Classical Music

Pianist and Composer Ben Raznick Has a New Compilation Album and Companion Film

Ben Raznick releases his album Birds of a Feather on October 14.
Ben Raznick releases his album Birds of a Feather on October 14. Shawn Johnson
click to enlarge Ben Raznick releases his album Birds of a Feather on October 14. - SHAWN JOHNSON
Ben Raznick releases his album Birds of a Feather on October 14.
Shawn Johnson
About a year after pianist Ben Raznick released 2016's Memory Maze, he started thinking about his next album, which would include compositions that resonated emotionally with him and helped shape him as a classical pianist.

He chose ten composers, including Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Isaac Albeniz, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin and himself, and decided to title the album Birds of a Feather.

“We're all different birds, but we all flock together,” Raznick explains. “It’s a meaningful way for me to bring a compilation album together, because it's completely different influences from different parts of the world, from different areas, but it all comes together as my flock in this group.”

Raznick says the sixteen-track album works itself forward, starting with the oldest composition, Chopin’s “Valse Op. 64, No. 2,” and continuing through the third solo piano piece in Liszt’s “Consolations,” Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” and Gershwin’s “Three Preludes.” It closes with “Barcelona Tango-Rag,” a duet with Ludovica Mosca, with whom Raznick studied while living and teaching English in Spain.

Birds of a Feather is about me being true to myself,” he adds. “This project is the culmination of the transition from releasing myself from the pressures of pursuing a safe, traditional career path and instead investing in my most honest passion.”

"For these reasons, Birds of a Feather is an intimate project that has been instrumental for myself in validating that I am a pianist, composer and professional in this industry,” Raznick says.

The album will be available for streaming on all digital platforms on October 14.

After working as a teacher in the Denver and Boulder public schools for more than a decade, in 2017 Raznick opened a studio for teaching piano so he could serve the community in a way that aligned with his strengths and his values.
To prepare for recording Birds of a Feather, he studied for two years with Tamara Goldstein, a faculty member at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music. He says that studying with Goldstein (with whom he plays the "Memory Haze Duet" on the album) drastically improved his technical skills and compositions.

The 35-year-old Raznick, who started playing piano when he was ten years old, notes that it's always been his dream to record on a Steinway and Sons piano. He finally got the chance at DU’s Hamilton Hall.

“It was one of the nicest pianos I've ever played,” he says. “The keys kind of melt into your fingers a little bit. It's just a really soft touch, like you're playing on clouds.”

Michael Schulze, who directs the audio production baccalaureate program at the Lamont School, offered to film Raznick recording the songs for Birds of a Feather.

Raznick was originally going to release the album last year, but the pandemic forced a change in plans. Instead, he used the past year to turn the video that Schulze shot into a film that works as a companion piece to the album. In it, he introduces each song by sharing stories about why he chose to include them on the album.

“The film gave me more opportunity to treat it like a new piece of artwork that was a new part of this production,” Raznick says. “I was going to take elements from my live show and put it into the film, like my chitchats with the audience and explaining my inspirations and how I came up with some of my ideas. The film also allowed me to incorporate elements that I just wouldn't have thought of, like this Zoom call with my family, which was out of the box for me. I didn't even know what Zoom was until the pandemic.”

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon