Album: Through the Portal
Artists: David Helfand and Justin Lader
Some music is created from a deeply personal perspective while other music is quite universal. However, the new album by David Helfand and Justin Lader encompasses both. The title, Through the Portal, refers to that threshold that we all must pass through at the end of our earthly existence. Although for David, the inspiration to create this music came from the profound emotional experience of his own mother’s passing. In his words: “As an artist is driven at times to document in some way their direct experiences in life, many of the pieces on Through the Portal and the album as a whole is an impressionistic reflection of my journey and the emotional landscapes I traversed while losing a loved one in my family.”
Artist: Joseph L Young
Listening to the music of Joseph L Young on his fourth and latest release, I was transported by his exquisite blend of the earthy and the ethereal… the worldly and the otherworldly. Over the course of 12 luminous tracks, Joseph creates an alchemical blend of the natural sounds of a variety of flutes from different cultures, world music instruments such as hammered dulcimer, udu drum, tin whistle, Chinese erhu, Celtic harp and various ethnic percussion, with ambient synthesizer soundscapes, atmospheric electronic textures, and even a bit of saxophone. The result is quite transcendental, taking the listener on a journey to serene sonic vistas.
Album: Action Moves People United
In times like these, with so much focus on problems and division in the world, a project like Action Moves People United could not be more needed and timely. A huge number of dedicated people have come together to make this happen in conjunction with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) which strives to promote peace and security among nations through education, science, and culture. The team has produced a musical spoken word album that will exchange ideas, stories, and information focused on bringing about World Peace through individual responsibility, education and helping each other. The mission of the project is to raise awareness of environmental and humanitarian crisis and find actionable solutions. Continue reading
Album: Landscapes of the Heart
Artist: Gary Schmidt
Pianist Gary Schmidt is one of blessed individuals in this world with the talent and the opportunity to follow his passion and create a life out of it, while at the same time uplifting others through his music and teaching. My recent interview with Gary revealed a lot about his motivation and creative process, which I will share in this feature article. In his words: “I have been very fortunate in life to have been doing music now full time for over 30 years. It has been quite the journey. It really is who I am and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I see it both as a calling, a responsibility, and a great honor. What higher purpose could there be than to try and bring a little more beauty and inspiration into our world.”
Album: Winter Fantasy
Artists: David Arkenstone and Charlee Brooks
I have a feeling with the advent of multi-GRAMMY nominee David Arkenstone’s latest recording that Webster’s Dictionary may need to re-define the word “prolific.” He certainly brings new meaning to the term having released 4 new albums in the last half year – and all completely different, I might add. Over the past couple months, in addition to this release, I’ve written feature articles on David’s new age/Celtic-tinged album, The Fairy Garden, and his sonic adventure into the world of ambient electronic chill music on Songs From The Aqua Lounge.
Album: Four Days In My Life
Artist: Louis Colaiannia
Pianist/composer Louis Colaiannia’s latest release, Four Days In My Life was inspired by the time he recently spent enjoying the breathtaking natural beauty of the Oregon coast while on a concert tour. As with his previous album, Louis chose to record at the iconic Imaginary Road Studios of GRAMMY winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, and includes accompaniment by a number of Will’s finest studio musicians. Continue reading
Artist: Tom Eaton
Tom Eaton is on a creative roll these days. It’s only been about 8 months since I wrote about his excellent last recording, Abendromen, here on Music and Media Focus. I certainly didn’t expect another new album so soon. I know that for myself, as a recording artist, it is often a number of years between album releases. But considering the fact that I referred to Tom in the previous article as a “Jedi master of the recording studio,” it’s not that surprising. Actually, nothing about Tom surprises me anymore, as he is truly a man of many talents.
Album: Inner Rhythm Meditations
Artist: Byron Metcalf
While a lot of new age meditation music is ethereal, percussionist Byron Metcalf’s new album utilizes the power of rhythm to create a deeply meditative listening experience that is further enhanced by the exquisite accompaniment of Erik Wollo on ambient guitar and keyboard, and Peter Phippen on Eastern flutes. Byron uses his 20 years as a shamanic practitioner, transpersonal guide, and educator to imbue his music with authenticity based on his extensive knowledge of states of consciousness. Through his relaxed yet soulful rhythms, one is drawn in and entrained to “the pulse of the cosmos.” Continue reading
Album: Walking To You
Artist: Rachel Currea
Rachel Currea is a multi-talented artist whose creativity expands to being a pianist, composer, conductor, collaborator, and educator. As a performer, Rachel has also shared the stage with opera singers such as Sandra Lopez, Elizabeth Caballero, Yvette Loynaz, and tenor Stuart Neill, and has recently teamed up with Grammy-nominated producer and 17-time Classical Brit Award winner, Jon Cohen, to produce her latest single “Imminence,” which also features an orchestra. At this point in her career, Rachel has released her second solo piano album entitled Walking to You, following her critically acclaimed debut recording, Inner Sound Piano Solos. Continue reading
Album: In the Company of Clouds
Artist: Erik Scott
On his stellar new release, In the Company of Clouds, bassist/composer Erik Scott follows in the lofty footsteps of his critically acclaimed and chart-topping album Spirits, which I had the pleasure of writing about. With its blend of Erik’s signature melodic fretless bass along with steel guitar, synthesizers, guitar, percussion, and a bit of choir-like gospel vocals, the music creates an ambiance that is both earthy and ethereal. The alchemy of these elements is quite unique and takes the listener to uncharted sonic terrain. It’s not easy to forge a unique sound in today’s crowded music world, but Erik manages to produce distinctive music that absolutely sounds like no one else.
Artist: Christine Brown
Seamless is the perfect title for the eleventh release by solo pianist Christine Brown. In one of the coolest and most unique albums I’ve heard in a while, instrumental renditions of pop cover tunes, both old and new, segue in and out of classical compositions by the great composers. Beethoven intertwines with Led Zeppelin, Adele with Bach, and The Mama’s and Papa’s with The Eagles and Chopin, just to name a few. Christine Brown has taken the popular concept of a “mash-up” to a new level with her imaginative fusions played with impeccable style and grace. Continue reading
Album: Longitudes & Latitudes
Artist: Lawrence Blatt
It’s been about two and a half years since I had the pleasure of writing about guitarist/composer Lawrence Blatt’s excellent previous release, Emergence. That feature article contained a good deal of information about Lawrence’s musical background, so readers who may be interested are encouraged to check out the link to it. One thing I’ve appreciated about his albums is that they are often based on interesting and unusual concepts. While Emergence was centered around a scientific theory of patterns found in nature, his latest release, Longitudes & Latitudes has a different inspiration. Continue reading
Album: Source of Compassion
Artists: Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi
Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi are two highly regarded artists whose work I’ve been familiar with separately dating back to the 1990’s. Howard is a musician and producer extraordinaire creating his own ambient electronic music as well as working on numerous other artist’s projects at the famed Spotted Peccary Music label of which he is a founder. Madhavi Devi is an innovative harpist, sacred soundscape creator, and visual artist who I knew as Cheryl Gallagher when her smooth jazz album Kinetic came out in 1999, which was one of my favorites at the time. So it is interesting to find them coming together so many years later to blend their talents on a brand new album of spiritually focused music entitled Source of Compassion. From my first listen, I could tell this was a proverbial “match made in heaven.”
