Chris Opperman has been delivering consistently exciting and frequently imagination-defying records for more than a decade now. The New Jersey-based composer has outdone himself and any expectations his audience may have had with The Lionheart, a 41-minute journey through the composer's diverse sensibilities and enviable musical passion.
Fans of Opperman's past work will not be disappointed, there's even a new recording of "Beware of the Random Factor" that surpasses and expands the already amazing and exhaustive version contained on 1998's Oppy Music Vol. I: Purple, Crayon. There's the opening "Haasis" which recalls his classic solo piano album Klavierstücke (2001) and "Idaho Potato Farm" which calls to mind pieces from 2004's Concepts of Non-Linear Time.
But The Lionheart remains a statement unto itself, a portrait of the artist as the man he is in 2010 and that artist is one who is careful without being contrived, patient without pretension, and gloriously in tune with his own artistic vision. Opperman is a craftsman but not in the workaday sense of the word. With each piece on this album he creates compositions in which each note has its reason, each chord its own universe and each beat represents the moment of time we know as the now. Witness the space funk of "White Willow," or the series of serenity-inducing pieces found in the record's first half––the meditative "Miles Behind," "Gen-Ebulous" (When's the last time you played air clarinet?), or the Vai-inspired "Telepathy On Mars?"––each advancing the artist's vision and our concept of him.
The real feat here is the closing piece, the 15-minute "The Porpentine," Opperman's most ambitious recorded work to date and the one that showcases something approaching the full magnitude of his vision––approaches because we can easily hear that his vision, although well formed, will doubtless continue to thrive and expand during what we can only hope is a long and fruitful career. The album itself is not a masterpiece because a masterpiece traditionally connotes a work that one delivers to end their apprenticeship and for Opperman that moment of apprenticeship ended long ago. Instead, The Lionheart demonstrates that Opperman stands equal to those many of the composers who have inspired him and that he may have even surpassed some of his mentors with this latest work.
And the praise should be all the more effusive to anyone who can create such a dense body of song that is also undeniably accessible and destined to occupy our imaginations and ears for some time to come.
2. Beware of the Random Factor
3. Miles Behind
5. Telepathy on Mars
7. Knight of Winter's Day
8. White Willow
9. Idaho Potato
10. The Porpentine