CD: Star Eyes
Artist: John Fluker
Question: What do as Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Mavis Staples, David Hasselhoff, Boys 2 Men, Queen Latifah, and Jennifer Lopez have in common? Answer: They have all worked with John Fluker in one musical capacity or another. These are but a few from the long list of names that LA-based pianist, arranger, composer, vocalist, and vocal coach John Fluker has had the opportunity to be involved with professionally. And while a complete listing could take considerable space, an abbreviated account of his television credits include The Tonight Show, Lou Rawl’s Parade of Stars, Good Morning America, Regis & Kathy Lee, Soul Train Awards, Donny & Marie, Ed McMahon’s Star Search, and the Michael Jackson Memorial, (Andrae Crouch Singers). Perhaps his most extensive work has been with legendary singer Gladys Knight, as her piano accompanist and musical director, which included a special performance with a full symphony orchestra at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway.
However getting to this level of success did not happen overnight – it’s been a long road. John began his formal piano lessons at age 8 while also becoming accomplished on trombone in his early years. Church played a formative role in his musical and spiritual development, and singing in gospel choirs has been an important part of his life. His formal education includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Theory from the University of Michigan, School of Music.
In addition to all the experience he has had working with major artists, John has been highly successful with his own music as well. His latest release, “Star Eyes” follows in the footsteps of two previous albums, which have garnered numerous accolades. His “Sound Of Peace” CD held the #1 position on two consecutive national New Age Reporter top 100-radio airplay charts. In addition, he was honored with the 2006 NAR Lifestyle Award for Best New Artist. Keeping the momentum going, the following year his Christmas album entitled “J Is For Joy” was nominated for the NAR Best Holiday Album.
Fans have been looking forward to this new CD for a while, and I’m sure that upon hearing it they will agree that it has been worth the wait. While John is also an award-winning vocalist, “Star Eyes” is a collection of instrumental compositions. The piano is the primary brush he paints his portraits in sound with, although he often uses subtle synthesizer strings, pads, and washes of sound to enhance the atmosphere of the piece and add to it’s relaxing effect. I cannot emphasize enough how tasteful his use of electronic sounds is. They never overshadow the piano and gently support it like air currents buoying aloft a soaring bird in flight.
The album alights with a short piece entitled “Evening Prelude” in which cascades of notes sparkle and shimmer like stars in the sky, providing a perfect intro for what is to follow. The next track, “Star Eyes (Part 1)” goes straight for the heart, revealing a melodic sensibility that is as elegant as it is evocative. No less heartfelt, yet slightly more reflective, is “Anytime” in which a wistful air and sense of longing pervades. True to its title, “Babe In Arms” conveys a feeling of tenderness that is palpable. I could easily imagine this piece as a soundtrack underscoring a dramatic scene in a film or TV production. Although “Chippewa Winds” is one of the shorter tracks in length, it is long on vision; evoking for me, an image of standing high on a cliff overlooking the canyon lands of the Southwest. The subtle use of wind sounds in the middle section of the piece adds nicely to the ambience. The final track is a reprise of track 4, entitled “After The Fall” and provides a fitting conclusion in that it brings together all the elements of beauty, passion, and grace that identify John Fluker as a pianist of tremendous sensitivity and talent.
It’s interesting to see an artist with such a deep foundation in other styles such as R&B and gospel stretching his wings into a genre as divergent as new age instrumental music. However, after listening, it would be easy to assume that this has been his primary artistic expression for a very long time. I have no doubt that fans of artists such as George Winston, Liz Story, or David Lanz would greatly enjoy the virtuoso piano playing and evocative compositional craftsmanship of John Fluker, and would find “Star Eyes” another “must have” album to add to their collections.