Album: Shanti Samsara
Artist: Ricky Kej
I don’t believe that I have ever begun a feature article with a disclaimer, but I will say at the outset that the scope and magnitude of Shanti Samsara is so expansive, that whatever I can fit within the bounds of this article will just be scratching the surface, and that readers are encouraged to visit the website for the full picture. That said, Shanti Samsara is a masterwork from Ricky Kej of India who won the GRAMMY in the new age category in 2014 with his collaborator, South African flutist Wouter Kellerman for their album, Winds of Samsara, which paid tribute to Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Shanti Samsara, however, is much more than an album. Subtitled “World Music For Environmental Consciousness,” Continue reading
Album: Beyond Words
Artist: Dan Chadburn
Pianist and composer Dan Chadburn tells an interesting story about a pivotal point in his life that occurred while he was performing a Bach suite in a recital. Although he forgot almost all of the final movement, Dan shares: “Rather than take an early exit from the stage, I improvised the passage in a ‘Bach a la Chadburn’ style. I hold that recital experience as a defining moment, in that it helped to unlock my own creative voice.” Dan’s creative voice has certainly been shaped by a wide variety of experiences from classical training, to earning a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, studying film scoring at U.C.L.A, and earning a Master of Music in Electroacoustic Composition from London’s City University. Continue reading
Album: An Endless Premonition
Artist: Carl Weingarten
I always find it interesting to write about a new release from an artist I’ve written about previously to get a look at their current stylistic direction and artistic arc. In the case of the latest album by ambient guitarist Carl Weingarten, that arc is more of a full circle, as he returns to a style he explored in earlier recordings. His last album, which I wrote about, Life Under Stars, was a bit of a departure into “cinematic jazz” with Americana influences. However, the one before that, Panomorphia, was more along the lines of what I referred to as “sonic tapestries,” which relied heavily on looping, layering, and spacey effects, some of which brought to mind the music of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. His new album, An Endless Premonition, is somewhat of a return to this style that Carl has been exploring for three decades. Continue reading
Album: Whispers From Silence
Artists: Tom Moore and Sherry Finzer
“All movement comes from stillness. All sound comes from silence.” These words from the back cover of the new album by Phoenix-based musicians Tom Moore and Sherry Finzer, set the stage for their collaborative music that “uses sound and silence to help facilitate a deeply meditative experience for the listener. Whispers From Silence is music that helps you shift your attention from the external world to a more subtle experience of ‘Feeling and Being’” according to Tom and Sherry. Continue reading
Album: When I Remember
Artist: Kevin Kern
I like the quote that accompanies pianist Kevin Kern’s photo on his new album release: “Our memories make us who we are. Mine are set to music.” These memories form the inspiration for the appropriately titled, When I Remember, which according to Kevin is his effort to “reach back to my roots and draw on the richly diverse influences that played such an important part in guiding the development of my musical voice.” And there have been many influences and memories over the years for this official Steinway Artist whose work has included classical, jazz, pop, new age, and more.
Album:The Fairy Garden
Artist: David Arkenstone
After a number of musical journeys into diverse musical terrain such as Game of Thrones-inspired Dark Ambient music and the contemporary groove-based Chill genre on his recent Songs From The Aqua Lounge album, veteran recording artist and sonic explorer David Arkenstone, has revisited a style that fans around the world will find familiar. According to David: “I was channeling my musical self from 25 years ago. The Fairy Garden is a nod to my early releases.” The music has all the enchanting characteristics that many people associate with David Arkenstone, including lush orchestration, atmospheric synthesizers, airy flutes, heavenly harps, dramatic percussion, and more. There is a cinematic quality to the music and I could easily see it as a soundtrack to a Lord of the Rings type movie. In a word… magical.
Album: Dancing on the Wind
Artist: Shoshana Michel
Although Dancing on the Wind is only pianist Shoshana Michel’s second album, and her first as a composer of original material, she is already being recognized for her talents and is making a name for herself in the solo piano category. Her debut album, Soul Whispers, received critical acclaim as well as extensive radio airplay and was nominated for 2015 Album of the Year by solopiano.com. Shoshana is both a Whisperings Artist (solopianoradio.com) and Enlightened Piano Artist (enlightenedpiano.com). Not bad for a first recording in a highly populated field of talented artists. Dancing on the Wind is being promoted by RS Promotions, which is run by well known new age flutist Sherry Finzer.
Artist: Anaya Music
While I have enjoyed Anaya’s previous keyboard-based albums, her new release, Eternity, in collaboration with a live symphony orchestra, brings out the richness and dimension of her stirring compositions, taking the music to another level all together. Anaya’s desire to elevate the human spirit is deeply felt in every note of this inspired recording.
Album: Late Night with Headphones Vol. 1
Artist: Trevor Gordon Hall
Guitarist Trevor Gordon Hall is not an artist who will be accused of being in a creative rut or mining the same musical territory over and over. On the contrary, he is constantly exploring new directions to bring fresh and innovative energy to his artistry. His previous release, Mind Heart Fingers, which I had the pleasure of writing about, featured a unique instrument he helped to design called a kalimbatar, which combines an acoustic guitar with a kalimba, or African thumb piano. However, on his new album, Late Night With Headphones Vol 1, Trevor has charted a decidedly different course for his music.
Album: Jeff Oster Live!
Artist: Jeff Oster
Live concert recordings are not as common in the Contemporary Instrumental genre as they are in some others, which makes Jeff Oster Live! something special. Although in reality, everything Jeff Oster does is pretty special. Writing about this album and performance is something I feel particularly qualified to do since I was fortunate enough to actually be at the concert in the San Francisco Bay area where the album was recorded. It was quite an event and I quickly did a write up about it the next day on Facebook. Here’s what I wrote:
Album: Life Sometimes
Artist: Sarah Dukes
With the release of her sophomore album, Life Sometimes, pianist/composer Sarah Dukes is beginning to find her place in the music world. While she is relatively new in this field, her accomplishments have already been impressive. Sarah has been hand picked by Whisperings-Solo Piano Radio as one of their exclusively featured solo piano artists, and was granted the Akademia Music Award for best pop ballad in 2015 for her song “No More.” This new album was honored with a Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement In Music in the New Age Solo Piano and Album categories in the Global Music Awards. Continue reading
Album: Circles of 8
Artist: Holland Philips
Its been exactly a year since I wrote about Holland Phillips wonderful previous album Daydream Alley, so I was happy to receive his latest recording with the interesting title Circles of 8. Since I covered so much of Holland’s musical background in my feature article on Daydream Alley, I’ll refer readers who may be interested to that rather than recount it all here. But suffice it to say that Holland is a well-trained and experienced musician whose history includes classical, progressive rock, electronic, new age music, and more.
