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I think this is the debut album of Japanese-born but now America-based pianist/composer Masako. Her self titled album is a collection of a dozen instrumental tracks, some featuring just Masako solo while the rest have the pianist backed by various numbers of musicians. The music is gentle new age: romantic, reflective, introspective. Many emotions are faceted across these tracks and one could imagine this music accompanying an art exhibition or installation as its soundtrack. Masako has a restrained style of playing, there are no theatrical gestures or stylisation here, just heartfelt performances. Much of the music is drawn from places the pianist has visited in the USA, other tracks are inspired by memories from her life and perhaps a little homesickness for her homeland. The tracks are: Glastenbury VT, Spring Snow, Secret Path To Point Reyes (Part 1), Secret Path To Point Reyes (Part 2), Ottauquechee River, Amazing Newt, A Tale Of Lonely Otter, Remembrance (Part 1), Remembrance (Part 2), Moon And Stream, Greening, Forgotten Moments. Musicians include: Tony Levin - bass, Jeff Haynes - percussion, Premik - wind synth, Eugene Freising - cello, Jill Haley - English horn, Will Ackerman - Hopi drum, Charlie Bisharat - violin and Noah Wilding - vocal. Masako is an impressive album - and an extremely impressive musician and composer. The music on this CD. One of the very best debut albums has a lot of emotional heft to it and it will resonate with the listener for a long time. One of the very best debut albums I've heard in the last few years. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.masako-music.com
As you may surmise from the title Goddess is a new age album, the fourth by composer/vocalist Annette Canter, and the second reviewed here at The Borderland, the previous one being Songs To The Earth [click here to read review]. Subtitled "Songs To The Goddess" the music here is resolutely spiritual and meditational, and aimed at those seeking a calming influence or needing music for healing purposes. A joint collaboration with multi-instrumentalist/composer/arranger CG Deuter, The music has an opulent feel to it, the voices are multi-tracked and there is a strong world music feel with various ethnic instruments and melodic themes. Not as complex as say, an Enya recording, the music is still richly illustrative and evocative. There are eight tracks and their titles are: Tara, Spider Woman, Yemana, Isis, Gaia, Kuan Yin, Demeter, Venus. Thanks to Ms Cantor's soprano voice there is a strong choral ambience to the music, one could almost be in a medieval abbey at times - though this is mixed with a strong feeling of Eastern mysticism as well. For the more cynical of you who don't buy into the whole new age spirituality vibe I would say try some of these tracks on Ms Cantor's website and I think you will be entranced by what is a collection of very beautiful music. Recommended.
Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and other retailers for download or as a CD. For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.annettesings.com
You certainly can't accuse composer Uwe Gronau of standing still - it is less than six months since I reviewed his album Time Rider, and now here he is back again with Visions, a musical journey around late-night Paris. Over a palette of twenty tracks Mr Gronau has written mini-portraits of Parisian places and moments that matter to him. Using his panoply of keyboards, he creates beautifully crafted and highly listenable instrumentals that incorporate so many different styles that simply calling this electronica is a disservice. And yet, at the core of every track are multi-layers of electronic keyboards, synths and sampled sounds. Visions is a very easy on the ear album, the tracks flow fluently into one another, creating different moods - some being reflective while others are upbeat if not downright funky. One thing you won't find on this album are the stereotypical sounds of Paris, so no Django-style jazz guitar, no accordions or violins, and no Piaf imitators. The Paris depicted in these musical portraits is very cosmopolitan and hip. The tracks are: Night On The Roof, Children In The Park, World In Your Arms, Traffic, Under The Pont Neuf, Through The Backyard Window, A Passion Play, Confirming The Question, Babylon People, Open Windows, Summer In The City, Words You Say, Oasis, Night Visions, Old Man In The Rain, Sensitive Sentence, Summer Days, Centre Pompidou, Ragman Talking, Jungle. Visions is Uwe Gronau's most approachable album yet and possibly his best. It hasn't been off my CD deck and that is a rarity! Highly recommended and while it is still only mid-January this is one of the first albums of the year here at The Borderland.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.uwe-gronau.de
It is always impressive when an album makes an immediate impression on its first play - and that is what happened with composer/keyboardist Timothy Wenzel's new album A Coalescence Of Dreams. While the album falls into the New Age genre it also has some electronica influences too, plus some very sympathetic guitar playing from Michael Rud throughout. Completely instrumental, A Coalescence Of Dreams is an atmospheric album with a mostly mellow feel throughout. The theme of the album is the dream world we visit when we sleep and what those dreams are. Obviously the music here depicts the dream travelling of Mr Wenzel, and he doesn't seem to suffer too many nightmares when he sleeps. Most of the tracks are medium paced, with a bit of a Celtic lilt. Apart from the previously mentioned guitarist there is a pair of drummers featured individually on a couple of tracks, everything else is performed by Mr Wenzel. The album contains a dozen tracks and their titles are: Ice Wind, Miles From Nowhere, Road To Hana, A Walk In The Summer Woods, Apparition, Oasis Of Souls, The River Niger, Desert Sky, A Coalescence Of Dreams, Mountain Rain, Follow The River, We Walk Together. I think A Coalescence Of Dreams will appeal to many, it has more presence than a lot of New Age albums. The mix of Celtic and electronic instrumentation offers a rich blend of sounds, and it is an album I have returned to several times. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.timothywenzel.com
