In the Sea of Ionia is a wildly spinning, charismatically eclectic album containing four of Daniel Lentz’s recent piano works: (1) 51 Nocturnes (2011), a set of very short, contrasting nocturnes that are played without pauses, as one continuous work; (2) Pacific Coast Highway (2014), a primarily textural three-piano piece built of polyrhythmic layers of continuously shifting/drifting harmonies; (3) Dorchester Tropes (2008–09), a four-movement piano solo; (4) In the Sea of Ionia (2007–08) a piece for seven pianos that builds in activity, pace, and intensity (reaching near-frenetic proportions near the end) and employs what Lentz has for many years called “cascading echoes”—thematic cells that return (like a tape echo) throughout the work.
As with much of Lentz’s music, most of these pieces are kaleidoscopic, restless, and given to changing directions and tempos without warning—darting, from one moment to the next, amid new materials and reprised materials, a moment of lovely placidity suddenly giving way to an unrestrained burst of notes or vice versa. In contrast to his earlier work, Lentz’s most recent music relies less on process-driven constructions that boil over with musical phrases and cells (although there is still some of that here). Instead, much of this work presents a more straightforward approach to the piano. Whether one’s focus is on these recent pieces or on earlier ones, Kyle Gann’s shrewd observation about Lentz’s work holds true: “When it comes to attempts at musical seduction, Daniel Lentz’s music is way out in front.”
“There’s something very American about Daniel Lentz’s music. I’m not always sure exactly where it is in the music. Sometimes it’s in the occasional motive…sometimes it’s in the harmonies that sound slightly ‘jazzy,’ as much as I dislike using that word…. Wherever this American sound resides in the music, it shouts at us from titles like Pacific Coast Highway—my favorite piece on the record. The title work is nearly 20 minutes and, in its slower sections, sounds more like what a composer-pianist might play to himself when alone…. This is a credit to Aron Kallay, whose performances are masterly and lend brilliance to music that was already rich.” —American Record Guide