Music Matters A Place for Music Fans! http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters <![CDATA[ Calamar and Gallo bring back a flood of happy memories in this highly entertaining book.]]>
In the course of my lifetime I have spent thousands of hours in record stores. Collecting 45's, LP's and CD's from a cornucopia of genres has been my lifelong passion. Most of my time was spent in small mom and pop stores run by individuals who possessed both the knowledge of and a passion for the music they were selling. It was a joy to shop in these places. Recently and quite by accident I stumbled upon a most remarkable book that fondly recalls those halcyon days. "Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again" presents the history of record stores in America in words and pictures. While I usually read books on much more important topics I wanted to read this one for the sheer joy I suspected it would bring. I was not disappointed.

While I certainly appreciated the detailed narrative presented by Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo it was the dozens of captivating photographs sprinkled throughout "Record Store Days" that really sent me back. I agree with Cameron Crowe who recalled in the book that "The record shop was a place of escape. It was a library and a clubhouse." I shopped and hung out at the same mom and pop stores for decades. I never got tired of discovering new and different sounds and meeting other passionate collectors. As I got older I also spent quite a bit of time browsing and shopping at some of the national and regional chain stores. Most of these places were quite well-stocked and staffed by extremely knowledgeable salespeople. With the arrival of the compact disc, Napster, SoundScan and big-box stores the record industry would change radically and not for the better I'm afraid. It just wasn't the same. Calamar and Gallo chronicle the events that would alter the face of the business. For those of us over the age of 50 "Record Store Days" is sure to bring back a boatload of fond memories. I was very happy to discover that there are still some great old-timey record shops around like George's Song Shop in Johnstown, PA. Meanwhile, the authors report that vinyl is making something of a comeback these days. You younger folks might want to check out "Record Store Days" to discover exactly what you might be missing out on today. It is clear to me that putting together "Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again" was a labor of love for everyone involved. This is a well-written, informative and entertaining book that can be enjoyed by music lovers, history buffs and general audiences alike. Highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Record_Store_Days_From_Vinyl_to_Digital_and_Back_Again-450-1901064-250117-Calamar_and_Gallo_bring_back_a_flood_of_happy.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Record_Store_Days_From_Vinyl_to_Digital_and_Back_Again-450-1901064-250117-Calamar_and_Gallo_bring_back_a_flood_of_happy.html Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:05:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Celebrating 50 years of one of the greatest bands in rock & roll history.]]>
Disc One
1. You Really Got Me (from You Really Got Me, 1964)
2. Stop Your Sobbing (from You Really Got Me, 1964)
3. All Day and All of the Night (from Kinks-Size, 1965)
4. Tired of Waiting For You (from Kinks-Size, 1965)
5. Nothin' In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl (from Kinda Kinks, 1965)
6. Ev'rybody's Gonna Be Happy (from Kinda Kinks, 1965)
7. A Well Respected Man (from Kinkdom, 1965)
8. Dedicated Follower of Fashion (single, 1966)
9. Who'll Be The Next In Line (from Kinkdom, 1965)
10. Set Me Free (single, 1965)
11. See My Friends (from Kinkdom, 1965)
12. Sunny Afternoon (from Face to Face, 1966)
13. Dead End Street (single, 1966)
14. Death Of A Clown (from Something Else, 1967)
15. Autumn Almanac (single, 1967)
16. David Watts (from Something Else, 1967)
17. Waterloo Sunset (from Something Else, 1967)
18. Days (from the Europe and New Zealand editions of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, 1968)
19. The Village Green Preservation Society (from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, 1968)
20. Do You Remember Walter? (from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, 1968)
21. Picture Book (from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, 1968)
22. Victoria (from Arthur: or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1969)
23. Apeman (from Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, 1970)
24. Strangers (from Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, 1970)
25. 20th Century Man (from Muswell Hillbillies, 1971)
26. Supersonic Rocket Ship (from Everybody's In Show-Biz, 1972)
27. Celluloid Heroes (U.S. Single Version) (from Everybody's in Show-Biz, 1972)

