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Panama Piano Album Review

Panama Piano is the 30th album from pianist/composer Louis Landon and is something of a musical documentary about a two-week road trip Louis and his partner, Christine, took through the country of Panama earlier this year (2020). I love the variety of music on this album – from bright and lively to relaxed and contemplative. Landon’s colorful jazz roots often bubble up and remind us what an amazing pianist he is. Quite a few of Landon’s recent albums have been improvisations captured by the recording process. He started putting this album together by thinking about the places that they visited and his feelings about those experiences and then improvising. Instead of compiling those improvisations into the album, this time Landon went in a different direction and composed the thirteen pieces that make up the album using the ideas and melodies that came up during the improvisations. Quite a few of the tracks are available as singles, but the full album will give a more complete experience. 

Panama Piano begins with “Pan-American Highway,” named for a 19,000 mile highway that goes from the southern tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Feelings of excitement and movement run through the piece as the adventure begins. “Playa Santa Catalina” is named for a beach town where the travelers spent a couple of nights. The piece is quite rhythmic but relaxed and you can almost feel the warm ocean breezes. “Casco Viejo” is Spanish for “Old Quarter,” and this piece is reminiscent of the music from the old dance halls of Cuba. I really like this one! “Las Lajas” describes the pleasures of a serene walk on a deserted and unspoiled beach. “Panama” is vibrant and energetic, and I think anyone who knows Landon’s music would recognize this one as his creation. Pelicans have been my favorite birds to watch for most of my life, and anyone who has had the good luck to watch these amazing creatures glide through the air and then dive for food knows what I mean. “Pelicans” was inspired by watching this happen, and is composed as a slow, graceful waltz. “Boquete” is a small town adorned with tropical flowers everywhere. The album cover features a photo Landon took of a brilliant rainbow that appeared during their stay. The piece is mostly relaxed with a gentle rocking rhythm, but a few passages boost the energy level and then settle back down. “The Lost Waterfalls” is another favorite. Landon did a great job of capturing the feeling of falling water as well as the joy of finding three large waterfalls and being able to experience them without a lot of other people around. I love “Diablo Rojo” (“Red Devil”), a wonderful jazz piece about the rogue buses of Panama City that are brightly painted and roar through the city streets with music blaring. I dare you to keep your feet still while listening to this one! “Volcan Baru” is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama. Chords and octaves in the deep bass of the piano evoke feelings of majesty and power while the melody hints at beauty and grace. We end our Panamanian excursion with a spicy chicken soup called “Sancocho.” The piece begins slowly, but it’s not long before a lively Latin jazz rhythm takes over and sends the spirits soaring. 
Panama Piano is an excellent diversion from the doldrums of 2020! Great music, joyful piano and a mix of excitement and relaxation are just what we need right now!

The album is available from www.LouisLandon.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp. 

Kathy Parsons MainlyPiano.com

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Successful Spotify Experiment

For the past four months I have been releasing singles, one every two weeks, that would ultimately end up as the Heartfelt Solo Piano album. I released ten singles, one directly through Spotify. Today, with the release of “Heartfelt Solo Piano,” I checked my new album release on Spotify through the artist portal, and everything worked out. All of the singles that I had released, showed up on the album with all of the streams intact. This is a good reason to be sure that all ISRC codes are the same when releasing an  album containing previously released singles. Before doing this, I checked with Spotify and Tunecore to see if this was something that was going to work and they both said that it would. It was great to verify that their guidance was correct.

The one thing that I did immediately was to notify Spotify that I needed to pull the one single that I distributed through them. It is not possible to isolate the one single from the album and not have it distributed by Tunecore with the rest of the album. Going directly through Spotify with one of the singles was also an experiment. I thought that by going directly through Spotify, I might get some preferential treatment playlist wise or perhaps payment wise. Unfortunately, my experience with going through Spotify was not what I had hoped for. From calculations that I made through streams and payments on Tunecore, it appeared that I was paid less through Spotify. Also, that particular track didn’t do very well stream wise. It could have been that particular piece of music and there is no way to know for sure why it didn’t do very well. In any case, I am not going to go directly through Spotify again.