Sora is a composer/vocalist with her feet in many musical styles. While not as radical a musical explorer as Bjork or Kate Bush the music on Scorpion Moon mixes Celtic influences with Middle Eastern ones to a base of mild Jazz and Traditional, and thanks to her multi-octave voice a dash of operatic melodrama. It makes for a heady brew and an album not easy to categorise in the record racks. As terms of reference think Enya, Adiemus, the late [and much lamented] Ofra Haza and Sarah Brightman... In truth trying to pigeon hole Ms Sora is very difficult, the lady and her unique voice are unique as she uses her lyrics to explore the opposing states of Light and Dark. The album is equally instrumentally rich, with a wide range of instruments from around the round used throughout. The musicians include: Douglas Romanow - keyboards, Sharlene Wallace - pedal and Celtic harps, Jason Fowler - guitars/mandolin/charango, Ron Korb - flutes/dizi, Ana Uceda - cello, Wendy Solomon - cello, Lenny Solomon - violin, Xiaoqiu Lin - erhu, Ernie Toiler - flute, Ray Dillard - ethnic percussion, Erin Dingle - whispers. Scorpion Moon contains eleven tracks: Scheherazade, Hiraeth, Hero, Savage, Mermaid Song, City, The Tower, Hold, Piper, Proof Of Life, Moving On. This is an album and an artist that may require more commitment from the listener, but it deserves the attention as this is an album of emotional depth. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.soramusic.ca
Myriad3 are a new jazz power trio from Toronto in Canada. Three musicians already making a mark with their own bands, they accidentally came together on a number of live dates and realised that they had something special together and have now recorded their debut album together. The three musicians are: Chris Donnelly - piano, Dan Fortin - bass, and Ernesto Cervini - drums. The music veers between post-bop and improv - it's quite sparky and takes the listener down little known paths. But I must say that there are periods where a melody or hummable tune would be welcome. Most of the music is quite cerebral and not instantly appealing, it will take the listener more than one listen to discern where the magic lies. Of the eleven tracks all but one is written by various band members, the odd one out is a Duke Ellington number, C Jam Blues, that offers a point of familiarity for the listener. The tracklisting is as follows: Myriad, Fractured, For The Dreamers, C Jam Blues, Disturbing Inspiration (Part 1), Disturbing Inspiration (Part 2), Tell, Drifters, But Still And Yet, Mr Awkward, Lament/PEX. I think Tell is one those albums that isn't going to offer instant gratification - the music is multi-layered and will require time and effort from the listener to discern the beauty within. If you are seeking out challenging jazz then you should check out Myriad3 and Tell - they might be what you are looking for.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.almarecords.com
Jazz vocalist Chris McNulty is a new name to me, but I don't think her new album The Song That Sings You Here is her debut. She has such a seasoned voice and way with the lyric that it is obvious she has been singing for quite some time. Supported by an equally seasoned small band who provide a sympathetic musical backing, this album contains ten songs, two written by Ms McNulty and the rest are from composers like Fats Waller, Horace Silver, Lerner & Loewe, Harold Arlen, Bacharach & David. Quite an impressive line-up of names. The musicians are: Ugonna Okegwo - bass, Marcus Gilmore - drums, Paul Bollenback - guitars, Andrei Kondokov/Graham Wood - piano/Rhodes, Igor Butman - saxes, Anita Wardell - guest vocals. The overall tone of the album is late-night swing, plus a bit of torch singing. Ms McNulty has one of those mellifluous smokey voices that at times has a dash of Ella or Dinah lurking within. Overall, The Song That Sings You Here is a very easy on the ear album that might attract non-jazz fans by its 'easy-on-the-ear' approach. That this album was prepared during a time of great personal loss for Ms McNulty says much for her professionalism and the emotional support of the musicians on this album. If you enjoy jazz vocal albums with some emotional heft to them then I think you will find that Chris McNulty and The Song That Sings You Here will fit the bill nicely. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.challengerecords.com
The jazz orchestra can be every bit as subtle and intricate as any symphony orchestra - the sound may be brass led as opposed to string led, but with the right music it can be every bit as complex and emotionally wrought. That is the case here on Bloom, where all the music has been composed by Japanese-born Asuka Kakitani - she has brought together an 18-piece orchestra to perform her music and it is highly impressive. This is an epic album, the running time is pretty much the full capacity of an audio CD and several of the eight tracks run for more than ten minutes - and the remaining ones aren't much shorter. The sound is large, yet there is space to hear every instrument. The music itself has emotional depth and is well-founded in the orchestral jazz traditions of Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich. Ms Kakitani writes in the sleevenotes that the music was inspired by the natural world around her, memories of places and times in the past and life in all its variety. That is a pretty all-encompassing brief to capture in music and I have no idea how near to her experiences she has reached with this music, but I can tell you that there is a filmic quality to these tracks - any documentary-makers out there could do worse than listen to this when seeking music for their work. The American musicians give their all in this music and the music lives. The track listing is: Bloom, Electric Images, Bumblebee Garden, Dance One, Opened Opened, Dragonfly Glasses, Islands In The Stream, Skip. There are far too many musicians to name check here but be assured they are superb and they bring this music to vivid life. Asuka Kakitani has made one hell of an impressive debut album, and she is going to be a composer to watch out for in the future. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.nineteeneight.com