Disc Two
1. Here Comes Another Day (from Everybody's In Show-Biz, 1972)
2. You Don't Know My Name (from Everybody's In Show-Biz, 1972)
3. Till The End of the Day (live 1972)
4. One of the Survivors (from Preservation Act 1, 1973)
5. Sweet Lady Genevieve (from Preservation Act 1, 1973)
6. Everybody's A Star (Starmaker) (from Soap Opera, 1975)
7. Life On the Road (from Sleepwalker, 1977)
8. Sleepwalker (from Sleepwalker, 1977)
9. Life Goes On (from Sleepwalker, 1977)
10. A Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy (single version) (from Misfits, 1978)
11. Father Christmas (single, 1977)
12. (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman (from Low Budget, 1979)
13. Lola (live 1979) (from One For the Road, 1980)
14. Where Have All the Good Times Gone (live 1979) (from One For the Road, 1980)
15. Better Things (single version) (from Give The People What They Want, 1981)
16. Destroyer (from Give The People What They Want, 1981)
17. Come Dancing (from State of Confusion, 1983)
18. Don't Forget To Dance from State of Confusion, 1983)
19. Do It Again (from Word of Mouth, 1984)
20. Living On A Thin Line (from Word of Mouth, 1984)
21. Scattered (from Phobia, 1993)

During the course of their storied career The Kinks placed more than two dozen singles on the Billboard Hot 100. They were a staple of Top 40 radio in the 1960's and a fixture on oldies stations in the two decades that followed. But The Kinks were so much more than that. They were also one of the era's most innovative, prolific and successful album bands. I remember being blown away by "Arthur" when I first sampled it back in 1969. The Kinks never stopped making high quality records. Now in celebration of the band's 50th Anniversary Sony Legacy has released the remarkable 48 track two disc collection "The Essential Kinks". Just peruse the list above and you are sure to find a whole bunch of stuff that you would he happy to enjoy once again. Just about all of those memorable hit singles and a couple of dozen choice album cuts are included here. You should know that these are all the original Reprise, RCA, Arista and Columbia recordings you would remember from the radio. There are no cheap re-recordings here. The remastering job is superb and a terrific little book is also included featuring some very cool photos and liner notes by none other than David Bowie. "The Essential Kinks" proves to be a great collection at a very nice price. Very highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/album/UserReview-The_Essential_Kinks-450-1900905-249989-Celebrating_50_years_of_one_of_the_greatest_bands.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/album/UserReview-The_Essential_Kinks-450-1900905-249989-Celebrating_50_years_of_one_of_the_greatest_bands.html Sat, 6 Dec 2014 17:34:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Queen of Soul is a shell of her former self.]]> http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Aretha_Franklin_Sings_The_Great_Diva_Classics-450-1900903-249987-The_Queen_of_Soul_is_a_shell_of_her_former_self_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Aretha_Franklin_Sings_The_Great_Diva_Classics-450-1900903-249987-The_Queen_of_Soul_is_a_shell_of_her_former_self_.html Sat, 6 Dec 2014 17:11:26 +0000 <![CDATA[ Not quite back to basics but a step in the right direction.]]> http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Neil_Diamond_Melody_Road-450-1900902-249984-Not_quite_back_to_basics_but_a_step_in_the_right.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Neil_Diamond_Melody_Road-450-1900902-249984-Not_quite_back_to_basics_but_a_step_in_the_right.html Sat, 6 Dec 2014 16:59:18 +0000 <![CDATA[ Much to my surprise I like this disc...a lot.]]> http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-My_Dream_Duets_by_Barry_Manilow-450-1900699-249975-Much_to_my_surprise_I_like_this_disc_a_lot_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-My_Dream_Duets_by_Barry_Manilow-450-1900699-249975-Much_to_my_surprise_I_like_this_disc_a_lot_.html Sat, 6 Dec 2014 12:13:02 +0000 <![CDATA[ As comfortable as an old pair of jeans.]]>
"She & Him: Classics" offers a little something for everyone and is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. So while She & Him hardly seem to be breaking any new ground here they have come up with an album well worth adding to your collection. Meanwhile, I would be remiss if I failed to make mention of the outstanding guitar work of "Him" (Matthew "M." Ward) on so many of these tunes. He is obviously an extremely gifted musician. "She & Him: Classics" might not be something you will play all the time but when you are in the mood you will be glad that you have it on the shelf or in your MP3 player. Highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/album/UserReview-She_Him_Classics-450-1900891-249973-As_comfortable_as_an_old_pair_of_jeans_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/album/UserReview-She_Him_Classics-450-1900891-249973-As_comfortable_as_an_old_pair_of_jeans_.html Sat, 6 Dec 2014 12:01:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ I enjoy this duets album from Barry Manilow.]]> I love every song on this duets album. I have never of the song "Zing Goes The Strings Of My Heart" by Judy Garland before. I have never heard of the Jimmy Durante song "The Song's Gotta Come From The Heart". These two songs are special to me because I've heard of them before. I want to thank Barry for sharing the music of these two music legends on this album.The musical arrangements on the Judy Garland duet are jazzy and upbeat. "The Song's Gotta Come From The Heart" is a song with a lot of heart. Two classic songs from my childhood are included on this disc. "Sunshine On My Shoulders" sounds superb. I remember listening to the song on the family record player back in the day. It did not sound this good. "The Candyman" with Sammy Davis Jr. is another song from my childhood. This song has always put me in a good mood. The duet with Louis Armstrong is excellent. His voice paired with Barry conveys so much warmth It is actually a mix of two songs together. I love "What A Wonderful World" and "What a Wonderful Life". Barry has taken all of these songs and made them sound new and fresh. I love this CD very much.]]> http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-My_Dream_Duets_by_Barry_Manilow-450-1900699-249848-I_enjoy_this_duets_album_from_Barry_Manilow_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-My_Dream_Duets_by_Barry_Manilow-450-1900699-249848-I_enjoy_this_duets_album_from_Barry_Manilow_.html Sun, 16 Nov 2014 02:08:47 +0000 <![CDATA[ Bette is back and having a blast!]]> http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-It_s_The_Girls-450-1900486-249677-Bette_is_back_and_having_a_blast_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-It_s_The_Girls-450-1900486-249677-Bette_is_back_and_having_a_blast_.html Tue, 4 Nov 2014 10:00:02 +0000 <![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Philip Wesley
2014 / Autumn Music Productions
52 minutes