The devotional chanting of mantras is a spiritual practice that has been around for thousands of years. For those who may not be familiar, a mantra is defined as: “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, a Vedic hymn, a statement or slogan repeated frequently.” Throughout the centuries, the form of mantra chanting has probably changed very little, that is until more recently, where contemporary spiritual seekers are finding new and innovative ways to present this ancient practice. Among these sonic explorers is a group called Sukha who takes a bold direction in their blend of sacred singing with rock music.
Album: Songs From The Aqua Lounge
Artist: David Arkenstone
Ever the sonic adventurer, veteran recording artist David Arkenstone embarks on a journey into the world of Chill music on his latest release Songs From The Aqua Lounge. Drawing on elements of ambient, electronica, and smooth jazz, the album serves up a groove-based blend of ultra contemporary sounds that range from dreamy to driving. A perfect example is a track called “Take My Soul,” that features atmospheric synthesizers, pulsing sequencers, electronic beats, and the misty sensuous female vocals of Nahara that evokes a vision of Tangerine Dream and Enya performing together. If this album illustrates anything, it is that with David Arkenstone one thing to expect is the unexpected.
Album: Rowing In Eden
Artist: Rebekah Eden
If there was ever a soundtrack in search of a film, this magical mystery tour of an album by vocalist Rebekah Eden is certainly one. Although, in fact, it almost did become part of an iconic film soundtrack. As Rebekah shared in our interview: “Several years ago I had the opportunity to submit some of my songs to the Hobbit filmmakers for consideration (while Warner Bros. gave it two thumbs up, none of the songs in fact made it into the film). Within the year I also created (and submitted to the Hobbit filmmakers) a fourth song inspired by The Hobbit.” Although these songs were unfortunately not in the film, they are indeed part of this evocative album. Listening with eyes closed, it is not hard to create your own movie within the theater of your imagination.
Album: At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree
Artist: Terry Lee Nichols
For some recording artists, their songs or the theme of their album can be abstract conceptually, while for others like Florida-based composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist Terry Lee Nichols, it can be extremely personal. Terry’s debut release on the up and coming Heart Dance Records label, run by award-winning flutist Sherry Finzer, is described as: “an album of 17 moving and contemplative suites, all designed to tell the artist’s story in a non-linear recollection of experiences had, vignettes of moments captured, and a lifetime of challenges bested.” Terry’s love of music for film adds a cinematic dimension to his sound Continue reading
Artist: Kimberly Haynes
Album: Awaken Me
On her new album, Awaken Me, vocalist Kimberly Haynes paints musical portraits from a diverse palate of influences that include new age, folk, soft pop, world music, and more. Her expressive voice ranges from soft to soaring with thoughtful and inspiring lyrics that touch the heart and illuminate the spiritual quest. Subtitled: “Songs from the Heart of a Seeker,” the spectrum of her eclectic and enlightening vocal performances evokes both the tenderness of a mother’s touch and the ancient feminine power of a tribal priestess singing her truth for the betterment of the community.
Album: White Sun II
Artists: White Sun
Its been a year since I wrote about the self-titled debut album of White Sun, a Los Angeles-based band known for its pioneering musical interpretations of yogic mantras. Now they are following up with the release of their next album appropriately called White Sun II. For those who may not be familiar, the dictionary defines a mantra as: “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, a Vedic hymn, a statement or slogan repeated frequently.” While this type of spiritual chanting dates back to ancient times, it has been enjoying a modern resurgence as people search for deeper attunement and inner connection in life. Continue reading
Album: Secret Garden
Artist: Monica Logani
I often find it interesting to see the path an artist’s life has taken to get to the point where they are at now in their career. For pianist/composer Monica Logani, who has just released her debut album, the way has been winding. Continue reading
Album: A Stagey Bank Affair
Artist: Arun Shenoy & The Groove Project
It’s been about three and a half years since I wrote about guitarist, composer, producer, and Grammy nominee Arun Shenoy’s groundbreaking recording, Rumbadoodle. At the time I found it fascinating that someone born, raised, and educated in India, and now living in Singapore, would produce an album of rumba flamenco music, featuring musicians from very diverse corners of the world. However, as I’ve come to learn with Arun, the one thing to expect is the unexpected. On his new, interestingly titled album (more on that later) Arun Shenoy & The Groove Project, as the name implies, venture deep into the world of funk, with elements of jazz-fusion, rock, and a bit of world music.
Album: Recollections: Volume 1
Artist: Robert Slap
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of writing about Robert Slap’s mystical journey of an album entitled, Atlantis Trilogy: Brave New World. Now, with the release of his new recording Recollections: Volume 1, I’m equally enthused. While the Atlantis Trilogy album was a trip into the mists of the ancient past, Recollections: Volume 1 also does a bit of time traveling, although not quite so far back. Robert has been a prolific recording artist and performer, and last year marked his 50th anniversary in the music industry. This new album is a 12-song collection of instrumental tunes recorded over the last several years, along with a couple of gems from earlier recordings.
Artist: Marc Enfroy
While many albums that I write about contain a song or songs that have been inspired by an event in an artist’s life, rarely have I seen an album that is so intensely autobiographical from start to finish as Crossroads, the latest release from pianist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Marc Enfroy. As the title implies, the album charts a difficult time and point of decision in Marc’s life. Continue reading
Album: The Wisdom of My Shadow
Artist: Lisa Downing
Ever since the golden age of rock music in the 60’s and 70’s I’ve had a particular fondness for “concept albums.” Wikipedia defines them as: “studio albums with thematic unity or artistic cohesiveness.” Examples such as The Beatles Sgt. Pepper, Tommy by The Who, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon come to mind. Albums of this type often tell a story or take the listener on journey. The latest instrumental release by pianist/composer Lisa Downing, entitled The Wisdom of My Shadow, is one of these albums. Continue reading
Album: Beyond Dreams
Artist: Hennie Bekker
In a departure from the more worldly music that has characterized some of Hennie Bekker’s recordings in recent years, his latest album, “Beyond Dreams” reflects a more otherworldly sonic dimension. Subtitled, “Pathways To Deep Relaxation, the music is based on the latest scientific research in brainwaves and body response and features dreamy synthesizers, piano, soft rhythmic pulses, and ambient atmospheres to gently entrain the listener into a profoundly peaceful state.
