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Frank Schiazza's "Solitaire" Reviewed

don't shoot Frank, he's only the piano player

don’t shoot Frank, he’s only the piano player

The difference between Frank Schiazza’s masterpiece, 2011’s Following Through, and his new album the sprawling ambitious piano based blues AOR Solitaire, is focus. In 2011, Schiazza was a laser of musical intuition and blue moves and on the current one, he let’s his attention wander to other areas of sound and the long album (over an hour) is a tangential tour of the Brooklyn based psyche.

What he means is, he asks a lot of the listener. It opens with an obtuse two songs of art rock, settles down with two pop masterpieces worthy of Joel and John, before careening wildly through seven minutes of keyboard blues weirdness.  With a different production you could imagine the track “Helen Of Troy” having escaped from Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. It seems to slowly evolve sideways into its quasi-jazz blue mood. From there there are four great songs in a row before it trips on the earnest Lionel Ritchie oversell, than steadies all the way to the dubious self help of “Prom”

Great pop thrives on consistency but great art lives on experiment and Solitaire feels experimental in the best sense. It keeps going places you don’t expect it to and as songs you could cull up quite a few kickers here but as an album you have to put too much trust in Frank to get you there.

It is only later you begin to really think about what he has achieved here. He has written, sung, played on and produced the entire album single handedly, and here, more than before, he appears to be working on a self portrait. It is like he is looking at, if not him, his way of loving at life, through a different medium, and some times it feels too self involved. Too deep in the contours of sound and thought.

The truth is the scope works against Frank’s great gift for adult love songs, jerrybuilt for r&b divas like Tamar Braxton on the one hand and pop singers like Josh Groban on the other. FRank should be a deep in his career mainstream pop song writer by this time. Somebody somewhere should be handing songs as great as “Soul Changing Love”, “Take It Where You Can”, “Movie Magic”, “One Thing Time Hasn’t Touched” to managers and agents. This is songwriting with immense passion but also immense stickiness. On Solitaire there is only piano which means they are wide open for interpretation. And it is here where Frank excels beyond belief. It is because of this ability we expect something somewhere to break big.

Solitaire is an artistic statements, but it is hit and miss. But when it hits you can’t help but believe it is just a matter of time before the world catches on.

Grade: B+

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