"Transcend" is the seventh solo piano release from pianist/composer Philip Wesley and is, essentially, Part 3 of the album series that began with Wesley’s 2008 best-seller, "Dark Night of the Soul" and its 2012 follow-up, "Hope Endures." Where "Dark Night" was born in the depths of despair and "Hope Endures" was about coming out on the other side of the darkness, "Transcend" is about overcoming problems and obstacles in life as well as having the courage to change, to face fear, and to pursue whatever captivates you. Several of the thirteen tracks embrace the intensity and power of "Dark Night," while others are lighter and even fun. The Spanish music review site, ReviewsNewAge.com, recently named "Dark Night of the Soul" one of the “50 Greatest New Age Albums of All Time,” setting a very high standard for any albums that follow. Although "Transcend" shares some of the moody stylings of "Dark Night," Wesley was wise to take his music in a somewhat different direction. There is a lot of energy in this music, but there are also more subtle and delicate moments as well as romance and even humor.

"Transcend" opens with “Less Traveled,” a dark and very intense piece that sets the tone for much of the album - sure to grab your attention! “Unbridled Spirit” is one of my favorites. It begins with a lighter touch at the treble end of the piano, becoming more complex and full as it develops. I really like the infectious energy of this piece. There are poignant moments, but for me, this piece is about feeling positive and moving forward. The title track is forceful and sometimes hints at mystery. I love the deep bass accents as the right hands flies around the piano keyboard. “Distant Memory” begins with a simple, heartfelt melody accompanied by an arpeggiated left hand. The left hand pattern continues throughout, but the melody alternates with bright, more rapid variations that give the piece a lot of power. “Moonlight and Jasmine” is a love song, pure and sincere. “Union” is another favorite. Beautifully flowing and almost rapturous, this is music from the depths of the soul - open and very vulnerable. “Gypsy” is a bit of a surprise (a good one!). Over-the-top dramatic while true to classical gypsy-styled piano music, this a blast to play (I edited the forthcoming sheet music collection)! It is certain to bring smiles  to listeners and players alike! “Echoes Through Eternity” is another pleasant surprise. In the recording process, echoes and reverb were added to create a very peaceful and ethereal sound. Ambient and atmospheric, it’s a beautiful effect and the perfect ending to the album.