Album: The Road To Chiang Mai
Artist: Bill Wren
Its hard to believe that almost 4 years have gone by since I wrote about Bill Wren’s last album with Frank Ralls entitled Journey Around The Sun. I began that feature article with these words: “If I were asked to write a one-word review of Journey Around The Sun, that word would probably be ‘wow!’ And perhaps followed by another exclamation point or two if space permitted.” And that brief description could just as easily apply to this new release, The Road To Chiang Mai. It is a truly epic production on every level.
Album: Matters of Balance
Artist: Richard Carr
It’s been exactly 3 years since I wrote about Richard Carr’s previous album Soul Rekindled and quite a number of changes have taken place in that time. Soul Rekindled was a solo piano representation of Richard’s spiritual journey after Hurricane Katrina, which affected him deeply having lived and worked as a performer in New Orleans for 10 years. In the last year, Richard has relocated to beautiful Monterey, California, south of San Francisco. Another change is that, unlike much of his music, this new release is not a solo piano recording, but features a number of world- class accompanists. Continue reading
Album: Wishful Thinking
Artist: Samer Fanek
The act of “wishful thinking” is something we’ve all done at one time or another. For some, it remains purely in the realm of thought, while others may act on those desires to bring them into manifestation. Keyboardist/composer Samer Fanek is one of the later. (Pronunciation note: Samer rhymes with hammer, and Fanek rhymes with panic) In the pursuit of making his dream a reality, Samer took a huge leap of faith and not long ago, quit a high paying software developer job in Silicon Valley, which he had for 5 years in order to devote himself to music full time.
Album: Rendezvous In Paris
Artist: Lena Natalia
Rendezvous In Paris is the follow up release by modern classical pianist/composer Lena Natalia to her critically acclaimed and award winning debut album Sundays In Paris, which was a Gold Medal Awards Winner for Best Album and Minimalist Piano Melodies by the Global Music Awards. That level of recognition is quite an honor for a debut recording. This new release revisits some familiar places while continuing to explore the diverse musical and emotional landscapes of Parisian life.
Album: A Bridge Between
Artists: Carbe and Durand
As the famous opening line from the British comedy show, Monty Python, goes: “And now for something completely different.” The great majority of the albums I write about in this genre are original compositions, with an occasional cover tune included. However, on the new album by Liza Carbe and JP Durand entitled A Bridge Between, 10 of the 13 songs are well-known cover tunes from the 60’s to the 80’s from folk to pop to classic rock. The artists they cover range from Simon and Garfunkel to Ozzy Osbourne, just to give an idea of the diversity. Even though some of the songs are originally from heavy electric bands, all of the versions here are performed in an acoustic guitar duet format, which makes for some very interesting renditions, to say the least. And the wildly eclectic nature of their song choices made this one of the most fun recordings I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in a while.
Album: Dividing The Darkness
Artist: Steve Rivera
Many rivers flow to the sea, and likewise, many creative and spiritual tributaries in pianist/composer Steve Rivera’s life have led him to the level of consummate artistry he has achieved today. Steve is a gifted artist who has overcome a number of seemingly insurmountable challenges in life to achieve his long sought-after goals. Continue reading
Album: Sacred Visions
Artist: Peter Sterling
Well-known harpist and composer Peter Sterling is definitely in the groove with his latest release, Sacred Visions. The recording combines the earthy rhythms of both East and West with celestial harp, flute, keyboards, guitar, vocals, and a variety of world musical instruments in a unique alchemy of ancient and contemporary elements. The result is an album of uplifting positive energy tracks that is sure to raise your spirit and get your toe tapping.
Album: Skipping On Daisies
Artist: Christopher Boscole
When it comes to the music of pianist/composer Christopher Boscole the one thing I’ve come to expect is the unexpected. This is the third album from him that I’ve had the pleasure of writing about, and each one has a bit of a different focus or flavor. The first one, Floating On A Melody, back in 2012 was an impressionistic contemporary instrumental album that reflected Christopher’s passion for sailing. The next one in 2014, A New Age Of Classical Piano, as the title alludes to, was primarily interpretations of works by classical composers such as Debussy, Satie, Chopin, and more. On this latest release, Skipping On Daisies, Christopher goes for a more light-hearted feel, which he describes as “solo piano compositions that are happy, lyrical, magical, and dreaming, reminiscent of new age and neoclassical mysticism.” Continue reading
Album: Time and Again
Artist: Bob Kilgore
Time and Again by Bob Kilgore is one of the most unique and intriguing albums I’ve written about in a while. That’s partly because of the music itself, but also the instrument it was created and played on. In addition to accompaniment on cello and keyboards, Bob’s primary instrument is… a guitar. But that is only part of the picture. What makes his ordinary guitar so different is a device he invented and markets called the Harmonic Capo. Simply put, this unassuming invention straps around the guitar’s neck like an ordinary capo but is specially designed to allow chiming crystalline harmonic notes on any fret. Continue reading
Album: A New Dream
Artist: Lynn Tredeau
Some of our dreams occur when we are asleep, and then there are those we dream when we are awake… our goals, desires, and visions for what we want in life. For pianist composer Lynn Tredeau, one of her dreams has been to create beautiful emotionally expressive music to share with the world. And with her third album, A New Dream, she continues making that dream a reality. In her words: “I feel like my life has been a journey through triumph & failure, joy & sorrow with each stage of life teaching me something new about myself and changing me in some way. As the music for this album came together I realized many of the pieces were touching a dream to compose and how it really became a journey of self-discovery and growth for myself, and also my husband.” Continue reading
Album: Healing Ragas III
Artist: Manish Vyas
Manish Vyas (pronounced Mahn-ish Vi-us) is quite a prolific recording artist. Healing Ragas III is the second album that I have had the pleasure of featuring this year, since writing about his beautiful Atma Bhakti CD on the Malimba Records label. Manish has a rich musical and spiritual background, which I wrote about extensively in the Atma Bhakti feature article. So rather than repeat it all here, I’ll refer readers who may be interested to that article here on Music and Media Focus. However, l will provide just the briefest glimpse at some of the highlights.
Album: Reiki Meditations
People are drawn to music for a wide variety of reasons and purposes. For flutist and multi-instrumentalist Nandin, music is a vehicle for spiritual attunement and healing… although it wasn’t always like that for her. In her earlier years Nandin (rhymes with Kathleen) studied with famous flutists, practicing for hours daily, getting a music degree in composition, winning competitions, playing in a professional orchestra and various ensembles and finally teaching at the local University and Music College in her native Canada. Continue reading
Album: Scattering Stars
Artist: Michelle Qureshi
“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”
These words by the Sufi poet Rumi were the inspiration for the title of the new album by composer/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Michelle Qureshi. Music and spirituality are inextricably linked for Michelle. In her words: “The more time I spend looking inward, the more I can express myself outwardly through music. I seem to be on this journey that is not planned yet flowing for me. Along the way, music is like a companion, mirroring my concerns, my sorrows, my joys, and desire to be at peace in my life, while sharing the experience.”
