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PIANIST BRICKMAN CLIMBS CHARTS WITH AID OF CROSSOVER `VALENTINE'.

Byline: Gina Van Der Vliet Billboard

When ``Picture This,'' Jim Brickman's third album, debuted at No. 1 on the Top New Age Albums chart and No. 52 on the Billboard 200 for the week ending Feb. 15, it marked a new chart high for both the solo pianist and his label, Windham Hill. The fact that the album climbed to No. 30 on the Billboard 200 two weeks later was icing on the cake.

``The album has just exploded, and we're all thrilled,'' says Steve Vining, president of Windham Hill's domestic operation. ``This is one of those rare instances where someone who operates in a solo-piano kind of new age genre is able to break out of that area and go pop mainstream with massive radio play and record sales ... We've tapped into something pretty special here, and I think it's just the beginning of a long, long career.''

``Picture This,'' which was released Jan. 28, has sold 108,000 copies, according to SoundScan. Currently, the album stands at the summit of the Top New Age Albums chart for the fourth consecutive week and is No. 56 on the Billboard 200.

The album has been propelled by ``Valentine,'' a duet with country singer Martina McBride, which is No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

``Valentine,'' co-written by Brickman and Jack Kugell, also managed to garner airplay at country radio without any promotional efforts aimed at the format. The song stands at No. 72 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart after peaking at No. 53.

Brickman's last Windham Hill album, 1995's ``By Heart,'' peaked at No. 3 on the Top New Age Albums chart and No. 187 on the Billboard 200. It has sold more than 334,000 units to date, according to SoundScan.

``No Words,'' the pianist's 1994 debut, peaked at No. 13 on the Top New Age Albums chart and failed to crack the Billboard 200. It has sold more than 71,000 copies to date, according to SoundScan.

Prior to ``Picture This,'' Windham Hill's previous chart high was George Winston's 1996 set, ``Linus and Lucy - The Music of Vince Guaraldi,'' which peaked at No. 55 on the Billboard 200.

``I knew that a lot of the right things were in place,'' Brickman says. ``If you believe enough in what you're doing and how you're doing it, then it's very welcome. So it's not terribly surprising, but I feel very fortunate that it's happening.''

Although the collaboration between a new age solo pianist and a country singer may seem like an unusual combination, Brickman and McBride insist that the genre-crossing track came naturally.

``This just shows that good music of any kind can really transcend formats,'' says McBride, who records for RCA Records. ``I've sung all kinds of music in my life, including top 40. It was fun to get to sing something a little different.''

``Picture This'' also features instrumental duets with Warner Bros. saxophonist Boney James on ``You Never Know,'' which the label is working simultaneously as a single at Adult Contemporary radio, and Martin Tillmann, who plays cello on ``Secret Love.''

Brickman's success comes three years after the Cleveland native gave up a career in composing commercial jingles in favor of writing music that is closer to his heart.

His company, Brickman Arrangement, included such major advertising accounts as McDonald's (``Food, Folks And Fun''), 7-UP (``Feelin' Up''), and AT&T (``We Want You Back'').

During Brickman's stint as a jingle composer, he collaborated with many star vocalists, including Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and Richard Marx. The composer also wrote several tunes for ``Sesame Street.''

When Brickman found that writing jingles was becoming creatively limiting, he decided to book some studio time and record a demo of six of his compositions. That demo became the foundation for ``No Words.''

Even with his current chart success, the pianist-composer still seeks to broaden his musical horizons.

Brickman has also received plenty of exposure on television. The artist, who is represented and booked by Edge Management, appeared Feb. 14 on ``Good Morning America.'' Other scheduled appearances include NBC's ``Weekend Today Show'' March 15 and the 20th Family Circle Tennis Tournament, scheduled to air in April on NBC.

The artist is also in the middle of a 30-date U.S. tour, which started in late January and will run through mid-March.

After the U.S. trek, Brickman will venture to Asia to promote the album. ``Picture This'' is scheduled for European release sometime during the summer on Windham Hill, which is distributed worldwide by BMG.

``I'm very excited,'' Brickman says. ``I get a kick out of the fact that this kind of music can be heard by many different generations, and that there's a place for it in between Nine Inch Nails and (the) Smashing Pumpkins.''

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Photo: Windham Hill pianist-composer Jim Brickman's latest album, ``Picture This,'' is the new-age label's highest-charting release ever.
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 2, 1997
Words:816
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