I think it fair to say that the first impression one has when the new album by Mostly Other People Do The Killing - Slippery Rock - starts to play on their CD deck is one of astonishment. The album fairly explodes with energy from the off. The music, all composed by bassist Moppa Elliot, is about as freeform and avant-garde as you can get. The musical structure is loose and it sounds like a free for all. Not, I have to admit, my kind of Jazz at all, but I did admire the bluesy feel that rose up through the stormy squalling. But one has to admire the sheer energy and commitment from all the musicians. The band are a quartet and the remaining musicians are: Peter Evans - trumpets/piccolo, Jon Irabagan - saxes/flute, and Kevin Shea - drums/percussion. There are nine tracks altogether on Slippery Rock and these are: Hearts Content, Can't Tell Shipp From Shohala, Sayre, President Polk, Yo Yeo Yough, Dexter Wayne And Mobley, Jersey Shore, Paul's Journey To Opp, Is Granny Spry? You could say that this is a perfect storm of an album and while it leaves me cold I am sure there will be an appreciative audience for their explosively exuberant sound. And I have to say that Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a great name for a band.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.hotcuprecords.com
Jazz may well be rooted in the American South and the African slaves of previous centuries but it has expanded and embraced the world to become a world-wide musical force. This album by American guitarist Dan Phillips is an example of this - recorded in Bangkok, Thailand, recorded with Thai and Danish musicians and released by a Thai University. Bangkok Edge and its interpretation of Jazz is a long way from the Deep South, and yet its musical language could equally have come from a New York or New Orleans jazz club. This is my first encounter with Dan Phillips, but I am already impressed by his unassuming and low key but very melodic and fluid playing. He is a guitarist well worth noting. The other musicians on this album are: Jakob Dinesen - tenor sax, Chanutr Techatana-Nan - drums, Pornchart Viriyapark - bass. The album splits into 50/50 trio or quartet recordings, and both formats are a pleasure to listen to - this is one of those albums with a late night vibe. There are ten tracks and the titles are: Beatrice, The Observer, Days Of Wine & Roses, A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, Have You Met Miss Jones, Ask Me Now, 26-2, Blues For?, Naima, Evidence. While Mr Phillips wrote two of the tracks, the rest are drawn from the Great American show and jazz songbooks: Mancini & Mercer, Billy Strayhorn, Rodgers & Hart, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Sam Rivers. Bangkok Edge may have an exotic provenance but you'll be struggling to find that in the music - mainstream modern jazz played to perfection. This is an album well worth seeking out. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.danphillipsmusic.com
Elevator Into The Sky is a collaborative album that transcends the grave. Using the poetry of the late American poetess and writer Anne Sexton, Composer/vocalist Laila Salins has created an album that is much an artefact as an album. I am unfamiliar with the work of Anne Sexton [I doubt if she is that well known here in the UK] but her work seems to have been drawn from her own life and was extremely personal. Set to the canvas of a large jazz ensemble Ms Salins has brought out the human emotion and conflict in her muse's writings. While I admire the settings she has used for these songs I have admit that I wasn't drawn into this world - I suspect that Elevator Into The Sky is an album which will resonate and attract a female audience. The musicians play superbly and I can't imagine a more sympathetic support for these words. The album contains a dozen tracks: Starry Night, Earth, Music Swims Back To me, Frenzy, Riding The Elevator Into The Sky, Jesus Walking, Anna Who Was Mad, Welcome Morning, The Fury Of God's Goodbye, The Fury Of Sunrises, The Fury Of Guitars And Sopranos, The Fury Of Sundays. Ms Salins is a striking vocalist with a dramatic way of performing that will impress itself on you.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.lailasalins.com
Jazz vocalist Lisa Forkish is a lady of many diverse talents - along with the album on hand in this review she is a music educator, teaching at the Oakland School for the Arts, arranging and writing for a cappella vocal groups, and maintaining a career as a performer in her own right. Bridges is her latest album, and it is an impressive affair, working within an octet format. Ms Forkish has a very pleasant voice, one that rides above the instrumentation without stealing the focus of the band as a whole. It is a very mellow voice, heartbreakingly emotional when it needs to be. Equally, the musicians around her wrap her vocals with a sympathetic support. Bridges contains thirteen tracks, many of them written by Ms Fortkish, while the rest are warm-hearted renditions of songs by Stephen Stills, Lerner & Loewe, and Jobin. The superb band are: Patrick Anseth - guitar, Paul Eastburn - bass, Carrie Jahde - drums, Cava Menzies - piano, Joh Schroder - cello, Aaron Saul - alto sax, and Sarag Vela - backing vocals. The track titles are: Adrenaline, For What It's Worth, Cold Light Of Day, City Of Bridges, If I Should Lose You, I Could Have Danced All Night, Unravelling, You Give Me Breath, Fools In Love, No More Blues, Solidarity, All The Stars. Bridges is a wonderfully uplifting album where voice and instruments fit like a glove. Lisa Forkish has one of the most engaging voices that I have heard in a long time - it is romantic, good humoured and achingly sad [depending on the song]. It is also quality throughout and should be more widely heard. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.lisaforkish.com