Album: Follow The River Home
Artist: Jeff Pearce
For many, the electric guitar has been a symbol of rock & roll and not usually thought of in terms of dreamy ambient soundscapes. But that is exactly what award winning recording artist Jeff Pearce has been creating with the instrument over the last 23 years. While it would be easy to assume that the ethereal layers of sound originate from synthesizers, they all indeed emanate from six strings, channeled through a variety of electronic effects. This latest release includes two live concert recordings and five studio compositions that reflect structured and improvised works, and some with a bit of both. Sonic cloud formations, shimmering arpeggiated chords, and stellar lead guitar take the listener on a musical magic carpet ride. Jeff’s albums have garnered a variety awards, nominations, critical acclaim, and radio airplay, and Follow The River Home, will certainly not be an exception. In fact, it is one of Jeff’s best releases yet.
Album: In The Garden
Websites: http://www.seayonline.com/ and http://www.seayinthegarden.com
In The Garden by composer, vocalist, and instrumentalist Seay (pronounced “say”), is one of the most uplifting, richly orchestrated, and lavishly produced recordings I’ve heard in some time, on a level with the work of renowned artists like David Arkenstone or Enya. In fact, while some of Seay’s vocals and arrangements may evoke favorable comparisons with Enya, she indeed has her own unique style that integrates a much wider range of world music influences. With themes that include love and respect for the earth, the oneness of all life, and more, In The Garden is an exquisitely detailed and deeply inspirational musical experience.”
Artist: Alexi Musnitsky
While many contemporary music genres are aimed at and draw from younger people and performers, some in their teens or barely out of them, the new age genre tends to resonate primarily with a, shall we say, more “mature” crowd. In my work as a new age music journalist a lot of the artists I interact with and write about are of the baby boom generation, myself included. Not to make too much of a sweeping generalization, but suffice it to say it’s a different demographic age-wise than genres such as pop, rock, hip hop, etc. So it is refreshing (and encouraging) to encounter someone like 20 year-old pianist/composer Alexi Musnitsky who is drawn to this kind of music at such an early stage of his life and career.
Album: National Park Soundscapes
Artist: Jill Haley
If anyone comes close to expressing the ineffable splendor of nature through music, it is Jill Haley. Her National Park Soundscapes album illuminates both the grandeur and subtlety of these natural wonders. Each piece is beautifully written in tribute to a particular park and enhanced by the musical chemistry between Jill and her talented accompanists, making for a most enchanting listening experience.
Album: Everything In Between
Artist: Jeffrey Seeman
In talking to and writing about many different musicians and recording artists, I always find it interesting to hear about their creative process. For some, while they are working on their music, they don’t want to listen to anything else in order to maintain a strict focus on their own sound. And then there are those, such as guitarist/composer Jeffrey Seeman, who draws inspiration from what he hears and is happy to let it influence his creativity. Continue reading
Album: Simply Beautiful Collection II
Artist: Laima Gaizutis
Although I might normally end a feature article with a quote like this from an artist, I liked it so much I think I’ll begin with it. In my interview with pianist and composer Laima Gaizutis my final question was: What are your musical goals in the future? I loved her half serious, half tongue in cheek reply: “To have my music recognized. I have a wardrobe ready to go!”
Anora is an artist that was new to me; a fact that only adds to how impressed I am with what an incredibly multi-talented person she is. And I’m sure that as this album gets more exposure in the media and is heard by many people, her name and music will become well known. Actually, “Anora” is her artist identity, while her “real” name is Molly Bohman, but for the purpose of this feature article I’ll refer to her as Anora since we are focusing on her artistic endeavors. Continue reading
Album: Where Butterflies Dance
Artist: Ann Sweeten
I’m always happy to receive a new recording from internationally renowned, chart-topping, award-winning pianist/composer Ann Sweeten. Previously, I’ve written about 3 of her earlier releases including 2 CD’s: In The Wake and Tapestries of Time, as well a DVD of a live performance entitled Live at the St. George – An Evening with Ann Sweeten. Since those feature articles contain details about Ann’s musical background, I’ll refer readers who may be interested in learning more to those articles. However, some brief highlights include the fact that Ann holds the prestigious title of an official “Steinway Artist,” which places her in the company of some of the finest and most well known pianists in the world. Continue reading
Artist: Steven Cravis
Musicians create for many different reasons. For some it is about the quest for fame and fortune, while others may be motivated by the sheer joy of self-expression and creativity. For pianist and composer Steven Cravis, there is a more idealistic inspiration. In our recent interview, Steven shared: “My musical vision is to create music that first unifies the listener with themselves, and then gives them a sense that they are connected with everyone/everything. I also like that instrumental music is truly universal and communicates to everyone in the world, transcending language.” Continue reading
Artists: Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney, Will Clipman
The appropriately named Trialogue is a musical conversation between three superb musicians who collectively have numerous international awards, GRAMMY nominations, and more among their impressive list of accolades. The alchemy of Sherry Finzer’s flutes, Darin Mahoney’s guitar, and the percussion of Will Clipman is magical, covering diverse musical terrain that ranges from light and breezy to exotic and atmospheric. Trialogue is truly a harmonic convergence of world-class talent that will appeal to a wide audience of music lovers. Continue reading
Artist: John Fluker
John Fluker is a man on a mission. As he describes it: “My life is about sharing my musical knowledge, using my talents to help other performers create inspiring music, and now, sharing my own music with the public in hopes that it brings them pleasure and a sense of peace. I feel that each time we create a piece of music we are closer to God and unlocking the great mysteries of our existence. My musical vision is to keep creating as long as I am able to.” Over the course of John’s extensive musical career, he has taken advantage of the numerous opportunities that have been presented to him to fulfill these goals and touch the lives of many people through his inspirational artistry.
