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Rick Cutler: Press

Composer/performer Rick Cutler provides an excellent collection of thoughtful originals on solo piano on (1). The diverse program of eighteen pieces displays a purity of expression, with selections that emphasize mood, melody, and interesting rhythmic patterns and grooves. Cutler’s own description of his previous solo piano recording “Sanctuaries” (2005) as “meditative” and “New Age with a Jazz edge,” would apply very well to this current release. Among the varied selections are three “Alien Landscape” pieces which depict stark panoramas, and top-flight melodies such as “Who Needs Words” and “Thank you (for McCoy Tyner),” the latter being one of the finest jazz ballads I have heard in recent years. Currently touring as a drummer for Liza Minnelli, the New York-based Cutler has also served as musical director and keyboardist for tap dancer Gregory Hines, has composed music for numerous film, radio, and TV themes, and has performed or recorded with a wide range of artists including Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Leonard Bernstein, Billy Eckstine, Gloria Gaynor, Rodney Dangerfield, Regis Philbin, and Charles Aznavour. Cutler’s rich musical background undoubtedly contributes to an interesting and eclectic quality in his music, leading to music of great depth which should appeal to jazz, classical, and general listeners.
©Cadence Magazine 2011
This solo piano music sounds a bit different than most others because Rick brings forth all of his varied influences. One tune may be soft and reflective in the best new age tradition, but the next might subtly show his jazz influences. This is a sophisticated, yet warm and intimate, piano recording.
5 out of 5 Stars!!
Solo piano music is a strange beast these days. Most of it gets airplay and coverage in the new age music world because it fits there better than most places and so many pianists have had sales success in that community starting way back when with George Winston. There are a few classical pianists who play solo, but no one pays much attention whether they play traditional repertoire like Chopin or write their own material and get lumped into the contemporary-classical or neo-classical genre. And finally there is a very small handful who work in the jazz field like Keith Jarrett, but no one knows whether to call them modern-mainstream-jazz, avant-garde or contemporary-jazz. It is all so confusing.
This brings us to the matter at hand, the second solo piano recording by Rick Cutler. A case could be made for placing this CD in either the new age or neo-classical music bins, but truly this New York City keyboardist most closely resembles the solo piano music of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea in the early Seventies era, although those two tended to improvise their material into longer tunes, whereas Cutler's longest piece is 5:06 (and he has two under two minutes and five under three). But the way the tunes are structured and evolve has a definite feeling of Jarrett and Corea when they were not playing fusion with Miles Davis or Return to Forever in those days. However, Jarrett's playing was a little more flowing and had more air in it than Cutler, who is a bit more rhythmic (probably due to the fact that he also is an in-demand session and touring drummer). Cutler's background materials cite both Jarrett and Corea (and the entire Miles camp) as major influences. Plus Cutler studied under Corea and also had his own fusion band (Exit) in the Seventies (and they loaned out their rehearsal space to Return to Forever for awhile).
Although Cutler's bio says he does transcendental meditation, he seems to have less new age music ties than he does a jazz background. For example, Cutler has played behind lots of top jazz artists such as including Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Harry Connick Jr., Billy Eckstine, Michael Franks, Larry Coryell, Noel Pointer and Jon Lucien. Cutler's album is strangely titled First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch (if you get up and stretch in the middle of the night, do you lose your blues?). On it he dedicates several tunes to jazzsters -- "Thank You (For McCoy Tyner)," "Song for Noel" (Rick toured with Pointer for six years) and "Noise (For Tony Williams)." In addition, Cutler studied classical percussion and piano at the top-flight Juilliard School of Music, and on this CD he also does an original number titled "Debussy" as a tip-of-the-hat to that classical composer.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Cutler also has toured extensively with singer and tap-dance legend Gregory Hines and traditional songbird Liza Minnelli which put Rick in front of audiences all over the world. This must have helped shape his songwriting and performing sensibilities. But the closest to his sound would be if you sat Chick Corea down at a grand piano with a timer and said, "give me a three-and-a-half-minute improvisation." But let's face it, that is not bad company to keep. If you are going to listen to solo piano, why not try what Rick Cutler has to offer -- a solid rhythm, a melodic structure, interesting improvisations and jazz overtones.
His rich creative vein is put out in the open on this CD.
The Tango Reporter
Here’s an intriguing solo disc by a pianist I’m not familiar with, but who has a touch I want to hear more from. This disc is a collection of originals, and the hour’s worth of material is a mix of sounds that hint at Debussy, Bill Evans, Chopin, Jarrett, yet with an individual breath all his own. Like the title suggests, the mood is mostly melancholy, contemplative and pensive, but the melodies, like “Thank You (For McCoy Tyner)” have a depth and richness that keeps you tuned in. More embracing than George Winston, and less jarring than Andrew Hill, the music is a thoughtful balm. Check it out.
George W. Harris -
Sanctuaries is a rare exotic among music breeds; a pop album of solo, instrumental piano music. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever hearing anything quite like it, although there are touch stones in Rick Cutler’s playing style and compositions. It’s not the free form experimentation of jazz and it’s doesn’t follow the prescribed forms of classical, though Cutler readily cites everyone from Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles and Chopin to Beethoven as influences. But, what makes this gem rarer still is that the performer/composer does not even consider himself a pianist, but a drummer who happens to play the piano. The back story in the disc’s liner notes, (Remember those? Or, should I ask, “Do you remember compact discs?”), explains the process of construction and, eventually, deconstruction Cutler embarked on to discover the answer to the question which brought him to the recording of Sanctuaries in the first place, “What, if anything, in my musical expression, could be considered uniquely my own?” A solo piano album of pop instrumentals by a drummer couldn’t have been the first answer that came to mind, but it certainly meets the challenge. And, Cutler does himself a pretty piece of self-deprecation by playing down his keyboard playing prowess. His touch is heartfelt and rhythmic as one might expect from a time keeper. There’s an air of Southern Gospel that slips into each new chord with the twang of Bruce Hornsby or early Elton John. In the finest tradition of pop sensibility, the 20 tunes that comprise Sanctuaries are rife with hooks and coherent flow, devoid of unnecessary distraction or ornamentation. Cutler explains, “The title of Sanctuaries came to mind when noticing that, after listening to some of these pieces, I felt myself in a bit more of a peaceful place than before the music started.” In this regard, the album achieves far more than the answer to his original question. That sense of sanctuary his music produces is not his alone. I suspect it’s universal.
Cal Koat - World Beat Canada
First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch (New Dude Records) is the flawless, meditative album by Rick Cutler.
Talented composer and musician Cutler weaves together for music lovers a beautiful jazz piano album that showcases his innate ability to capture listeners’ emotions. Each original song on First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch was recorded solo without interruption, definitive proof Cutler is a musician who knows exactly what he’s doing and how to execute an enchanting new age album.
The meditative soundtrack First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch features 18 original compositions by Cutler. All songs are calming and laid-back, the perfect complement for a stretch of relaxation or quiet night in.
“Gentle Nightmares” is a dream-like track that highlights Cutler’s exceptional finger work with its gentle-yet-dizzying melody, indicative that he knows how to mix style with emotion. “From Then Till Now” is another track with engaging and unique key work, and highlights Cutler’s ability to lead his listeners in a variety of directions within one neat and tidy song.
Perhaps one of the most unique features of the album is the song trilogy “Alien Landscapes” parts 1, 2, and 3. These three songs are haunting, as listeners can close their eyes and picture the eerie wind blowing across the earth.
If pressed to choose a favorite song from the album, “Who Needs Words” would be it. This is a beautiful song fitting for all those moment where no words are necessary, whether alone or with someone special.
Cutler’s talent for emitting emotions and thoughts through his precise key work is demonstrated through out the entire album. First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch is an extraordinary piano instrumental album that will surely enchant all listeners, from music experts to the casual new age appreciator looking for a period of inner reflection. I believe this album was created entirely with its listeners’ moods in mind, and as such is a musical success.
Circles Of
First Melancholy, Then The Night Stretch is the second solo album from pianist/drummer/composer Rick Cutler, and if you enjoy piano music with a strong jazz flavor, you will enjoy this album.
Cutler is an extremely versatile musician with a vast and diverse background that includes classical studies at Juilliard; studies with Chick Corea; touring with a variety of artists incuding Gregory Hines, Gloria Gaynor, and Liza Minelli; performances in Broadway productions of Hair and The Wiz; and composing for television. With such a rich history, it is no wonder that his original music goes in so many directions.
Despite the diversity of the eighteen piano solos, this album holds together seamlessly and never ceases to amaze. The piano sound is flawless - clear without being brittle or too bright, warm, and a rewarding listening experience for many, many returns. While he is a musician that plays jazz, this isn’t just a jazz album, and I think most pianists will go into this album knowing and accepting this, since it’s about the power of the musician and the instrument chosen, not the style of music (s)he performs. It’s a stand-out album, and definitely worth picking up. With 18 songs (all Cutler originals), there’s enough to feast on for a long time.
Cutler draws the listener in with captivating hooks, sometimes giving you what you expect but other times taking you in unexpected directions. He always leaves you musically satisfied. The compositions, which include tips of the hat to such classical and jazz influences as Debussy and McCoy Tyner, are subtle and understated.
Lisa McSherry -
WOW! AT LAST. A decent solo piano CD. I love this. Good melodic content, rich harmonic background. This is really excellent.
Music Of The 21st Century - WXXI-Rochester, NY (Aug 6, 2013)
Set for release on Feb. 10th, his son’s birthday, Rick Cutler’s album “Daydreams (Probably)” produced on his own label New Dude Records delivers almost an hour of aural massage with 21 tracks of mostly instrumental, principally keyboard jazz contemplation.

