Artist: Peter Kater
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coverlove6Ah, love… that most powerful and universal emotion which has captivated and inspired every form of artist and musician throughout the centuries. While poets, playwrights, and songwriters have used words to express their feelings on this subject, instrumental composers like Peter Kater use music to communicate the depth and expanse of their sentiments, hoping that it will create a resonance in those that hear it. Of his new album, LOVE, pianist Peter Kater shares: “In playing the piano I am able to express what is deep in my heart and soul where words fall short and seem colorless in comparison. These are musical portraits of my heart, ripe with all the emotions, joys, complexities, excitement, pains, and revelations of the various manifestations and landscapes of LOVE.”

Peter Kater is one of the most well-known and prolific recording artists in the new age music genre, although his work has extended into other areas as well, as we’ll see. In my 30 years as a music journalist, I’ve had the opportunity and the pleasure of writing about many of his fine albums. Just in the past three years or so, I’ve written feature articles on: Heart Of Silence, Ritual, Illumination, Light Body, and Heart Of The Universe. While these have all been collaborative efforts with other artists such as R.Carlos Nakai, Snatam-Kaur, Michael Brandt DeMaria, and others, this new release, surprisingly, is his first solo album in over 10 years. Peter calls it possibly his “most personal and intimate recording to date.”

Peter Kater at the GRAMMYS

Peter Kater at the GRAMMYS

The timing for the writing of this feature article is perfect as I finally had the chance to meet Peter and hear him perform live at the ZMR Awards in New Orleans, where he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. While there is not room here to list all his numerous accolades, in his 3 decades in the music world Peter has recorded over 60 albums resulting in the sales of millions of units; has scored the music for well over 100 television and film productions; and is the recipient of dozens of awards including 10 GRAMMY Award nominations. In that time, he has worked closely with luminaries such as Robert Redford and the Sundance Film Festival, John Denver, Kenny Loggins, and many more, too numerous to mention. He’s given concerts throughout the USA, Europe, Japan and South Korea including performances at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, JFK Stadium in Washington DC, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver and the United Nations in NYC where he received the United Nations Environment Leadership Award for his work and commitment as an environmental activist. The above listing barely scratches the surface of his achievements, but provides a brief overview of his stellar career.

Which brings to Peter’s latest release, LOVE. While at times. his recording work is well planned out and charted, there are other times that are more a matter of being in the moment and going with the flow. Here Peter describes his creative process for this project: “I am fortunate to have a recording studio in my home. Almost every time I sit at the piano to play, I press the record button just in case something ‘special’ comes through. These improvisations and compositions were recorded over the last three years in ‘the heat’ of the moment.”

The album opens with the title track, which evolves through various movements and emotions, from heart-257157_640introspective to exuberant. It was interesting to read that this is the only track on the album that wasn’t written for another person, but for himself. In his words: “Isn’t it true that any healthy ‘love’ relationship begins best with a healthy love and compassion for one’s Self?” A composition entitled “Deeply” is appropriately named, as it seems to bubble up from a subterranean well of feeling into the surface of musical expression. Peter describes how love changes you and “materializes through the mist of the informed and unexpected. The feeling emerges from deep within us and at the same time seems just out of reach.” The music on this track gives graceful voice to this enigmatic state of being.

Track 4, “Intimacy” is the first of the improvisations on the album and I enjoyed listening, knowing that it was unplanned and how it captured a moment and a feeling that may never be expressed in exactly the same way again. It also radiates the elegance and soulfulness that is a hallmark of Peter Kater’s music. On track 5, the number ‘two” plays a significant role, both in the song’s title, “Two Of Us,” as well as in the fact that it is the only song Peter has ever written with just two chords. However, as he describes: “The nuances and interplay between the two chords creates a third entity… the relationship.”

art-69939_640One of my favorites of Peter’s improvisations is “Mystery.” I particularly appreciated the use of space in his playing, which added to the dreamy ambience and mystique of the piece. But I think that the song I resonated with most was “Eternal Spring.” There is something in its tender melody that speaks of blossoming and rebirth, which made me want to listen to it over and over. And as if to balance yin with yang, the next song, “Turbulence,” is an improvisation that portrays times in relationships when there is disagreement, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings. It’s about taking the time to work through and release sadness and blocked energy. As such, it’s a complex piece that is constantly morphing through various passages of music and emotion. Peter’s expression of them is both eloquent and moving. There were times that I thought I could hear hints of one of Peter’s early influences, jazz piano maestro Keith Jarrett.

Over the last three decades, Peter Kater has generated an extensive fan base around the world that eagerly awaits each new release. While his albums have ranged from ethereal synthesizer soundscapes to earthy duets with Native flute, sacred chanting, and more, I have a feeling that a lot of his following will be thrilled to hear him getting back to his roots with this solo acoustic piano album. Any musical context Peter records in is always exceptional. Yet there is a level of expressiveness in his solo piano compositions and improvisations that is particularly evocative in a way that reaches deep within the listener, bringing dormant emotions to the surface. This album is alternately light-hearted, intense, spacious, and ornate. It’s a full-spectrum musical experience that anyone who appreciates outstanding solo piano music will enjoy. I’ll bring this article to a conclusion with a play on words paraphrase of The Beatles: “ All you need is LOVE.