“Zia” is the debut album by Alexi Musnitsky, a young pianist born in New Mexico and currently living in Paris. Having played piano since age four with a formal background in classical training, Alexi began composing his own music when he was eighteen. Produced by Will Ackerman along with Tom Eaton and Alexi Musnitsky, and recorded at Imaginary Road studios in Vermont, the album is named after the indigenous Zia tribe of New Mexico. Cellist Eugene Friesen is featured on several of the compositions, while Tom Eaton lends subtle percussion and bass to three of the seven tracks.

“Zia” opens the album with gentle piano notes that eventually unfold into a romantic and graceful melody. “War of Love” follows next, which is perhaps my favorite piece on the album. Capturing the essence of memories and things held sacred to the heart, accompanying cello and subtle percussion lend a slightly poignant quality to this tender composition. Radiance exudes from “Sparkling Heart”; beginning in the upper register of the piano, the pace picks up about one-third of the way through the piece, expressively alternating between a hushed and hurried dynamic. “The Quest” is the album’s lengthiest piece at just over eight and a half minutes. A heartfelt composition featuring cello, bass and percussion, the melody flows like a river winding through mountains, peaceful one moment and powerful the next. A morning sunrise shines on “Light Will Lead the Way”; likewise joined by passionate cello and soft percussion, this inspirational piece instills a sense of hope and optimism. A brighter piano melody is carried on “Mile of Life”, which is contrasted by the lower solemn tone of its complementary cello. A setting sun gives way to moonlight on “Dreamcatcher”, the album’s final piece. Along with Eugene’s cello, Will Ackerman lends the soft sound of a Hopi drum to this composition, while Noah Wilding’s wordless vocals pass through towards the end like a gentle evening breeze.

Eloquently restrained and never bombastic in its approach, “Zia” offers an impressive level of musical maturity and depth for this young talent. Demonstrating a piano playing style that is fluid and supple, “Zia” is not to be missed by those who particularly enjoy elegant piano music wrapped in wholesome beauty. ~Candice Michelle

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