Sanctuaries - Rick Cutler

New Dude Records

Sanctuaries is a rare exotic among music breeds; a pop album of solo, instrumental piano music. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever hearing anything quite like it, although there are touch stones in Rick Cutler’s playing style and compositions. It’s not the free form experimentation of jazz and it’s doesn’t follow the prescribed forms of classical, though Cutler readily cites everyone from Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles and Chopin to Beethoven as influences. But, what makes this gem rarer still is that the performer/composer does not even consider himself a pianist, but a drummer who happens to play the piano. The back story in the disc’s liner notes, (Remember those? Or, should I ask, “Do you remember compact discs?”), explains the process of construction and, eventually, deconstruction Cutler embarked on to discover the answer to the question which brought him to the recording of Sanctuaries in the first place, “What, if anything, in my musical expression, could be considered uniquely my own?” A solo piano album of pop instrumentals by a drummer couldn’t have been the first answer that came to mind, but it certainly meets the challenge. And, Cutler does himself a pretty piece of self-deprecation by playing down his keyboard playing prowess. His touch is heartfelt and rhythmic as one might expect from a time keeper. There’s an air of Southern Gospel that slips into each new chord with the twang of Bruce Hornsby or early Elton John. In the finest tradition of pop sensibility, the 20 tunes that comprise Sanctuaries are rife with hooks and coherent flow, devoid of unnecessary distraction or ornamentation. Cutler explains, “The title of Sanctuaries came to mind when noticing that, after listening to some of these pieces, I felt myself in a bit more of a peaceful place than before the music started.” In this regard, the album achieves far more than the answer to his original question. That sense of sanctuary his music produces is not his alone. I suspect it’s universal.