December 1, 2023

With so many solo marimba recordings at our disposal, it is rare when a collection stands out from the rest. Brian Zator has accomplished such a task with this assembly of works that are varied, appealing, and expertly performed. There are several works by Minoru Miki on this CD (stemming from Zator’s time in study with the composer), but Zator has also highlighted several other pieces that deserve to hold equal billing on this compilation. While all the works contain appeal, the two Japanese Koto transcriptions by Minoru Miki, “ The Young Sprout” and “ Skylark,” stand out from the rest. Zator performs each with tenderness and sensitivity and expertly captures the beauty of the Japanese Koto as he recasts the music across the marimba bars. Zator’s wonderful interpretation of the pieces makes it hard not to get drawn in to the gravitational pull of the musical language. Also on this disc is “ Time for Marimba” by Miki. This staple of our genre is presented with Zator’s interpretation, which reflects his extensive study with Minoru Miki, as well as his continued scholarship into the piece. Zator includes other works with which he has a unique connection, including “ 9 Peanuts” by Anders Koppel. Zator performed the United States premiere of this work and communicates his command and ownership of the musical trajectory very clearly on the recording. Zator’s aptitude on the marimba truly shines in the more advanced pieces like “ Run!” by Howard Hersh and “ Fantasie in A” by Dwayne Rice. In addition to works with intricate runs and flurries of notes, listeners will appreciate the patient melodic and harmonic unpacking of “ Fernando’s Waltz” by Paul Smadback and “ As She Sleeps, She Dreams” by Jonathan Ovalle. All of the selections on this collection are intricate and captivating. The recordings make it obvious that the music is technically challenging, which lends well to Zator’s style of methodical, precise preparation. Kudos to Brian Zator on this wonderful assortment of works recorded for all of us to enjoy.

Joshua D. Smith
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