David Mahler is not the kind of musician interested in belonging to an elite or appearing as an icon, preferring to mix with regular people – specifically, within neighbourhoods and local communities where he teaches, plays, sings and organizes joyful events such as assemblies of amateur instrumentalists and children choirs. In fact, singing is the fundamental nucleus around which this man’s vision revolves, and a recurrent element amidst other important qualities: unfussiness, virtuosity and sentiment, all amalgamated in a brilliant artistic individuality. This collection presents a wide panoramic view on Mahler’s talents, articulated through different kinds of score masterfully executed on piano by Nurit Tilles (who shares with him a passion for ragtime) and – when applicable – sung by the composer, alone or with his wife Julie Hanify and the pianist herself. The four versions of the (unfortunately) short “Chorale” interspersing the 37-minute cycle “”Day Creek Piano Works and The Teams Are Waiting In The Fields” are alone worth of owning the record: as a charming vocal counterpoint as you could wish for.
I’ve always been inclined to defining recordings that cause evocative reflection as “afternoon music”. Several pieces here elicit that feeling: the initial “An Alder. A Catfish” and the magnificent “Frank Sinatra In Buffalo” stand out in that sense. Chords that call to mind summer scents, solitary walks, revealed secrets, the sorrow linked to an unsympathetic object of love. Then there is the mathematic aspect expressed by selections like “Cascades”, for sure the most reiteratively dissonant segment in the program, presumably requiring extraordinary concentration (not a problem for a performer of Tilles’ calibre), and “IV. Three Against Two” that made this writer think “Charlemagne Palestine”, if only for a few instants. The conclusive and utterly splendid title track represents the ultimate synthesis of the above mentioned themes, combining minimalist tendencies and sober melancholy over the course of almost sixteen minutes. As the time elapses, one thinks that Mahler is a wonderful person. A man who just gives, seemingly wanting nothing in exchange. That’s possibly the reason behind the still insufficient recognition of his opus, which is a veritable shame. Right now I’d pick Only Music Can Save Me Now in a sizeable quantity of celebrated contemporary releases lacking the same modest luminosity, intelligence and warmth. The record’s name alone should be everyone’s dogma.