CD: Light Body
Artist: Peter Kater
In an illustrious career spanning three decades, multi-platinum selling pianist, composer, and producer Peter Kater is not one to rest on his laurels. Constantly traversing new musical terrain, his latest release, Light Body shines with ever evolving reflections of creative expression. Its been a long time since 1983 when Peter released his first album at the dawn of the embryonic new age music genre. Since then he has produced numerous recordings, which have sold millions of copies. In the last 8 years alone he has received 7 Grammy Award nominations. Many listeners know him from his groundbreaking collaboration with Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai. In addition, he has scored over 100 television programs and films, and his music was heard in the NBC broadcast of the 2000 & 2004 Summer Olympics. He has also created music for 11 Off and On-Broadway plays and has performed for presidents, foreign heads of state, and numerous celebrities. Near and dear to his heart is the work he does for humanitarian and environmental causes, and he is a proud recipient of the Environmental Leadership Award from the United Nations.
Space does not permit a full accounting of his accolades, but those interested should check out his website. While Peter Kater is best known as a new age artist, his music has spanned various genres over the years. After moving to the US from Germany at the age of 4, he began his studies in classical piano, although, he was often chastised by his teachers for being too improvisational. He eventually went on to play in rock bands, and by the late 1980’s he even had 3 albums in the Top 10 of National Contemporary Jazz charts. However, he found that it was not satisfying his soul and he turned his attention to music designed to uplift the spirit. While he has had many albums that fit this description, Peter Kater’s latest CD, Light Body, is in my opinion, the pinnacle of his healing music recordings.
According to Peter: “What I really wanted to do was create music that had a place deep in the fabric of our most personal and intimate life experiences. Music that would actually facilitate, support and help initiate deep transformation and growth in a loving and compassionate way. I created many CDs after that with exactly that purpose in mind. And now I’m proud to say that Light Body is possibly the purest expression of ‘music for healing and transformation’ that I’ve ever recorded.” The album features stunning cover art by Valerie McManus, and a portion of the proceeds from sales of the CD and prints of the artwork go to charitable organizations for Hospice and the Healing Arts.
Peter, who plays synthesizers as well as piano is accompanied by Grammy Award winner Paul McCandless on saxophones, oboe, English horn, and penny whistle. Paul has performed and recorded with some of the most well respected names in jazz, new age, and world music, and is known as member of The Paul Winter Consort and the group Oregon. Also featured are the exquisitely ethereal wordless vocals of Trisha Bowden, who served as the executive producer of the CD and is the founder of the Mysterium Music label that the album appears on. The music is based on the 7 chakras or energy centers of the body and brings to mind the classic Steven Halpern albums, Spectrum Suite and Chakra Suite. Each of Peter’s 7 tracks has its own distinct sound and vibe, corresponding to the specific qualities of the chakra, as described in the liner notes.
Starting, of course, with the first, or root chakra, the piece opens with a mystical drone sound and Peter playing on the lower registers of the piano. Elements of nature such as thunder, rain, and wind soon become part of the soundscape – not surprisingly since the first chakra relates to the Earth and grounding. At over nine minutes, this track is the longest on the album. One of the things I enjoyed most about this piece, and the album in general, was the spaciousness and flow of Peter’s playing. Also, after hearing many of his solo piano recordings, it was interesting to experience him in a fuller context such as this, as well as the greater integration of synthesizers into his sound. Being a synthesist myself, I enjoyed hearing Peter’s artistic touch with them. Trisha’s Enya-like vocals, which drift in about a third of the way through, are layered and processed creating a magical ambience. I was pleasantly surprised at how atmospheric the music was, and I was entranced from the very beginning, listening to the entire album nonstop on headphones.
Paul McCandless makes his entrance on the second track as his oboe glides gracefully over Peter’s gently arpeggiated piano notes and synthesizer string section. Its hard not to smile as the sound of children’s laughter is heard midway through. The music on the third composition takes on a dynamic energy, full of forward motion that reflects the characteristics of will, manifestation, action, passion, and strength of the solar plexus chakra. Accordingly, Paul’s bright penny whistle beams rays of musical sunshine throughout the piece.
The momentum downshifts as it moves into the heart chakra, soulfully reflecting the love, compassion, and inter-connectedness of this center. Its remarkable how much each piece communicates its intention, including this one, which was deeply evocative on an emotional level. I especially appreciated the masterful way that the synthesizers, horn parts, and angelic vocals were blended to create unified field of sound for Peter’s exquisite piano melodies to dance upon. Moving up to the throat chakra, we begin to encounter more rarefied air as the music becomes less melodic and more ambient. Synthesizers create a lush and lacy landscape in perfect resonance with Trisha’s beautiful airy vocals.
Ancient and modern come together on the 6th or Intuitive chakra as the timeless sound of a Tibetan bell rings out over a celestial electronic background. Drifting piano notes fill spaces in the air, punctuated by soaring pennywhistle melodies. Peter managed to find just the right high-vibration sounds to open the portal to the 7th or Crown chakra. There is an ephemeral dreamlike quality to this piece that would be right at home on Hearts of Space or Echoes radio programs. By this point, the listener has experienced a progression from the purely physical level to the higher energy realms musically. I have to emphasize again how well the music captures the essence of each energy center. Trisha expands on this saying, “I think Light Body is some of Peter’s best work ever! I think in part because the intention behind the creative process was so genuine in wanting to help people going through difficult emotional and physical stress and trauma.” I would certainly agree with the assessment that this is some of Peter’s best work ever. It has quickly become my favorite of his recordings.
Perhaps the final words here are best said by the maestro Peter himself: “Using the seven chakras as a map, this is a musical journey towards peace, love and acceptance that can provide significant support and relief to individuals and loved ones facing life-changing circumstances. Creating music for meaningful experiences and transitions in life has always been my interest and passion.”
(Moon photo by Peter Kater)