I am going to wait a while before pulling the ten singles from Tunecore distribution. There is no hurry really. I already paid for the year for those singles. One thing I am not sure of is whether a single that is on a playlist will stay there once it is pulled. I don’t have any way to verify that because two of the singles that were on Spotify playlists were temporary. One was on a classical playlist that featured new music and the other was on a jazz playlist of the same kind. Both were on and then off. None of the other singles that I had released were currently on a Spotify playlist other than radio, release radar or daily mix. I am going to keep an eye on those stats to see if anything changes as I systematically pull singles.

In two weeks I will begin releasing singles for my next album, Solo Piano Space Traveler.  I will try another experiment by picking up the pace and releasing a single each week. I have no idea if this will help me in any way, but I’m sitting on an album and I don’t want to wait four months to release it. At the same time, I want to maximize the use of Spotify in promoting singles. I don’t know how long I can keep up that up. Releasing a single a week will require a little more busy work. I’ll stay in radio contact.  😉


It is also available available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora Radio

Available for downloading at iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp and CDBaby.


Recorded at the Peace Palace from November 2018 – January 2019

Music mastering: Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven Studio, Sedona, AZ
CD Layout and Design: Louis Landon
Cover design: Louis Landon
Cover, disc & back art: Louis Landon

Innocence 3:00
Sweet Honey 2:39
Yin and Yang 4:25
Sweet Sadness 4:10
Foreign Lands 4;02
Have No Fear 2:42
Epic World 3:41
Speak Your Truth 3:09
Resting in Grace 3:49
Remembering 3:18
Play 4:17
Viva 3:25
Day of Reckoning 4:35
Pure Joy- Live at Piano Haven 3:45


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Improvisation = Fun = New CD

Ever since I was a kid, I loved to make things up on the piano. I am not sure what compelled me to play music other than the music on paper that I was learning from my piano teacher. I think I liked the sounds that I could create. And I seemed to have more fun making up music than playing what someone else had written. Also, reading music did not come easy to me. It was a lot of work. Because I had a very good ear, if my teacher played the piece for me, I would pretty much remember what my teacher played, and then play the same thing. I’d kind of use the notes as a guide, but was too lazy to really figure out the rhythms and to really be able to sight read. I’m still not the greatest sight reader, but by being put in situations and having to read over the years, I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on reading music.

When I was about 9, I started taking lessons from a Russian piano teacher. She would literally hit me in the back to make me sit up straight, and she would hit my hands if I wasn’t using proper technique. I put up with that longer than I’d like to admit, but at 13, when I officially became a teenager, I told my parents that I had had it with my teacher and piano and I was going to take up guitar. After all, I was in LA and between the Beach Boys and the Beatles, guitar was in and piano was out.

With guitar it was a whole new world. Instead of taking lessons, I taught myself guitar. And it wasn’t about reading notes. It was about learning chords and learning licks. It was this learning licks that I was particularly attracted to. The pentatonic scale and the blues really intrigued me. It is was simple enough that I could hear it and play it. So I used to play every note of a B.B. King solo, or learn every Clapton and Hendrix lick. After a while, I was playing my own licks, and I loved it. Playing lead guitar and soloing was so gratifying. I played in bands and it was tons of fun. I still played some piano and I also played organ in a band or two.

In high school, it was guitar all the way. And I continued playing guitar in bands through my second year of college. Even though I was considered a very good rock and blues guitarist, I had a pivotal moment when I heard Jim Hall play some jazz at the college I was at. He was with Ron Carter, and he completely blew me away. I knew that then that I wanted to understand what he was playing. Jazz was beyond my understanding and beyond my hearing. I didn’t get it, but I knew I wanted to.

