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Jennifer Munoz

"You can’t help but be impressed by the rich depth of musicality he invokes in a relatively short amount of time. Trips for Piano promises to deliver..."

Martin Graff’s single “Sativa” hails from his recent release Trips for Piano and is part of an overall larger package including a spectacular video montage for some of the pieces. It’s the latest high point for the composer-pianist, spoken word artist, and 2022 finalist for a 2022 DC Wammie Award for Best Classical Artist.

It isn’t surprising at all, when you hear “Sativa,” that Graff has immersed himself in music since the age of four. The pull of music exerted such a profound effect on Graff’s life, however, that he made the decision to turn away. Almost two decades passed before he decided to pursue his musical ambitions again, but you don’t hear any of that during “Sativa.”

—JM, March 11, 2022

Jennifer Munoz is music journalist at WEAR-TV and Vents Magazine raised in La Plata, Maryland.

I hear a mix of understated classical affectations and jazz percolating throughout the piece. He achieves such seamlessness between the composition’s influences that even experienced music listeners will struggle to hear where one strand ends, and another begins. There are vibrant melodic strengths present and Graff’s playing rhapsodizes with a moody lyricism that lingers with you long after the piece finishes. It’s this kind of music we need more than ever – work with staying power.

Instrumental tracks work to find significant audiences, but there’s nothing about “Sativa” dooming it to that fate. The aforementioned melodic attributes are more than sufficient for making casual listeners ignore the absence of a singer. His craftsmanship keeps things tight and focused. There’s plenty of room for the composition to breathe in his hands, however, because his exceptional timing shines through.

Anyone fearful of pretentiousness when you hear Graff is a spoken word performer and multi-instrumentalist can rest easy. He doesn’t come across as someone trying to prove something. He has a relaxed command over the playing that inspires confidence in listeners; it’s likely a hallmark of Trips for Piano. Nothing about the performance sounds forced and there’s a natural flow to his performance certain to hook many listeners.

It’s hard to deny the poignant effect he will have on some listeners. There’s beautiful elegance alive in every turn of “Sativa” and, when you take Graff’s back story into account, it’s easy to assign added significance to the performance. Returning to music is one of the pivotal moments in Graff’s life and “Sativa” reflects that in its gravity and deep feeling. It never overstays its welcome either. You can’t help but be impressed by the rich depth of musicality he invokes in a relatively short amount of time.

It works well as either a standalone single or a preview of sorts for a longer release. It’s easy to expect, however, that we will be hearing more from this talented composer in the near future as it beggars belief he ends seventeen years of silence with an eight track LP and that’s it. “Sativa” sounds like the work of an artist full of vigor and a willingness to stick with it for the long haul. Even if this is all we get, however, “Sativa” and Trips for Piano promises to deliver.

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