The arrival through the letterbox of any CD packages from A-Frame media is always a matter of great interest. And those from The Glimmer Room always generate a higher excitement. The Glimmer Room is really Andy C, a one man conceptual composer whose every album has deep emotional content and deserves much wider recognition and respect. The Wind Blows Summer From The Trees was composed in 2011 during time when Andy C was undergoing a crisis of identity and self-worth - aka a mid-life crisis - we know this from the sleevenotes booklet which is essentially a diary of that time. That he came out the other end with music this powerful is a huge tribute to his art. The Glimmer Room perform a very uniquely British style of ambient electronica that is hugely emotional and seems to have feet in the camps of romantic classical British composers such as Edward Elgar and the clinical sound sculptures of Brian Eno. Andy C's talent is merging the best of both into something that becomes a contemporary tone poem. The Wind Blows Summer From The Trees is a mixture of field recordings, soundscapes and melodies that just seem to hang between the speakers. Though there are eleven tracks they run sequentially in a seamless run, drifting on hidden currents of emotion. The overriding sense when listening to this album is of an elegy for a Britain that was predominantly English [I'm talking of that post-war period where tea and crumpets were the order of the day and multiculturalism amounted to visiting a Chinese laundry]. This album is so post-rave and mostly lacking in rhythm that its inherent sense of time passing seems deathly slow despite a running time of 49 minutes. Imagine standing in front of a CS Lowry painting of his infamous matchstick men and women and becoming one with the imagery, becoming lost within the life and detail depicted in the painting. That is what listening to The Wind Blows Summer From The Trees is like. It is an overwhelming experience and a prodigiously emotional one. This is modern British music that spans the electronic and the contemporary classical and should be recognised as the groundbreaking work it is. Highly recommended and my first album of the year!
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.glimmerroom.com
Lovéren should appeal to readers of fantasy fiction - especially the Lord of the Rings crowd. This new album by multi-instrumentalist/composer David Arkenstone is a concept album about the love of a mermaid [Lovéren] for a human man. The music is orchestral and on an epic scale and yet retains an intimacy and a Celtic feel throughout. He is partnered by soprano Charlee Brooks who also created the make believe language Mermish which is used throughout the song cycle. Thanks to the orchestral setting the music has a widescreen soundscape which makes the album sound great on a serious audio system. To be honest, the 'screenplay' to this audio movie [written by Steven Vlasak] is a standard fantasy scenario but presented in a gorgeously illustrated booklet. Musically speaking Lovéren should appeal to the fans of Adiemus, the Cocteau Twins and Enya, though not exclusively as once you are drawn into the music and its inherent drama, and that ethereal voice, you are really sucked in. Lovéren has nine tracks and these are: Origins, The Forbidden Sea, Lumaria, Sessanulma, Jamboree, Song Of Lovéren, Lost, Slip Away, Love Always Waits. David Arkenstone and Charlee Brooks play most of the instruments, with Mr Arkenstone providing the lion's share - other musicians include: John Wakefield [drums/percussion], Eric Rigler [uilleann pipes], The Nashville Soul Choir, and the string orchestra. Lovéren is an impressive album, both sonically and in content - the music and the 16 page booklet provide a launching pad to set your own imagination soaring. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.davidarkenstone.com
This album is a tribute to the work of black American poet and writer Langston Hughes, one of 1930's Harlems' literati at that blossoming of black American culture. Here on For Langston by the Ken Hatfield Sextet a selection of Mr Langston's blues-flecked poems have been set to jazz backings. Over the spread of fourteen tracks guitarist Ken Hatfield and vocalist Hilary Gardner ably showcase their sympathetic fusion of music and vocals to the poets words. I have to admit that I am not much a lyrics person so don't feel competent to comment on that save to say that Ms Gardner's soprano voice is very formal, where I was expecting something a bit more bluesy. It's a lovely voice, though. However, when it comes to the music these small band settings are like bright jewels, the musicianship very sympathetic, bringing blues and latin influences. Ken Hatfield is a guitarist to enjoy, his liquid runs of notes conjuring up bright imagery. The remainder of the sextet are all equally good and they are: Jamie Baum - alto flute, Hans Glawisching - bass, Jeff Hirshfield - drums, and Steven Kroon - percussion. The tracks are: Overture, Dream Boogie, Not What Was, Breath Of A Rose, I Don't Believe In Titles, Lonely Nocturne,In Time Of Silver Rain, Prayer , Silent One, Poem To A Dead Soldier, Song Of The Revolution, Convent/Silence, Jazzonia, The Bells Toll Kindly.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.kenhatfield.com
