Uwe Gronau's "Visions" CD is an electic experience, but a worthwhile journey
Imagine a summertime late-night journey through Paris past the cafes and bars and nightclubs, alongside the statues and historical buildings and parks, through the old-town districts with the cobblestone streets, seeing a few lovers huddled together, across the Seine on an ancient bridge, the shops and markets closed, a few streetlights fighting the shadows and making puddles glisten from a recent rain, culminating in a climb to a rooftop overlooking the city to await a new day. Uber-creative German musician Uwe Gronau used a dreamlike trip through this alluring city as the inspiration for his latest album, Visions.
“Each of the 20 tunes represents a vision that came to me in the night, like a scene from a movie with specific imagery,” explains Gronau. “I composed the music at night. I often woke up with a vision. I could see pictures and I formed these pictures into music. My music studio is very close to where I sleep so I was able to immediately transpose these nighttime ideas into music.”
Gronau’s music, which ranges from mellow-beats to meditative, has been embraced by new age music lovers, but his blend of acoustic and electronic sounds also contains elements of jazz, pop, prog-rock, avant-garde, techno, trance, chill, ambient and space music. Gronau -- primarily a pianist, synthesist and organist -- makes music that eludes easy categorization as he explores a wide variety of sounds and styles, wherever his imagination carries him. His music ranges from gentle piano-based tunes to full-bodied ensemble creations sometimes featuring electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion, synthesizer and other instruments. The eclectic mix of music builds anticipation for what comes next.
Visions is available worldwide online from CDbaby.com and Amazon.com, and from various digital download locations such as iTunes. For more about Gronau, you can visit his English-language website at myspace.com/uwegronaumusic or his German-language website at uwe-gronau.de. Fans should note that Uwe Gronau’s name is pronounced ooo-vuh grow-now with the first syllable of his first name sounding like “you” without the y.
Gronau has numerous previous CDs (some primarily available in Europe). Several are mostly instrumental music -- Midsummer, Seven Paintings, Sonnentempel, Nightwalker and Intuition. Others feature Uwe singing on many selections -- Children, The Beauty of the Sea, Someday, Ciel, Time is a Sound, Full Moon Forest and Time Rider. His latest three albums -- Midsummer, Time Rider and Visions -- have been marketed internationally with Midsummer and Time Rider climbing high on the monthly international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 airplay chart.
Additionally Gronau has played on recordings by other artists including Luna Blanca, and Angelique Damschen. Gronau also is an author who wrote the acclaimed novel Senior Morales, a fantasy journey through Europe with a search for a special Spanish musical instrument. The novel led to an audio-book version with music and speaking by Gronau.
While composing and recording Visions, Gronau says, “I always had the vision of a night journey through Paris when the little cafes are closed, there is hardly any traffic, only a few young people in love are kissing under the famous bridge Pont Neuf, occasionally a light is on in front of a bar. I have been to Paris many times and I must say the town has a special character. People meet in the Montmartre district near the Sacre Coeur church, sitting on the stairs, playing guitars and singing together. I like this spontaneous action of making music with people you don’t know. Music is a language that brings people together.
“I walk a lot when I am in Paris and I always go to the Pere Lachaise cemetary because it is full of graves of all types of artists who are inspirational to me -- painters like Jacques-Louis David and Eugene Delacroix, the playwright Moliere, the German poet Heinrich Heine, the writer Oscar Wilde, the singer Edith Piaf, and, of course, the musician Frederic Chopin. Every morning there are fresh flowers on the grave of Chopin who is beloved by the French people. There is a wonderful atmosphere in Paris.”
Gronau’s Visions album contains a wide variety of music reflecting life in Paris. There is one solo piano piece -- “Open Windows” (“I was in Montmartre, a window was open and piano sounds reached my ears.”). Regarding “Under the Pont Neuf” which features a powerful synthesizer solo, he explains, “This is the oldest bridge in Paris connecting the Old Paris to the new section, so I hope my music will connect people even if they come from different generations. It is dedicated to my father.”
“Centre Pompidou” is dramatic modern music named after the famous cultural building in Paris dedicated to modern art (“I tried to musically describe the building and the atmosphere around it using ‘programme-musik’ like ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ by Mussorgsky.”). The music on the CD ranges from softer piano-based tunes such as “Summer Days” to more progressive and rocking numbers including “Ragman Talking” (“a tribute to my hero Keith Emerson”) and “Summer in the City” with its prominent drumming, to fairly ambient compositions -- the space music “Night Visions,” the soft and delicate “World in Your Arms” and the under-two-minutes “Jungle.”
“‘Children in the Park’ comes from my impressions formed while sitting on a bench watching peaceful children playing,” says Gronau. “In Paris you not only see mothers with their children, but also old ladies walking along under the big shade trees, as well as clochards, or vagrants, having a bottle of wine for breakfast, and old men in the rain. I remember sitting under a bridge near the church Notre Dame hearing a wonderful organ concert.”
Visions was produced by Gronau with Michael Hoeing and Clemens Paskert. “The cover artwork is by Jolanta Krym, who also did my last two covers. It captures a night in Paris and reminds me of Van Gogh’s ‘Le Cafe de Nuit’,” Gronau states.
Gronau was born and raised in the Rhineland in northwest Germany, and grew up in Dusseldorf and Bocholt (where he currently resides) which is only a couple of miles from the Dutch border. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s the Netherlands were more involved in the evolution of jazz, pop, rock and soul than Germany, so I profited from this situation and heard much great music.” Uwe began playing piano at age six and grew up immersed in music as the son of a choir-leader, orchestra-conductor, music-school teacher and piano instructor.
In his early years Uwe studied classical music, but soon became passionate about jazz and rock artists such as Brian Auger, Keith Emerson, Patrick Moraz and Refugee, and Joe Zawinul and Weather Report. As Gronau got older, his musical tastes expanded to include Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Gilbert ‘O Sullivan, Keith Jarrett, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Dream Theater. When Uwe was 14 he began to play in a series of bands and built a reputation in the area for his musicianship and professionalism. One thing that always set Gronau apart from many other musicians is that from the beginning and continuing to today, Gronau has always played original material and has never covered compositions by others. In college, Gronau majored in music, German and theater-science.
Gronau’s band Sternberg recorded two albums, performed concerts frequently, won a regional music contest, was broadcast on Germany’s main radio channel (WDR), and also won a film music award (for the soundtrack of “Don’t Destroy the Rainbow Above Us”) at the International Santander Film Festival in Spain. Gronau’s next group was the synth-pop trio Fabrique. They performed the music for the German science-fiction TV-series “Orion Space Patrol,” made recordings and videos, appeared on TV shows, and wrote the song “Secret Land” which became a Top 10 global hit for the singer Sandra. Gronau moved on to the funky rock band Pont Neuf and recorded an album with them before going solo.
“On Visions, everything I want to tell about Paris you will hear in my music,” explains Gronau, “but you must listen carefully because I am not a slave to cliches using typical French sounds such as an accordion or violin. I try to describe Paris in my own way. I hope listeners will fall into a meditative dreamlike state and envision their own Paris.”
More music by Uwe Gronau
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