Gary Motley, piano
Recorded and mastered by G-Stream Media
Executive Producer: Gary Motley Music, Inc.
Graphic design: G-Stream Media
© 2020 G-Stream Media
by Veronica Motley, EdD
In contrast to the hard swing and bop which have come to define his career, Tone Poems, finds Gary Motley creating a musical painting of harmonic richness on a blank canvas. This solo project pays homage to the pianist’s flagship recording Peaceful Moments, released twenty-five years ago. Amid the backdrop of political, social, and racial unrest, each of Motley’s twelve compositions brings an introspective sensibility, offering what one listener describes as “tone therapy.” Perhaps no tunes convey this dichotomy more than the reflective “Sojourner’s Truth” against the calmly chaotic “Conundrum.” “Mandla” which means “strength” in Yoruba contrasts the style of the previous tunes with its underlying driving pulse which, even in the absence of drums, hearkens to Afrobeat rhythm. “Ambivalence” evokes uncertainty with its rolling chords and halting melody while “Morning” and “Mist” are more optimistic and reminiscent of the refined elegance Motley introduced to us over 25 years ago. As the title suggests, “Contemplation” is meditative, heartfelt, and delicate and best represents the overall musical style and tone of the project. It’s probably no surprise that Motley found the final song, “Breathe”, among the most challenging. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Motley envisions the title as symbolic of life and death. He describes the composition as the one in which he felt the most exposed. “It forced me to be really honest.” Motley makes use of lingering, long bell tones and silence, symbolic of cries echoing into space. The introduction of muted tones and half pedaling pushes the listener to the edge of comfort before the musical tension is finally released. Thankfully tension resolves at the end and the composition does, in fact, breathe. “I hope that this project provides an opportunity for all of us to do just that.”