Artists: Al Jewer and Andy Mitran
Having written a feature article about Al Jewer and Andy Mitran’s Surrounding Sky CD, which was one of my favorite ambient albums of 2015, I was pleasantly surprised to receive their latest release, Transmigration, so soon. But I guess there is no keeping this dynamic duo down when they are on a roll. And they are definitely on a roll! As impressed as I was with Surrounding Sky, this new release takes it to a whole other level. Andy and Al’s music has always been a collaborative process between the two of them, although their last album included a special guest who played on a few tracks. However on Transmigration, which is subtitled a journey with friends, they have called in the cavalry and enlisted the collaboration of 22 guest artists! Continue reading
Album: Piano Jazz My Way
Artist: John Paris
Perhaps in some very small way I can take just a tiny bit of credit for the inspiration of John Paris’ latest album, Piano Jazz My Way. In our recent interview, John mentioned that I, and my fellow music journalist Kathy Parsons of MainlyPiano.com had both been encouraging him to do a recording displaying his incredible jazz piano chops. While his earlier albums certainly reflected various elements of this style, here he has produced a recording that fully lets his inner jazz cat out of the bag. Continue reading
Album: Signature – Synchronicity
Artist: Fiona Joy
The new release by Australian pianist/composer Fiona Joy represents one of the more interesting and unique projects I’ve encountered recently in my 35 years as a new age music journalist. Just about one year ago, I wrote a feature article about her previous release, Signature – Solo, which out of the 11 albums she has recorded was her first solo piano CD. With this new release, Signature – Synchronicity, Fiona reprises these same piano compositions, but adds accompaniment by a host of world-class musicians, recorded at GRAMMY winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman’s iconic Imaginary Road Studios. Continue reading
Album: Distant Horseman
Artist: Timothy Wenzel
Receiving a new album by Timothy Wenzel is always something I look forward to. Having written previously about his Summon The Wind and River Serene albums, I’ve become a fan of his beautifully written compositions. I’ve learned that Timothy likes to center his music on a specific theme, and this one is no exception. As he described in our interview: “Comprising twelve instrumental selections, the album Distant Horseman is conceptually both a spiritual and a seasonal journey. The songs represent an introspective and allegorical journey, a pondering of what lies beyond the bend in the river. To me the emphasis is on transformation. Continue reading
Artist: Lynn Yew Evers
If there was ever a perfect Sunday morning album, Elysian, the new release from pianist/composer Lynn Yew Evers is it – although it is equally enjoyable any time or day of the week. Her gentle piano melodies, accompanied by a host of world-class musicians, caress and soothe the listener into a peaceful and relaxed state. With production by Will Ackerman, Lynn’s heartfelt playing and compositions are as emotionally evocative as they are elegantly understated, providing a collection of songs that can be enjoyed over and over again.
Album: Celtic Fairy Lullaby
Celtic Fairy Lullaby is the eagerly awaited new release from the award-winning group 2002, one of the world’s premier new age music ensembles. While husband and wife Randy and Pamela Copus have produced many albums as a duo, their last few releases have featured their daughter Sarah in supporting roles, particularly their most recent, Trail Of Dreams. Now at the age of 11, Sarah, who is truly a rising star, shines in the spotlight as the lead vocalist, as well as on harp, in this enchanting collection of soothing ancient melodies sung in Irish Gaelic, Welsh and English. As always, the album’s production is superb; enhancing the lush soundscapes the group is so well known for. Fans of Enya, Loreena Mckennitt, and Clannad will find a lot to like in the magical music of Celtic Fairy Lullaby.
Album: On Eagle Mountain
Artist: Todd Mosby
While many musicians create their own music, not many, I’m sure, create their own original instruments to play it on. However, guitarist Todd Mosby helped design and create one of the most fascinating guitar/sitar fusions I’ve ever seen. And man, can he play it! More on this innovative instrument later, but for now let me introduce and provide some background on this master musician.
Album: Liquid Mind XI: Deep Sleep
Artist: Liquid Mind
I’m sure that anyone who has been following the new age music genre for any length of time will be familiar with the name Liquid Mind, one of the premier producers of soothing sounds. Liquid Mind is actually the name that composer, keyboardist, and Emmy®-nominated songwriter Chuck Wild records as. Since 1994, Chuck has released 14 albums under the Liquid Mind moniker. In Chuck’s words: “Liquid Mind® is ‘therapeutic’ music, specifically designed to reduce anxiety and cause a deep state of relaxation.” Continue reading
Artist: Tom Eaton
I don’t know how many albums I’ve written about in the past 5 years or so that have been engineered and/or co-produced by Tom Eaton – at least 30, I’d guess. In his role at the iconic Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, working along side GRAMMY winning producer and Windham Hill Records Founder Will Ackerman, this dynamic duo has become the premier production team for artists in the new age music genre. So it’s interesting to see Tom step out from behind the glass in the control room from working on other artist’s music to producing his own music for a change.
Album: Castle Moon
Artist: Joseph Akins
Sporting one of my favorite album covers that I’ve seen in a while, Castle Moon, the new release by pianist and composer Joseph Akins offers an interesting yin/yang contrast with his previous album A Southern Sun, which I also had the pleasure of writing about. That album, as the title implies, had a solar theme and a brighter ambiance in comparison to the new album’s moon theme and corresponding musical direction. According to Joseph: “This album has a nightly theme. Overall, it has a darker, mysterious sound. This was accomplished by the use of more minor keys and exotic scales. I wanted to create an album that was the antithesis of my previous album.” Castle Moon includes 11 original solo piano compositions, as well as Joseph’s arrangement of the theme from the popular HBO series, “Game of Thrones.” Continue reading
Album: Safe In Your Arms
Artist: Scott Cossu
The name of Scott Cossu is one that long-time fans of new age music will be familiar with. This highly regarded pianist/composer was one of the very first artists on Will Ackerman and Alex De Grassi’s legendary Windham Hill Records label, which Scott recorded on for nineteen years. In fact, Windham Hill piano icon George Winston used to open for Scott in concert in the early years. With some of the songs from Scott’s extensive music catalog being currently out of print, he has chosen to re-record seven of them here, featured along with five exquisite new compositions. Accompanying Scott’s much-loved signature piano sound are guitar, flutes, and harmonica. Continue reading
Artist: Joe Heinemann
The Latin root of the word “gratitude,” means “pleasing.” The new album by pianist and composer Joe Heinemann, which bears the name Gratitude certainly lives up to the origin of its title, as the word “pleasing” provides a perfect description of the graceful and elegant melodies found within it’s 11 tracks. Although Joe has had a long and extensive professional career as a jazz and blues keyboardist, recording and sharing the stage with well-known artists such as Steve Miller, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Charlie Musselwhite, and more, this album marks his debut as a solo pianist playing his own music. Continue reading
Album: Prayers for the Water
Artist: Heather Houston
With 71% of the earth’s surface being covered by water, its surprising how little attention is paid to it as we go about our lives on the remaining 29% of the planet. Fortunately there are people like Heather Houston who care deeply and are devoted to raising awareness, not only about our physical relationship with water, but the spiritual aspect as well. Heather is an acclaimed singer, recording artist, voice teacher, and workshop leader who is known for her beautifully soulful voice and her ability to open hearts, lift spirits, and build community through music.