Un is a 'world music' album in more ways than you would expect. Composer/guitar/oud player Jussi Reijonen grew up in five countries across three continents and the musicians in his band are from four countries. That aside, the musical influences are drawn from right across the world: Finland, Turkey, Sweden, Palestine and Spain - but the musical richness of India and Africa are here as well. But along with the world-wide influences the core of this music is Jazz, but you'd be hard pressed to call this an overt Jazz album. There are many passages through the six lengthy tracks that have that drifting on the edge of consciousness feel of ambience. So, there are a lot of different elements to the music on this album that are intriguing and very interesting. Un contains six tracks, their titles are: Serpentine, Naima, Bayatiful, Toumani, Nuku Sie, Kaiku. All music was written by Jussi Reijonen, apart from Naima, which was written by John Coltrane. The other musicians are: Utar Artun - piano, Bruno Raberg - bass, Tareq Rantisi - percussion, Sergio Martinez - percussion, plus guest musicians: Ali Amr - qanun and Eva Louhivuori - vocals. Un is a very exotic album, one that if you let it will transport you around the world on a magic soundscape. It certainly has the power to convey you out of your safety zone and into a musical adventure that will stay with you. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jussireijonen.com
Isadar is a composer and pianist working in the New Age music genre, but his music could equally be considered as 'easy listening' or perhaps 'smooth jazz' for its syncopated melodies. Red is his new album, his tenth I think, and is being released for the Valentines Day market. Nothing wrong with that as the music is lushly romantic and at its heart has some interesting and robust melodies. He has a technique of mixing rhythmic playing into the melodic lines that gives the music an added weight and texture. Isadar describes Red as a "bittersweet" love-themed album and it took seven years to produce the music - which I guess means that the music has a strong emotional resonance for him. Hopefully this attachment will transfer to any romantic couple who listen to the album. I am rather intrigued that the album was recorded in the Wells-Fargo Building in Abbeville, Louisiana - the acoustics in this bank must be exceptional, as the piano is crystal clear. Red contains seven tracks, of varying lengths, and their titles are: Broken Valentine, Red, The Man Who Broke My Heart, The Stairwell, Letting Go, En Face Du Miroir (Facing The Mirror), Blood...Thicker Than Water. I think Red is more than simply an album of romantic instrumentals, there is an added layer of emotional heft in the music and it makes for a very appealing album. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.isadar.com
This is the third Acoustic Ocean album received here at The Borderland for review, and a very welcome visitor Chimes Of The Spirit is too. Acoustic Ocean are Peggy Morgan and Bette Phelan, a duo of multi-instrumentalists whose music is based around their core instruments of Celtic harp, acoustic guitars and bass - but beyond that they play a whole alphabet of other instruments to make their wonderfully multi-textured sound. Guest musicians on the album are: Kay Aldrich - cello, and Anne Berliner - flute. While the duo may consider themselves part of the healing/new age genre I find their acoustic and often Celtic-sounding music more like traditional folk music to my ear. Based in the Hawaiian Islands, you might expect their music to reflect the local ethnic culture, yet if you blind test this album to someone else they are most likely to say that this music originated in Ireland. Either way Chimes Of The Spirit is every bit as good as their previous albums, and perhaps just inches ahead in terms of musicianship. The eleven tracks are: This Love Is Forever, Farewell Safe Harbor, Into The Mystery Landscape, Rift Rider, Under The Starlit Sky, Midnight Rendezvous, Chimes Of The Spirit, The Long Walk Home, Tsunami, If I Had Wings, Only Love Remains. I think Acoustic Ocean have created a sound that is universally pleasing and can be used for relaxing or for pleasure. Chimes Of The Spirit is a calming album despite the tsunami on the cover artwork. If you like Celtic-influenced music then I think this is for you. Highly Recomended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.acousticoceanmusic.com
This is the third album by multi-instrumentalist/composer Scott August to be received here at The Borderland. Each album has been an unforgettable experience - Mr August specialises in the Native American flutes and percussion, though I do believe that he has branched out on this album and has expanded to use instruments from other ethnic cultures. What is more apparent on Hidden Journey is the use of synths, blending electronica beats and drones to his world music mix. As always a Scott August album is all about atmosphere and some of the loveliest melodies you will ever hear. Hidden Journey doesn't disappoint - the entire album is a musical travelogue of the sights and sounds one can experience while travelling the American Southwest. Along with the assorted flutes, there is plenty of melodic acoustic guitar and percussive rhythms. From the impressive photographs on the album inlay booklet one would like to see a DVD or movie showing this countryside off to its most exhilarating potential. There eleven tracks and their titles are: Awakening, Sonoran Sojourn, Summer Horizons, Turquoise Trail. Lord Of The Night, Red Rock Crossing, Hidden Moments, Searching For The Ancients, Quiet Journey, Waiting For Rain, (Going) Home. I think Hidden Journey is every bit as good as his previous albums - if not better. The music flows languidly throughout the album, rather like one of those rivers that have cut deep grooves across the desert landscape. And yet, the music has substance, and it is an album you will return to frequently. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.scottaugust.com
