano on which The Wizard of Oz was recorded. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that Starr seems to have awakened an old soul housed within this musical treasure box, thereby channeling the essence of a timeless and cultural legacy that spans several decades.

The album’s title track, “The Heart of Frida”, immediately imparts a haunting nostalgia like that of an old film. Emitting a beautiful resonance throughout, there’s an inherently raw nature to the sound of Starr’s piano and the melodies projected, which are often accentuated by neoclassical, minimalist and chamber-jazz elements. Her take on the Prince classic, “When Doves Cry”, is imbued with such elegance and creative improvisation, as the melody of this iconic piece echoes throughout the halls of what feels like a vast chamber in conjunction with a colorfully pulsating pattern throughout. Of the beautifully mysterious “Hardly Touching”, Starr explains that this piece is about artistic inspiration coming from another plane. Not only does such a thing seem to occur here and elsewhere on the album, but I particularly love how the higher register notes dance about gracefully among the underlying vastness of the lower register notes. Another iconic song that Starr has masterfully interpreted here is “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues, which begins with the familiar pulsating pattern that often revisits the album. It’s almost easy to forget that this piece was indeed recorded solely on acoustic piano, as Starr skillfully reshapes the composition and makes it truly her own. I’m also particularly fond of the closing piece, “Hope”, which ebbs and flows with unpredictable continuity and captivating allure.

One thing I especially admired about this recording was that Starr chose to capture her creative and emotionally-charged processes as they unfolded in real time, as opposed to aiming for an obviously rehearsed sound that was overly perfected. Her enthralling melodies shift from bold and glittering to quietly subdued – often employing a serious tone that is soothing yet never saccharine. The uniquely unpredictable chord progressions and remarkably creative transitions are an enthusiastically appreciated and defining characteristic of her style, as she effectively transports the listener to someplace exotic and seemingly set within a decades-old era. “The Heart of Frida” easily sits among the most gorgeous solo piano recordings to recently cross my path, and is a particularly essential album for fans of the genre! ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes, Starr Parodi

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