Album: Between Shadow And Light
Artist: Neil Patton
The title of pianist Neil Patton’s award-winning album Between Shadow And Light provides more than a hint of the thematic direction and inspiration of the recording. According to Neil: “This album was largely inspired by people in my life (myself included) who are traveling through valleys of suffering and healing.” Continue reading
Album: Atlantis Trilogy: Brave New World
Artist: Robert Slap
Having been a new age music journalist for over 3 decades, the name of Robert Slap is one I’ve been familiar with for a long time. Recording artist and music industry professional, Robert Slap, recently celebrated his 50th anniversary in the music industry – a journey he calls: “from Motown to Atlantis.” Continue reading
Artist: Karen Olson
Quick, name your top 5 favorite new age violists. I’d be surprised if anyone could, as the viola is an instrument not as frequently found outside the realm of classical music. However, Karen Olson has been expanding the boundaries and application of the instrument into uncharted territory. Although her latest album, Convergence, may be classified as a new age recording, Karen’s background and musical career has been as diverse as you could possibly imagine.
Album: Atma Bhakti
Artist: Manish Vyas
Over the past decade or two, there has been a tremendous explosion in what has come to known as “world music.” Some of it encompasses a fusion of diverse cultural influences into an international musical melting pot, while others strive to maintain a strict devotion to a particular ethnicity or cultural lineage. The music of Manish Vyas (pronounced Mahn-ish Vi-us) on his latest release, Atma Bhakti, is the latter. While at various points in his long music career, he has played in a variety of musical settings that drew from various influences; here he is maintaining more of a purist perspective with this recording project.
Album: There Was a Time
Artist: Kathyrn Kaye
With her fifth release, There Was a Time, pianist/composer Kathryn Kaye follows up a string of critically acclaimed and chart topping albums, including her most recent, Patterns of Sun and Shade. Here, she once again reprises her long-standing working relation with GRAMMY winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman and his call list of world-class studio musicians. With neo-classical, contemporary instrumental, and new age influences, Kathryn’s gentle melodies also draw from the deep well of the Appalachian folk music she grew up with. Continue reading
Album: Beyond the Clearing
Artist: Robert Linton
It was interesting to receive the new album by guitarist Robert Linton exactly on the fifth anniversary of my Music and Media Focus website, considering that his previous release, Throughout The Autumn Light was one of the first albums I had the pleasure to write about here. That release went on to do very well, garnering a number 2 spot on the ZMR Top 100 Radio Airplay charts, as well as a nomination for Best Instrumental Acoustic Album.
Album: Butterfly Rapture
Artist: Brian Kelly
For some, music is a hobby or a pleasant pastime. For others, it is as essential as the air they breathe. According to pianist/composer Brian Kelly: “Music is my home. It became my home because it was the constant in my early life. Our family moved around a lot when I was a kid. By the time I left for college, my family had moved 18 times. Music has continued to be my home throughout my adult life.”
Album: Keepsakes in the Attic
Artist: Jeff Bjorck
As the title, Keepsakes in the Attic, implies, pianist/composer Jeff Bjorck has created an album filled with nostalgia and treasured memories, both real and imagined. (Note: Bjorck is pronounced as Byork – one syllable, rhymes with “York”) In my interview with Jeff, he spoke about the inspiration and concept for the album: “As I composed the pieces for this CD, I repeatedly imagined myself in the attic of an old house, with sun drifting through a single window, casting a warm light on an old steamer trunk like the ones my great-grandparents used when immigrating from Sweden in the late 1800s. I envisioned myself perusing many of my family’s heirlooms, and it was this vision (also depicted on the back cover) that inspired this album.”
Album: Moments (Solo Piano, Op. 7)
Artist: Tim Neumark
Award winning solo pianist Tim Neumark always chooses interesting themes for his albums, and his latest release, Moments, is no exception. According to Tim: “Life is made of moments. The best moments and memories aren’t necessarily the weddings, graduations, and births, but the smaller events in your life: your child dancing, pets greeting you at the door, a touching book or piece of music. With this album, I tried to reflect on some moments that have mattered to me.” He also shared that he hopes the album gives listeners time to reflect on their own personal moments.
Artist: David Lindsay
The term “second wind” might be a good one to describe the newly invigorated music career of acoustic guitarist David Lindsay. From 1985 to 2000, David recorded and performed in concert, as well as on live radio and TV in Canada. In the time between then and now, he practiced law and studied the lute. Currently in 2015, his new album, Nightbound, marks his triumphant return to writing and recording music. I use the “triumphant” partly because David went all-out to work with one of the ultimate producers of acoustic guitar music in the world, Windham Hill Records founder and GRAMMY winning producer Will Ackerman at his iconic Imaginary Road Studios. Continue reading
Album: Fifth Essence
Artist: Anaya Music
The sound of Fifth Essence is the sound of heaven and earth. Heavenly in it’s ethereal angelic voices and new age ambiance, and earthy in it’s rich symphonic strings and neoclassical influences. While Anaya is a talented composer whose intriguing and often unexpected chord changes and melodies caught my attention, I was most impressed with her heartfelt intention in creating beautiful music to inspire and uplift the spirit of the listener. In addition to the music, the album’s visionary cover art is gorgeous and inspirational as well.
Album: Starlight, Starbright
Artist: Candice Night
Award-winning vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and lyricist Candice Night is certainly no stranger to the pages of Music and Media Focus. She has been best known for almost two decades as a primary member of the hugely popular band Blackmore’s Night, along with her husband and ex-Deep Purple guitarist, Richie Blackmore. Their alchemical brew of Renaissance and Medieval music, Celtic, English folk, and rock influences has generated millions of adoring fans around the world. Continue reading
Album: Winter Symphony
Artist: Jennifer Thomas
Holiday albums come in a wide range of styles from heartfelt solo piano recordings to more elaborate productions. However, Winter Symphony by pianist, violinist, and composer Jennifer Thomas is practically off the charts in terms of the magnitude of its production. Incorporating a large number of musicians from 3 orchestras, a full choir, as well as art and production staff, the credits alone take up two full pages in the 15-page color booklet that accompanies the album. Continue reading
Album: Journey Home
Artist: Raphael Groten
Although Raphael Groten has been playing guitar for 30 years, Journey Home is his debut solo recording on the instrument. But as the saying goes: “Good things are worth waiting for,” and Raphael has made up for lost time by delivering this finely crafted album that highlights his six-string talents. If listening to this recording brings up memories of the iconic Windham Hill sound, it is more than a coincidence. Journey Home was actually produced by the GRAMMY winning producer and founder of Windham Hill Records, Will Ackerman himself, at his renowned Imaginary Road Studios. And as most of the recordings there are, it was exquisitely engineered and mastered by Tom Eaton, who was also a co-producer along with Raphael.
