Piano Man

Ready to branch out from romance -- but not too far.

Jim Brickman Ohio Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 26, through Tuesday, December 31 (with an additional 2 p.m. performance December 29). $45 and $55; 216-241-6000.
Love is all around Jim Brickman,  who shares some of it this week.
Love is all around Jim Brickman, who shares some of it this week.
Jim Brickman considers himself a romantic guy. The songwriter and pianist's work includes songs like "Valentine" and albums titled Love of My Life and My Romance. Love is all around him -- when he composes, when he performs, even when he talks about his music.

"It would be hard to write this kind of stuff if I didn't have those sensitive qualities," he says. "But romance means something different to everybody. Is it a picnic with wine and cheese? Or intimate time together? I think I'm romantic."

His latest album, Love Songs & Lullabies, is more love from Brickman. His lush arrangements, piano fills, and guest singers are customary for him. Yet the tinkling is more subdued, softer and gentler in execution. "I've always wanted to do an album of lullabies," he explains. "It's a tribute to the way I started to play the piano. I was always fascinated with music as a kid. I was drawn to stuff that was available to little kids -- Sesame Street, lullabies, Disney records.

"It's also a way for people to relate -- the familiarity and comfort. It's a connection to something [with] these simple melodies."

Brickman, 41, got his start in the music biz as a jingle writer in the '80s. The Shaker Heights native formed an ad agency and was behind such corporate hits as Coke's "Just for the Taste of It," Flintstones vitamins' "10 Million Strong and Growing," and General Electric's "We Bring Good Things to Life." "That definitely helped me be creative on demand," he says. "I got really good at writing a lot of different styles, melodies, and hooks."

By the mid-'90s, he was living in Los Angeles and on his way to new-age glory. His albums -- Picture This and Destiny, among them -- topped the new-age album chart. His singles, like "Simple Things," placed high on the adult contemporary chart. And he racked up four gold records. "It's a strange place to be," he explains. "I have a core audience that wants to hear [my] familiar style. But I also have new people who are still discovering me. If I depart too far from what I do, it not only confuses the core audience; it also sends the wrong message to the new fans."

Love Songs & Lullabies, like 2000's My Romance: An Evening With Jim Brickman, has been turned into a PBS moneymaker. It's trotted out during pledge weeks and features Brickman, his piano, a stage, an audience, and guests, like Ally McBeal's Jane Krakowski.

"Even though my music is connected to romance, it's not limited to love songs," he says. "I want to branch out and do different things.

"It's a fine line. I'm still [at the point in] my career [where] I'm not quite ready to depart from the thing that people associate with, why they buy my records or come to my concerts. I still love my piano, and I still love what I do."

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