Haiti is an island with a long and troubled history, much of it bloody and more recently desperately melancholic due to the overwhelming earthquake that destroyed much of its faltering infrastructure. What isn't widely known is its culture and in particular its music. Vo-Duo are a band [well, a duo really] much concerned to showcase the rhythms and melodies of the Caribbean island. Nou La is the duo's debut album full of original music and new arrangements of traditional Haitian music. Vo-Duo are: Monvelyno Alexis - guitars/vocals, and Markus Schwartz - drums/percussion/vocals. Rather surprisingly, unlike most Caribbean and Latin music the rhythms are mid tempo and less dance orientated - in fact I am strongly reminded while listening to the nine tracks of Africa a lot. Not that surprising as much of the original Haitian population were African slaves. The two musicians create quite a full soundstage between them and the music is rich and exhilarating. The nine tracks are: Bonjou, Alegba Gran Chemin, Pale Mal, Kouzen, Wongol, Frelele, Simbi Makaya, Zilibo, Gede Men Lajan. While the music and songs are relatively low-key, there is much joy throughout Nou La, and once you grow familiar with the songs I think you are likely to find yourself singing along to some of the songs. With its music more influenced by Africa than Cuba, the sound of Vo-Duo and Haiti is an illuminating experience and well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.vo-duo.com
La Fama is a compilation of recordings, mostly live, by trumpeter/trombonist Mac Collehon. Dating back to between 1980 and 1996, this is a record of the various bands he played in and led during this period. The music is Latin Jazz and Salsa, but there are also touches of Cool Jazz as well. A mixture of originals and covers, all arranged by Mr Collehon, the list of musicians involved is a veritable who's-who of New York's Jazz and Latin music scenes. Equally surprising is that the rhythm section from Disco big hitters Chic are also on these recordings - that's right, Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson make a rare appearance playing Latin. With thirty-five musicians involved across the album I can't list them all but here are a few star names: Charlie Palmieri, Larry Harlow, Lester Bowie, Doc Cheatham - I'm sure many more are familiar to the NY audiences, but not to me. La Fama has eleven tracks and their titles are: La Fama, New Mac City, Introspection, Voices, Casino 14, Fried Neck Bones, Donde Lo Hace Duelen, Fotos De Los Ochentas, Conjunto Moods, Nite Trax, A Night In Tunisia. As you would expect, a selection of recordings spanning sixteen years must have caused logistical problems - recording quality, live ambience, differing bands of musicians - yet the engineers and producers have managed to create a unified audio quality that gives the album a cohesiveness making it sound like one session throughout. Mr Collehon is a spirited soloist, his trumpet and trombone binding everyone together over time and space. If you like Latin music then I commend La Fama to you, it has a lot of heart. Highly recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.karigaffney.com
I reviewed Wave Mechanics Union's first album [Second Season - click here to read review] some time ago and was very impressed by its taking Prog Rock and Rock/Pop classics and giving them a big band jazz workout. Further To Fly is more of the same, but the selection of music is perhaps a little more subtle, widening the net beyond Prog Rock to include Roots and Americana artists. Check out these names for coolness: Paul Simon, Ben Folds, Suzanne Vega, Yes, King Crimson, Thomas Dolby, Gentle Giant, Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, Fiona Apple, Mark Knopfler, Steely Dan, and Queen. That is quite a wide framework of artists to draw from, yet Wave Mechanics Union take the task head on, creating a variety of moods with their versions. Instead of full on big band blow-outs most of the arrangements are quite mellow, with a Latin twist and concentrating on the mellifluous vocals of Lydia McAdams, plus in something of a coup Yes vocalist Jon Anderson also guests on their covers of his songs. Further To Fly contains fourteen tracks, the listing goes like this: Further To Fly, Selfless Cold And Composed, Caramel, Wondrous Stories, Heartbeat, It Will Be A Good Day (The River), The Ability To Swing, Think Of Me With Kindness, Swordfishtrombone, Third Stone From The Sun, Slow Like Honey, Your Latest Trick, Dirty Work, The Show Must Go On. There are far too many musicians to list here but the musicianship and the arrangements are exemplary throughout and this is an album well worth seeking out if you have a musically adventurous soul. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.progjazz.com
With the latest James Bond movie Skyfall still filling the cinemas a Bond themes tribute album is not a surprise. That this isn't a carbon copy compilation is - all the original Bond music on Daniel Lantz Trio Plays Bond has been reconfigured as jazz-soul and it works remarkably well. Pianist Daniel Lantz is Swedish and the music here has had its Hollywood sheen transmogrified by the Scandinavian midnight sun to give it a darker hue, which thanks to the soulful vocals by South African vocalist Sani Gamedze give the songs more edge. The rest of the musicians are: Erik Ojala - double bass, Daniel Olsson - drums and guest Roger Nordling - tenor sax/flute. There are a dozen tracks, mostly the main themes but some of the incidental music as well. The rearrangements are imaginative and daring in their scope, and Ms Gamedze's vocals remove the Shirley Bassey-style histrionics and replaces them with emotionally soul-wracked performances. The tracks are: Moonraker, The James Bond Theme, Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die, Tomorrow Never Dies, You Only Live Twice, A View To A Kill, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, If There Was A Man, Nobody Does It Better, We Have All The Time In The World. Re-imagined like this and stripped of the original performances and artists allows these songs and themes to shine anew and not be time specific to the original movies and performers. It offers new insights into the music and allows it to stand on its own merits. Daniel Lantz Trio Plays Bond is a radical rethink to much loved movie music and it's all the better for it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.DanielLantzTrio.com
