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Bill Carrothers: Family Life

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Early in his career, Bill Carrothers earned a decent living playing quality music in the jazz mecca of New York City for five years, but didn’t like the life he was building for himself and his family and decamped for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That aspect of his biography is especially significant context for Family Life, a solo piano record suffused with a mixture of affection and genuflection toward his domesticity in the northern climes.

In many respects, Family Life is a sequel to Excelsior, a solo Carrothers piano record from 2011 reflecting on his boyhood in Minnesota. Because a tender, evocative soulfulness pervades many of his compositions, the song titles are especially helpful on both discs with orienting the imagery. Consider a four-song sequence on Family Life, where you understand the sparkle of the hard single notes emphasized amid the slow phrases on “Northern Lights,” the subtle drift between contentment and ennui on “Snowbound,” the joyfully slippery turns of phrase propelling “On the Sled” and the ominous jut-and-hover effect on “Schizophrenic Weather.”

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