It was at this time that I quit school and went out to California. I am not sure that this move is in my official bio, but it happened. When I went out to California, one of my jobs was playing piano for dance classes. And I took some of the knowledge that I had learned on guitar, and shifted it over to piano. It was during this period that I heard the Chick Corea’s, Light as a Feather album. That was it, I knew that I wanted to play jazz piano and to play the way Chick did on that album.

I moved back to New York and then on to Boston, where I attended Berklee College of Music. Meanwhile, as a way to earn some money while I was in school, I used to play piano for dance classes at Boston University and Boston Conservatory. These were modern classes and I would improvise for hour long classes. All that I had to do was deliver a particular count or rhythm, and I could pretty much play anything. I started incorporating the jazz voicings and modes that I was learning at Berklee. I loved those classes. It made me feel pretty confident of my improvising. It was a more sophisticated version of making up my own music, the way I had done as a child. It was so much fun.

Fast forward to June of 2008. I had two solo piano CDs under my belt. My mission, which I had established in 2006, I believe, was to create a peaceful world by writing, recording, and performing music from the heart. I decided to do an Improv for Peace a day in protest against the wars in the Middle East. I would post these for free download on MySpace each day. I think it was after doing about 50 Improvs for Peace, I couldn’t handle having that pressure of a daily Improv for Peace, so I decided to keep it up when possible. That turned into about an Improv for Peace a week, and I have been able to keep that happening. At this point, I have 101 Improvs for Peace. #101 is currently available on my website. All you have to do is look for the FileDEN link where it talks about my Improvs for Peace.

After doing so many Improvs, I realized that I had to do a CD of Improvs. My good friend, and fellow Whisperings artist, Joe Bongiorno, invited me to record my new CD at Piano Haven Studios in Kenmore, WA. Joe has a beautiful studio with a wonderful piano, a seven foot Kawai RX-7. I had 1 1/2 days in August of 2008, where I would just sit down at the piano and play and record. If I made a blatant mistake, I would start recording again. Sometimes I would play something and nail it on the first take. Sometimes I would play something and it wouldn’t go in a good direction, or I make one of those blatant mistakes, and I would go back and record again. Sometimes the improvs would evolve as I would go for another take. I ended up coming away with about 15 pieces of music. I was very happy with what I had. And I was pretty amazed too. It was much better than I thought it would be.

I took that music and listened for a while. I sent some out to David Nevue, another solo pianist and friend, who started Whisperings. I asked him to be brutally honest with me about what he heard. Because David has listened to so much solo piano music, I knew that he would be a great person to run it by. And David gave me what I wanted, a critical ear. I agree much of what David said about the music. He even suggested that I go back to Joe’s studio and go for some more music. I was very resistant to that idea because of the time and the expense of flying back out to Seattle. Didn’t know when I could fit it in. So, I sat with that for a while. Then, through my publicist, Janet Hansen, I met Erik Tingstad. This was a fortuitous meeting. Knowing Erik’s work with Tingstad and Rumbel, and after hearing some of his solo work, I had a very good feeling that he could help me get the music to the next level. He also suggested that I go back and record some more music. Well, after hearing two people tell me to record some more, I knew that I had to go back. Meanwhile, Eric suggested that he “take the blade” (that’s what you literally had to do when you used to edit tape) to the Improvs and take out some of (in Eric’s words) noodling, that wasn’t up to the level of some of the other melodies and playing. For some reason I trusted Eric to do that. I knew that I was too close to it to edit it, and I trusted Eric’s musicianship. And I must say, Eric did a fantastic job. He took the music to a much higher level and pared away what wasn’t great, and even created some new music by repeating a melody here or there. And some of the new piece that I recorded at the end of January were just the additions that were needed to make it a great CD. On that same trip, I got together with Eric at his studio, All the Comforts of Home in Sammamish, WA. We hammered out the final order of songs and got it ready for mastering the following day.

I think that the music on this CD is the best music I have ever created and recorded. I am so happy with the result. Can’t wait to get the packaging together and release this. It should happen sometime in April, if I’m lucky. Want to promote it on the radio in May and June.

Peace ☮ Love ♥ & Light ☼ always and everywhere~


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