Whatever you think of the music on this album you have to be impressed by an artist name such as The Summarily Dismissed. It certainly offers no hint as to the type of music they perform. In reality The Summarily Dismissed is based around the compositional, keyboard and vocal skills of Ari Shagal. With a grand total of four vocalists, two male and two female, the band sound touches base with that amiable mix of pop/soul and jazz that Steely Dan made all their own back in the 70s/80s. Though I think this band has a bit more funk and r'n'b in its soul. While the vocals and lyrics may not have the dry acerbic humour of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, there is an added soulfullness thanks to vocalists Ari Shagal, Ferima Faye, Matthew Lomeo and guest Kenny Washington. For a debut album To Each is extremely self-assured and confident, Ms Shagal's songs sound good and more importantly right for this band. The rest of the musicians are: Joe Davi - guitars, Eric Halvorson - drums, Pat O'Leary - bass, Joanne J-Bird Phillips/Nydia Mata - percussion. The eleven tracks are: Oozing Awkward, Your Salve For Sorrow, Why Couldn't It Have Been Me?, World Of Trouble, Tall & Resolute, Through The Wringer, Limerent Buzz, Bull Market, Jersey Babes, Shade-Walking, Apogee. To Each is an impressive album, more importantly its tip of the head towards Steely Dan is just that, an acknowledgement of influences but it goes beyond that with a sound that is all its own. I think The Summarily Dismissed is a band to watch out for in the future if they can make that breakthrough. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.summarilydismissed.com
Peter Kater is a noted 'New Age' composer and musician with a reputation for music with healing properties. Light Body, his latest album, was created for that purpose, to offer meditational support when facing the countless emotional challenges we face daily. An instrumental album with some accompanying vocal support, the seven tracks relate to the seven 'chakras' that control various aspects of our bodies and mind. I know that music like this is written to a strong frame of eastern philosophy, but to the layman who really looks on New Age as a lot of mumbo jumbo [and that covers most of us Brits, I'm afraid] this is a perfectly pleasant easy listening album with a slightly mystical sound. Mr Kater composed all the music and played keyboards throughout, with Paul McCandless on oboe/penny whistle/English horn/saxes, and Trisha Bowden on ethereal vocals. The seven tracks are: Root Chakra, Sacral Chakra, Solar Plexus Chakra, Heart Chakra, Throat Chakra, Intuitive Chakra, Crown Chakra. The music has an undeniable feeling of peace and well-being, and should help insomniacs no end. Light Body offers solace to those embracing its philosophy and simply well-produced music to relax to for those who require that. The pace is slow and stately on the whole, and yet on some tracks there are little flashes of electronica that remind me of Vangelis's soundtrack to the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner - for reference check out track six. Light Body is an interesting and reflective album of music - if you are into New Age philosophies then I commend it to you, if you need some music to help you relax I urge you to equally go for it.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.peterkater.com or http://mysteriummusic.com/
This is the second album by pianist and composer Timothy Crane, and like Dragonfly [click here to read review] his new album Pianoforte is again a collection of melodic instrumental pieces that are accompanied by orchestral elements. You could call this 'New Age' but to me it is more than that, contemporary classical seems a more apt description of the music on these dozen tracks. There is a robustness to the playing that indicates a higher energy level to the music than you usually find in new age stuff. I understand Mr Crane used to be a pianist in rock bands in his earlier years so that probably explains the strong emphasis on the piano being both melodic and rhythmic. Musically the style of the compositions reminded me of an English musician and band called Karda Estra, where melody and atmosphere are equally important. I like Mr Crane's music and his style of performance - there is meat and muscle to the music, and yet there is a delicacy that permeates throughout the album. I imagine that live performances are very passionate and intense events to witness. The twelve tracks are: What Will I Be?, Awaken The Dawn, Clear Creek, Hopefaith, The Doll Tree, Untouched, Disappearing Moon, Red Line, Soli Deo Gloria, Hide & Seek, Archetype, Stratford Road. I think Pianoforte lives up to the promise shown on Dragonfly and then exceeds it. Timothy Crane is a composer and performer growing with each album, and I don't think you'll find a more listenable album than this. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.timothycrane.com
As you will guess from the title Attuning To Oneness, by Paradiso and Rasamayi, is aimed at those who seek music of a healing and/or spiritual nature. The sound is very full of eastern promise, sounding as it does of echoing through the valleys and mountain sides of the Himalayan mountains. Amongst the soundscapes, you experience ethereal drones and chants and one almost hopes that the Yeti may join in by whistling the theme to The X Files. Thanks to the drones, chants, singing bowls, a variety of exotic percussion, gongs, didgeridoos and a theremin, the sound is a rich melange of all things eastern and atmospheric. Created to assist healing, meditation and yoga, Attuning To Oneness is an album with a purpose but only those afflicted can really say whether this music has helped them in any way. One has to admire Paradiso & Rasamayi as the sole musicians on the album, the sound palette they create between them is a rich and highly imaginative one. There are eleven tracks and they are: Goddess Rising, Attuning To Oneness, Love's Champion, Master Teacher, Wisdom Warrior, Staying The Path, Harmonic Ascension, Divine Alignment, In Service, As Above So Below, All Is Love. This is a specialist music created for a specific purpose, it won't suite some listeners but those who are of a more spiritual bent and are looking for music to further their journey should find Attuning To Oneness well worth exploring.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.5thelementmusic.com
