On his latest release, Soul Rekindled, pianist/composer Richard Carr provides a musical glimpse into his spiritual journey after Hurricane Katrina. The story is told in a language he speaks fluently – solo piano. Although he now lives in St. Louis, Richard lived in New Orleans for 10 years and worked as a performer in the clubs, hotel’s, and restaurants in the French Quarter, prior to and at the time of hurricane, when 4 to 5 feet of murky water flooded his street in the Bayou St. John area. Since then he has picked up the pieces and gone on to do some amazing work in his chosen field. Having earned Bachelor’s degree in Music as well as doing graduate study in Music Composition, Richard now spends part of his time educating others as an Artist In Residence of the Midwest Music Conservatory where he has over 25 private piano and composition students. This is in addition recording and releasing 14 albums since 1997.
But it was another of Richard’s undertakings that I found quite intriguing – his “Year of Music” project. The first one began on May 1, 2011 and ended on April 30, 2012. In that time Richard posted a new piece of music every day for the entire year! Amazingly, this was offered as a free subscription. The project was such a success, that he decided to do it again. The second round began on September 1, 2012, and runs through August 30, 2013. Listeners can find a free subscription form on his website and after signing up, will receive a link to the day’s tune every morning. “Year of Music” compositions from past months can be heard on Richard Carr’s Soundcloud page.
While creating a new piece of music every day sounds like a daunting task, spontaneity plays a big part. In Richard’s words, “My creative process literally takes place in the studio or at the keyboard. In other words, I can create a new song or melody at almost any time. 95% of the original cuts on my albums are first time creations. They come out as whole pieces … no edits. The other 5% are re-creations of an original idea that I really like.” Alignment with his inner being is also part of the equation. He goes on to say: “My music is directly connected to my soul & heart. Wherever I am at in my life, emotionally and mentally, has a direct effect of the resulting music. Since I have been blessed with an extraordinary life, the music is usually fresh with my current state of existence.” He also brings all these elements into play in another unique service he offers to individuals. As Richard explains: “An “I AM Creative Session” is a one-on-one session creating music with combined focused energy of the person and myself with a specific intention or purpose in mind. I sometimes call it a soundtrack for an aspect of one’s life. The music is created and recorded in real time. The person requesting the session receives a copy of the music (usually 21-24 minutes in length) for them to use whenever they want to focus on that particular intention.” While Richard sees himself primarily as a performer and composer, his personal work with others has benefits for himself as well as for the person he is working with. From his perspective: “Teaching is not playing. Yet, it has energized my performing in ways I cannot explain.”
Richard’s album “Soul Rekindled” has an interesting subtitle: “music to get lost in.” And after listening to it, I can attest that is easy to do. As mentioned before, there is a spontaneous energy to Richard’s playing. It doesn’t have the structured compositional feel of classical music, for example, but has a wonderful sense of flow and emotional expression. The first track entitled “NEW Beginning,” brims with positive energy and a feeling of moving forward with enthusiasm. Its life-affirming quality not only marks the beginning of the album, but of a new chapter for Richard after the devastation of Katrina. This idea is carried over with the next track, appropriately called, “Embracing Change.” The theme of change is present in the music as well, which starts off pensively, yet picks up momentum as it goes along, dropping briefly into a quieter interlude.
Part of moving on in life is learning to forgive, and this thought is reflected in a track called “Forgiveness.” This was one of my favorite tracks and I especially appreciated its heartfelt softness and gentle nature, as well as the way Richard made use of space, sometimes allowing his notes to linger in the air at the end of a phrase. A similar feeling and dynamic is found on a lovely lilting piece entitled “Fond Memories.” Another favorite of mine is the spacious and emotionally evocative “Reflections ON THE PATH.” As I listened to that music and looked at the album cover art, they seemed to express each other perfectly. I was impressed with Richard’s stylistic range and his ability to tell a story in sound. Also inspirational are the thoughts and words of advice he shares with his students, and which make for a motivational conclusion to this article: “Always keep yourself in a place where your creative spirit can grow and thrive. Always continue to move forward…don’t allow yourself to get into a rut. Give yourself permission to fail. Learn from the mistakes and move forward. Don’t let someone else’s beliefs pressure you into abandoning anything that feeds your soul. Always be true to yourself!”