Album: Surrounding Sky
Artists: Al Jewer and Andy Mitran
While many recording artists in the new age genre craft their musical masterpieces in solitude, others prefer the team approach to writing and recording. Andy Mitran and Al Jewer are among the latter, having been musical partners for about 15 years. In that time the dynamic duo created 4 CD’s and 4 DVD’s, which have generated numerous awards and nominations. In 2004 they were approached by producers of the Oprah Winfrey Show to contribute music to their production library, which lead to them composing hundreds of pieces that helped create Oprah’s “Harpo Sounds” music library. Continue reading
Album: Forever Christmas
Artists: David Lanz and Kristin Amarie
Websites: http://davidlanz.com/ and http://Amariemusic.com
Forever Christmas is a stunning collaboration by pianist/composer David Lanz and Norwegian-born vocalist Kristin Amarie (pronounced Christine) who are not only musical partners but life partners as well. David humorously refers to themselves as “the Sonny and Cher of New Age music.” I previously had the pleasure of hearing and writing a feature article about their gorgeous Silhouettes Of Love album, of which I said: “A master alchemist could not have come up with a more perfect blend of elements than the chemistry created in the music of David Lanz and Kristin Amarie – pure magic!” And that magic is very much alive within the heartfelt tracks of their Forever Christmas album. Continue reading
Album: Christmas Lights
Artist: Doug Hammer
Christmas Lights is the tenth album release from prolific composer and pianist Doug Hammer. The album includes solo piano versions of 17 traditional Christmas favorites and one new original composition (the title track.) There is a lovely story that goes with this original piece, but since it is the final track on the album, I’ll save it for later. Before discussing the music, for those who may not be familiar, Doug Hammer has both won and been nominated for many awards and honors over the course of his career after graduating from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Continue reading
Album: Under The Stars
Artist: Joanne Lazzaro
There have been many solo flute albums over the years, but perhaps the most seminal in the new age genre was the iconic Inside, recorded by Paul Horn in the Taj Mahal back in 1968. Its natural ambiance and reverberation gave it a dimension that enchanted listeners. Since then numerous albums have been recorded in a wide variety of settings including cathedrals, caves and caverns, in the Great Pyramid, and even while rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon as The Paul Winter Consort did in 1985. Inspired by the original Paul Horn recording, flutist Joanne Lazzaro decided to do a solo flute recording in a unique and sonically resonant setting: the 100-inch telescope dome at the historic Mount Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles.
Album: Fall Into Winter
Artist: Bryan Carrigan
Looking out my window a few days before Thanksgiving, and seeing the red and golden leaves drifting gently from the trees to the ground, it seems like the perfect time to be listening to and writing about the latest release from Bryan Carrigan entitled “Fall Into Winter.” While this would be considered a seasonal recording, it’s not a holiday album. In fact, as Bryan humorously shares: “This is not your mama’s seasonal album and absolutely no ‘Jingle Bells’ or Christmas covers were harmed in the making of this CD.” He goes on to describe it as: “…loaded with over 73 minutes of wintery ambient goodness, capturing not only the cold and dark tone of winter but the stillness, beauty, and introspection that the season evokes.”
Album: Out of the Blue
Artist: Cory Lavine
I really like the concept behind the title of Cory Lavine’s album Out of the Blue. In his words: “Over the years, I, and maybe you yourself have been inspired by people who’ve come in and out of your life. Many of these who I am referring to, came to us from out of nowhere. They came, “Out of the Blue.” Who sent them? Where did they come from? How did they know when and where to find us, and why? Regardless if we ever find out the answers I believe when we look deep within ourselves, we can often answer the reason why. This album is dedicated to all those who’ve inspired us to be our best, and to be sure we’re living out our lives to the fullest.”
Album: Christmas Beyond
Artist: Steven C
For many artists who record their albums in studios, the ideal is to have the space be as neutral as possible. Then later, ambiance is added electronically through reverb and other effects. For his Christmas Beyond album, multi-platinum composer and pianist Steven C (a.k.a. Steven C. Anderson) wanted the space to be as much a part of the recording as the instruments. To fulfill this desire, Steven was granted permission to record this project in the iconic 100-year-old Cathedral of Saint Paul in Minnesota. As he shares: “While putting together the music, it became apparent through my muse that to capture the timeless sacredness I wished to embody and create, it needed to be done in a reverent and sacred place. Through her vision, the Cathedral of Saint Paul was the place. It has been a highlight of my career to be able to record there, and I can’t wait ot perform these songs live for an audience.”
Album: You Are My Home
Artist: Michael Whalen
To say that Michael Whalen has had, and continues to have, an illustrious career in the music industry would certainly qualify for understatement of the year status. His experiences and achievements are the stuff of dreams for many aspiring artists and composers. To mention them all would take a good deal of this feature article and leave little room to talk about his wonderful new album. But briefly, Michael is a two time Emmy® award-winner and a veteran of more than 750 television and film scores, thousands of commercials and numerous TV themes and corporate identity pieces. His most well known credits include music for “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “Inside Edition”, themes & network IDs for HBO, PBS, CBS, Comcast, additional music for the feature film “What the Bleep Do We Know?,” short films for Disney, and the theme for “Good Morning America”.
Album: Asia Beauty
Artist: Ron Korb
As the old saying goes: “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” and I suppose that extends to CD’s as well. However, its hard not to be extremely impressed with the first impression flutist Ron Korb’s Asia Beauty CD makes with its stunning packaging and 36 page booklet with gorgeous full color photos and liner notes. Before even hearing the music, you are drawn into Ron’s world travels to exotic places and spaces. Fortunately, the music is equally impressive as well.
Artist: Curtis Macdonald
Among the many nice things I could say about keyboardist/composer Curtis Macdonald is that his creativity and versatility seem to know no bounds. His latest release of holiday music entitled Christmas, follows in the wake of a very different kind of album he released last year, which I had the pleasure of writing about. Continue reading
CD: Illumination of the Heart
With over 60 albums to his credit since 1971, Deuter has to be one of the most prolific artists in new age music – a genre in which he was one of the pioneers. In my more than 30 years as a new age music journalist, I have written about many of his albums, the most recent being Reiki Hands of Love. In that feature article, I wrote about his formative years as well as his musical and spiritual background. Readers who are interested are encouraged to check out that article for further information. But briefly, Deuter (pronounced doy-ter) who was born in Germany remembers the first time he heard someone playing a flute. In his words: “It was like a light coming from the heavens. For one of my birthdays I was given a flute and that was the beginning for me.”
CD: The Ascent
Artist: Amy Faithe
From soul to Soul describes the journey of vocalist Amy Faithe in the creation of her debut new age music release, The Ascent. In the years preceding the creation of this album, Amy has made a name for herself in the jazz, soul, and R&B genres, influenced by artists such as Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. However, with this album, Amy has a sense of moving into greater expression of what she feels is her life purpose and higher calling… to create music that is healing and spiritually uplifting.