James Rhodes' story is an unusual one. He has no formal academic musical education or dedicated mentoring. The title of the debut album "Razor Blades Little Pills and Big Pianos", hints at the suffering that dogged Rhodes's childhood and early adult life. Classical music became his solace and key to his survival. It was Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, not Faith Hope and Charity, that offered comfort.
"Razor Blades, Little Pills and Big Pianos" explores the emotive landscape that we call "life". The recording, performed at the magical Potton Hall, tucked away in a seductive Brittenesque patch of Suffolk, is somewhat of a biographical expression of Rhodes's complex and unorthodox journey.
While attending a concert by the great Russian pianist Grigori Sokolov, Rhodes's childhood idol, he introduced himself to the piano Masterclass maestro Bryce Morrison. This brief and recent meeting led to a life-changing experience. James Rhodes found in Morrison someone who would finally open the door to a cellar full of notes that desperately craved application and in so doing gave him a path that lead him out of the darkness.
That path found its way to Suffolk and Potton Hall. James Rhodes decided he was ready to bare his soul and by doing so, put many of the ghosts of the past to rest. He has a distinctive signature and for the more discerning ear, an ability to both acknowledge and translate the classics without compromising his own spirit in this incredible debut.
"Razor Blades, Little Pills and Big Pianos" promises to be an inclusive rather than elitist experience. A recording that might be for some, the music "of the dead" becomes the sound of the courageous and the fully alive.
James Rhodes' website is www.jamesrhodespianists.com
photo © Dennis Morris