This is Sten’s first solo recording involving only piano, and the resulting music is very much in the serious classical vein with a strikingly individual approach.
According to Louis Goldstein, “…the opening gestures of Solid Musik are stunning, and more stunning yet is Sten Sandell’s ability to maintain the level of invention, interest, and intrigue throughout the entire collection of pieces. Part of the explanation must lie in the rare combination of talents in Sten’s possession. The listener is able to take in both the pianist for whom technical limitations are seemingly not an issue, and a composer whose vision is complex, various, and bold. To have both arms of the musical art, the invention and the execution, maintained at such a high level by the same mind and spirit, leaves the listener embraced and comforted.”
In Fanfare magazine, Art Lange says, “Contemporary improvising pianists work in and with many different styles; the forms they create are spontaneous, fluid, and independently generated. Differences between them can be wide-ranging and utterly distinctive—with every detail of pitch, duration, rhythm, tempo, phrasing, tone a product of the performer’s compositional awareness and musical perspective. Sten Sandell, from Sweden, is a versatile player who over past three decades has worked with most of the Continent’s best improvisers, but has a special reputation as a solo performer. Solid Musik is his first such release on an American label, and reveals a pianist with a sensitive touch, varied technique, and—most importantly—a thoughtful, balanced, imaginative, highly lyrical manner of improvisation…Sandell’s harmonic syntax is basically chromatic, with an implicit tonal gravity; his rhythms alternate between static and propulsive. He has a keen sense of line and shrewdly knows how to build tension and how to dissipate it. All of these things combine to make Solid Musik one of the most impressive piano recordings I have heard in a long time.”
According to Bill Meyer in Signal to Noise magazine, “Each (piece) unfolds unpredictably confidently, guided by an aesthetic that owes as much to 20th century composition as to jazz. Sandell plays with impressive restraint, keeping the strong left hand action…so that the sparse but well-defined lines he traces with his right stand out in sharp relief. Don’t get the idea that this is some sort of weak-kneed, cloudy impressionism; like the title says, Sandell’s music is solid, grounded, quite comfortable with itself. And I haven’t heard a better piano record all year.”
This release features an 8-page booklet with liner notes from noted John Cage/Morton Feldman interpreter Louis Goldstein, and mysterious cover photography from Machu Picchu by Martin Chambi.