Love's River is an instrumental album of music written and performed by pianist Laura Sullivan - along with help from an impressive list of guest musicians, many of whom have had their own albums reviewed here on The Borderland. This is Ms Sullivan's sixth album release. The music is romantic and very melodic, fitting into the New Age marketing category very nicely. The album contains eleven tracks of pastoral soundscapes, the sort of music that calls up mind videos of athletic young ladies running across fields of wheat in floaty diaphanous gowns. That image is almost a given considering the cover image of the artist drifting across a lake in said floaty gown. That aside, the music is particularly melodic and lovely, evocative of the big outdoors. The majority of the tracks consist of just the solo piano, but several feature one of the guest musicians - they include: Will Ackerman, Eugene Friesen, Jill Haley, Jeff Oster, Nancy Rumbel. The eleven tracks are: Secrets From The Deep, Wishing On A Dandelion, Awakening To Love, Blessed, Holding Heaven, Moonlight Passage, Love's River, Calligraphy, River To The Sea, Story Of The Rain, Snowfall On Water. Love's River is very impressive and if you are seeking music to soothe stressed nerves in these over-stressed [and post-Christmas] times then Laura Sullivan and her music may be the answer for you.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.laura-sullivan.com
This is a collaboration between Peter Kater, composer and keyboards, and Snatam Kaur, a vocalist specialising in spiritual and healing music. Heart Of The Universe is their new album, a collection of eight songs whose lyrics are drawn from a variety of Sikh philosophical and religious writings with music written by both the above. While the musical focus is Mr Kater's piano and synths, there is a small group of other musicians providing featured contributions, plus orchestral backing by the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra. The extra musicians are: Paul McCandless - oboe/penny whistle/English Horn, Christian Teele - percussion, Glen Velez - frame drum, Larry Thompson - drums, Bijoux Barbosa - bass. The eight tracks are: Song Of Your Heart, Sanctuary, Heart Of The Universe, Soft Like Wax, Just To Know You, Carry Me, Again & Again, Satigur Prasad. All together it makes for quite a rich sounding album with plenty of lush aural soundscapes. Snatam Kaur has one of those light and whispy voices, which fit these songs like a glove, but it might take the uninitiated listener a little time to become used to it. Undoubtedly aimed at the New Age and Healing music markets Heart Of The Universe is fairly low-key, and is probably most effective with the lights low, candles or incense burning and no outside interference.
This is a case where the album title is an accurate description of the CDs contents. Jazz pianist and composer Pamela York has recorded an album of hymns and spirituals that have been lightly rearranged with a jazz trio backing. I think even a fundamentalist Christian would be hard pressed to be offended by the eleven tracks on Lay Down This World: Hymns & Spirituals. Ms York has dug into the roots of each melody and brought it to the forefront to shine, and whatever religion you may follow I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how lovely these tunes are when shorn of the lyrics. While these are performed in a jazz trio format, the improvisation is relatively mellow and melodic. The rest of the trio are: Lynn Seaton - bass, Sebastian Whittaker - drums, plus Andre Hayward - trombone on a couple of tracks. The eleven tracks are: A Might Fortress Is Our God, I Know That My Redeemer Lives - Glory Hallelujah!, Be Thou My Vision, He Leadeth Me, Just A Closer Walk With Me, Were You There?, I Want Jesus To Walk With Me, My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less, Ain't That Good News!, Deep River, Soon I Will Be Done. Ms York is a gifted performer who brings a new shine to these hymns. Even for someone like myself who isn't religious Lay Down This World: Hymns & Spirituals is an impressively performed album, its commitment to these mostly traditional pieces bring them to life vividly. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.pamelayork.com
The first thing you notice when playing pianist Pamela Hines' latest album, 3.2.1., is that it is a traditional sounding Jazz trio album. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but Jazz has fragmented into so many different strands that the sound of a simple jazz trio - piano/bass/drums - is not as prevalent as it once was. The album title refers to the performance formats used throughout the album: trio, duo and solo. Ms Hines is a melodic performer, not one of those jagged existential soloists that blast away using all the keyboard. She finds the core of the melody and works from there, never straying too far from the emotional heart of the piece. Composers selected for this album include: Bill Evans, Jules Styne and Sammy Cahn, Tadd Dameron and several others. The musicians working with Pamela Hines are: David Clark - bass and Yoron Israel - drums. 3.2.1. Contains nine tracks and the titles are: 34 Skiddoo, B Minor Waltz, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, East Of The Sun, Loose Blues, Sangrie Joven, If You Could See Me Now, Loose Blues [Alternate Take], I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry. Pamela Hines is a mature and impressive pianist, she creates gold and spins it out across the improvisations on this album, and yet retains the melodic heart within each track. An impressive album that should appeal to the fans of Jazz piano.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.pamelahines.com