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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chris Nemec – Simply Delicious

Chris Nemec – Simply Delicious
2004, Chris Nemec
Chris Nemec has virtually done it all musically.  Since making his professional debut at the age of 13, Nemec has performed with conductors such as Robert Shaw, Sir Neville Marriner, Andre Previn and Charles Dutoit.  He has won awards as a choir leader and has performed at Carnegie Hall on seven occasions.  The University of Memphis graduate has furthered his studies at Westminster Choir College, Southern Methodist University and the University of Memphis.  Nemec has arranged for Swedish saxophonist Anders Paulsson and was asked to score the documentary of NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia and its ill-fated entry on February 1, 2003.  Nemec performs several one man shows throughout the Southeast when not serving as the Director of Children’s & Youth Music Ministries at Midtown Memphis’ Lindenwood Christian Church or teaching organ, piano and voice at Lindenwood Studio.  In his spare time Nemec has cut four albums of standards.  The first of these, Simply Delicious, takes a look at seventeen great songs through the eyes of a piano man. 
Simply Delicious starts out with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind”, keeping the reverent reverie of the original intact while adding a dash of smarmy good humor.  Nemec infuses the song with a vibrant energy that makes for a very enjoyable listen.  George & Ira Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” is played like a memory rather than in the moment, a sweet rendition that takes a step back toward what might have been the original intent of the Gershwins.  “Manhattan” is sophisticated and buoyant all at once, having a playful energy that won’t quite let you forget its refined side.  “Over The Rainbow” is given a solid read, although Nemec’s interpretation seems a bit reserved at times.  Nemec explores three songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera on Simply Delicious.  The first is “Think Of Me”, where Nemec shows off tremendous phrasing as he captures the sweetness of the song with minimal embellishment.
“The Last Time I Felt Like This” (Johnny Mathis) is wonderfully crafted, with Nemec digging into the tune almost as if he’d written it himself.  “The Sound Of Music” is predictable; well played but fails to stand out in any measurable fashion.  Nemec gets a bit too cutesy on Bacharach and David’s “(They Long To Be) Close To You”, employing flashy piano trills that distract from a classic melody.  Nemec steps back a bit on “Where Do I Begin (Theme from Love Story)”, offering up a subtle rendition that allows Francis Lai’s melody to shine through.  Nemec stays similarly in the background for Irving Berlin’s “Always”.  Nemec’s best moment on the album comes in “It Was Almost Like A Song”, a cover of the Ronnie Milsap classic that overflows with emotion.    Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Music Of The Night” is nearly perfect, with Nemec capturing the grandeur of the original almost note for note.  Nemec offers up a sweet rendition of Meredith Wilson’s ”Till There Was You” before returning to Lloyd Webber one last time for “All I Ask Of You”.  There must be something about Phantom Of The Opera that inspires Nemec, for each offering here from the show finds him raising the performance bar a little bit higher.  Simply Delicious closes with a sweet and moving take on Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine”.
Chris Nemec captures the zeitgeist of fine dinner music perfectly on Simply Delicious.  Being an upscale piano man is an art all its own, calling for distinctive technical skill on the piano as well as a talent for interpreting songs in subtly interesting fashion.  Most who make their living in this fashion occasionally forget to stay in the background and allow the songs to speak for themselves, and Nemec is no exception on occasion, but Simply Delicious  is nevertheless eminently listenable.  While Nemec might overstep once in a while, his ability to interpret  melody and bring it to life in  vibrant musical colors is notable.  If you’re looking for great dinner music, or simply great music to relax with that won’t put you to sleep, you can’t go wrong with Chris Nemec’s Simply Delicious.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Chris Nemec at Delicious is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available from iTunes.

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