The imagination of pianist Jessica Roemischer is roomy and ranging.
At the keyboard, she creates cathedrals of sound: visible, tangible, not just audible. Improvising on familiar themes — the blues, traditional melodies, folk songs, hymns — she may begin with plain-spoken melodic lines, simple chords.
She doesn’t rush; she doesn’t intimdate the listener by jumping into complexities before the music is ready for them. She takes her time. A murmuring, rumbling bass becomes more turbulent water. Blue notes make themselves felt in surprising places. Her harmonies deepen; her chords grow more dense, each sonority given its own space to echo before a new cluster tumbles in. Single-note lines give way to arpeggios, creating impressionistic washes of sound and timbre. Clouds and rippling pools emerge from treble and bass; simple lines and chords become a conversation, then an orchestra.
The listener sees something three-dimensional ascend towards the sky, its base solid, its foundation broad, its spires reaching upwards, large but never imposing. And her improvisations settle and become more quiet; then, the listener is back on the ground, enriched and delighted.
I have heard and seen this in performance: she wove together the strains of SHENANDOAH and WALTZING MATILDA, slowing down the latter to match its American cousin, making the intertwined melodies both mournfully yearning and hopeful. AMAZING GRACE moved from quiet simplicity to great cloud-rhapsodies of sound and back to an eloquent plainness.
Here is one version of AMAZING GRACE — but it is only one set of variations on a theme. Roemischer is a true improviser, bravely venturing, her vistas unrestricted, but always honoring the melody and its harmonic richness.
Roemischer has a new solo CD, called HAVEN, which mixes traditional material, Sixties pop, Bruce Springsteen, and her own lilting originals. It’s a rewarding series of journeys, inward and outward. Visit her at http://www.pianobeautiful.com.