Artist: Sherry Finzer
Label: Heart Dance Records
If you are seeking Sanctuary, you’ve come to the right place. Sherry Finzer is a multi-talented musician and recording artist, who breathes life into a variety of flutes including the modern C flute, the alto flute, and the Native American flute. She not only does studio recording, but also performs in a wide variety of musical contexts including solo, duo, trio, and larger ensembles ranging from classical…to new age, world, jazz, and pop music. In addition, she runs her own music label, Heart Dance Records, which is an appropriate name given how much heart energy comes through in her music. Another way that Sherry shares her love and passion is though the creation of her Arizona World Music Initiative (www.azwmi.org) which is an interactive music program for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and seeks to introduce children to music early in life and give them an opportunity to participate with performers and hopefully create an interest that will last a lifetime.
Living in the beauty of Arizona, much of the influence of that particular landscape finds it’s way into her sound. Her recent album “Sanctuary,” which was a 2010 Grammy semi finalist for best new age album, often reflects the colors and feel not only of the Southwest, but of more subtle dimensions as well. In her own words, “The music’s imagery will awaken your senses while you are traveling through distant lands and ethereal worlds outside of this realm.”
And travel you will. From the beginning of the first track, “Awakenings” you get the feeling that a journey is about to unfold. In an unexpected intro, the song opens with the sound of wind and surprisingly electronic percussion creating a mid tempo ambient groove and laying down a rhythmic foundation for her graceful flutes to glide over. Another surprise unfolds as the sound of Gregorian chanting begins to be heard softly in the background. Which brings me to an aspect of the album I feel deserves mentioning – the mix. While various musical elements weave in and out throughout the album, they are often mixed in very subtly and tastefully, allowing the flute to shine. Sherry’s playing is exquisite as she shows her versatility in the various compositions.
Track two, “Celestial Voyage,” begins with a sensuous wash of keyboards overlaid with softly chiming bells and an electronic texture that sounds like water dripping in a cave. Her music makes wonderful use of synthesizers and electronic effects that set a mood and compliment the sound without pushing the music too much in that direction. And speaking of directions, the album takes an obvious turn to the East on the next song “Mystic Haze”, with it’s drone background, Indian tabla drums, and something that sounds like a Santur – a Persian hammer dulcimer-like instrument. Sherry’s flute casts an exotic spell using Eastern scales and melodies to evoke an air of mystery and intrigue. This vibe carries over into the next song as well.
The fifth track, “Fortitude” brings us back to earth a bit with only the sound of water and a thunderstorm off in the distance providing a sonic landscape for Sherry to color with her flute. This song, which reminded me of the aural equivalent of a Georgia O’Keefe painting, is the most minimalist track on the album and is a nice shift from the previous two pieces. The nature sounds continue on the last composition, “Peaceful Drift,” which couldn’t be more appropriately titled, as the sound of ocean waves and seagulls create a relaxed ambience for the other instruments to float on. This is perhaps the most melodically adventurous piece on the CD featuring some unexpected chord changes and directions.
I appreciated that the compositions were extended – mostly from around eight to ten minutes in length, giving the listener ample time to become absorbed in the meditative spaces created. “Sanctuary” takes in diverse elements of music, nature sounds, and electronic textures and provides a sheltered creative space for them to blend. It’s a place I look forward to seeking refuge in again.