The sound experience is an easy stroll with a master musician, the reward for decades of intense collaboration with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Steve Van Zandt, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Aznavour, Gloria Gaynor, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman, Donna Summer, Liza Minnelli and Gregory Hines.

“I don’t consider myself famous,” Cutler said with sincerity, shifting focus to the headliners. “But working with Gregory [Hines] was the best job as a side man I’ve ever had. He was the best boss, period. He created a family atmosphere and created a lot of love around him.”

Cutler worked as music director and keyboardist for the touring tap dance phenom for 18 years until 2003 when Hines died of cancer. “We’ll sometimes get together and have a meal with that band. We call it ‘the family,’” Cutler reminisced. “It was thanks to his love for the people he liked that it became so.”

Part of that beloved family is Branice McKenzie who sings Stevie Wonder’s “Black Orchid” on Cutler’s album, one of three fresh covers in a warm pool of originals. The feel is present and personal, delivering the narrative with phrasing that builds touchingly toward a peaceful resolve.

The pianist/drummer romances his actual family with similar fervor. “We have pretty much the best relationship you could possibly want with a father and daughter,” he raved about stepdaughter Charlotte Durkee, 21, who sings on the album. “I met her when she was seven. Since then, anything I lay on her she’s ready and willing to accept. She’s an open vessel for learning. She’s one of the most talented people you ever want to meet.”

While Durkee makes her recording debut on “Daydreams (Probably)” with a polished and compelling performance of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time,” she’s no novice in the realm of performance. A junior in Drama at the New School, she has already appeared in an episode of “Law and Order” and goes on high-profile auditions as she makes her way toward graduation and develops alternative skills in tech and design.

The album comes with some surprises. Lending emotional texture to the its honeyed expressions, Cutler’s own “Opposites Distract” folds an eerie tension into an otherwise mellow Latin groove.

“Daydreams (Probably)” is a fitting name for the title track given its attribution to Alfred Hitchcock. Drawing the listener into a suspenseful place, the song pulses with elements of fantasy. The master of psycho-thriller films was said to have responded this way when asked how he came up with ideas for his movies.

“Sanctuary” is Cutler’s intended electronic homage to the style of Miles Davis in the 1960s and early ‘70s. On this tune by legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Cutler demonstrates his multi-instrumental skills and technical prowess using delays and a ring modulator along with keyboards, then peppers the otherworldly sonic landscape with soprano saxophone and drums.
Roxane Assaf - Huffington Post (Feb 10, 2017)
Rick Cutler’s musical history is truly impressive. For 18 years, he was a musical director and keyboardist for Gregory Hines, and he worked in Broadway shows such as “The Wiz” and “Hair”. Now he’s set to release his new album “Daydreams (Probably)” February 10th of this year. While you’re waiting for the release, let’s talk about this album.

“Amuse Bouche” is a 24 second mysterious intro that consists of cymbals. The soft and beautifully played piano in “Overalls” is soothing, but also quite brief. The unique combination of percussion and keys make “The Tall Road” an amazing song to listen to.

“Black Orchid” is romantic and would be perfect for date night. “When I Found You Again” treats us to an amazing piano performance by Cutler. This song is just as relaxing as the previous tracks. “Amuse Bouche 3” brings us a faster paced drum solo. “Daydreams (Probably)” has a sweet and peaceful melody. “Walking Meditation” is the perfect song to help you relax.

“Amuse Bouche 4” has a drum beat that fluctuates between a soft and slow beat to a slightly rapid rhythm. “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” is sung by Cutler’s daughter, Charlotte Durkee and is beautifully upbeat. The piano and the soft tapping of the cymbals give “Opposites Distract” a whimsical sound. “Amuse Bouche 5” is completely identical to “Amuse Bouche”.

“Sanctuary” sounds like the special effects you’d hear in sci-fi films mixed in with smooth jazz. “We Apologize for The Apology” is an upbeat track with energetic cymbals and piano. The slow and deep sound sounds of the piano in “Back & Forth Forever” give this track a somber sound. We hear a drum and cymbal duet in “Amuse Bouche 2” and “Amuse Bouche 6”, as opposed to the drum solo on earlier tracks.

The piano and percussion duet makes “A.D., Betty & Joe” an exciting song to listen to. “The Glue in The Cell” has a mysterious melody to it. “Hymn #3” reminds me of hymns one might sing in church and “Purple People” is energetic and will make you want to dance.
Lauren Beverley - The Rogers Review (Feb 10, 2017)
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