Longtime fans of Philip Wesley’s music should be very pleased with his new work. If you are new to Wesley’s music, this is a great place to start! "Transcend" is available from PhilipWesley.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/13/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Transend_by_Philip_Wesley-450-1900474-249667-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Transend_by_Philip_Wesley-450-1900474-249667-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Tue, 14 Oct 2014 03:05:08 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Ron Clearfield
2014 / EverSound
1 hour

"The Healing Muse" is a compilation of the most soothing, uplifting and healing pieces from cellist, composer and keyboardist Ron Clearfield’s three previous albums, "Music In the Silence" (2006 - six tracks), "Time On Earth" (2000 - three tracks), and "Dream Manifestation" (1998 - four tracks). After the piano, the cello is my favorite musical instrument and Clearfield has been one of my top favorite cellists since I first reviewed "Dream Manifestation" more than fifteen years ago. It comes as no surprise that Clearfield has often been told by therapists and healing professionals that they find his music especially effective in their practices. The cello has been studied sonically and shown to have the closest wave pattern to the human voice and Clearfield has observed this quality to have profound healing abilities. In the liner notes of the album, Clearfield describes two particularly poignant and powerful examples of how his music calmed a young boy with severe ADHD who felt like his head was on fire and how playing for a comatose friend who had been in a horrendous car wreck and was unresponsive for weeks responded to Clearfield’s music after only a few minutes and began the long journey to recovery. These are amazing stories that again prove the  incredible power of music.

Ron Clearfield is also a conductor and graduated Summa Cum Laude with Bachelors and Masters degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music. His father was a professional clarinetist who performed with major orchestras throughout the United States and Ron’s grandfather, originally from Russia, was a fine pianist and teacher. Clearfield performs on a beautifully restored cello made in 1696.

The thirteen tracks on "The Healing Muse" are all extraordinary. Clearfield performs on cello and keyboards; guest artists appear on bamboo flute, zither, silver flute, harp, keyboards, guitar, percussion, English horn, violins, and viola. Very classical in sound and structure, the pieces are melodic, deeply emotional and more beautiful than I can put into words. To quote one of my earlier reviews, “The cello is such a soulful instrument, and in Clearfield's hands, it sings, cries, dances, and offers solace and hope.” To experience the healing power of beautiful music - or simply for an incredibly moving hour of pure musical magic - be sure to experience "The Healing Muse." It will definitely be one of my Favorite Albums for 2014!  It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/12/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Healing_Muse_by_Ron_Clearfield-450-1900469-249661-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Healing_Muse_by_Ron_Clearfield-450-1900469-249661-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Sun, 12 Oct 2014 23:59:24 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Daniele Pagliuca
2014 / Daniele Pagliuca
37’20”

"Reflections At the Piano" is the debut solo piano album by Italian pianist/composer Daniele Pagliuca. Self-taught as a pianist and as a composer, Pagliuca’s music is influenced by classical composers such as Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, and Liszt and by contemporary composers including Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass, and Michael Nyman. The ten original pieces on the album are warm, romantic and melodic and were inspired by emotions and life in general. The three contemporary composers that Pagliuca mentioned as influences are film composers and Pagliuca’s music often has that kind of cinematic feeling - powerful and very expressive without being overly flashy. Very beautiful and a pleasure to listen to, I hope this is only the beginning of a long and successful music career for Daniele Pagliuca!

"Reflections At the Piano" begins with “One Song for You,” a gentle love song obviously inspired by someone very special. The melody is strong enough to support lyrics, but none are needed to convey the tender message. Also very melodic, “The Hidden Truth” is more poignant and bittersweet. “The Day” is ambient and descriptive, beginning very quietly and building while intertwining a variety of musical themes as a day progresses. I really like this one! “Continuity” is another favorite. Warm and in constant motion, the simple melody conveys a lot of emotion. “Dilemma” is a really interesting piece in that it cycles freely through a number of mostly minor-key themes that are often pensive with a hint of mystery, becoming more joyful as the piece nears the end and abruptly stopping. At just over six minutes, “Controcorrente” is by far the longest of the tracks as well as the most dramatic. In the early passages of the piece, Pagliuca uses the deep bass of the piano to great effect where the music seems to express a difficult struggle as well as strength and determination. Sometimes more delicate and even mournful, and other times powerful and passionate, this excellent composition ends with a peaceful resolution. Love it! “Studio N°1” and “The Encounter” go in a very classical direction - also favorites.


Daniele Pagliuca has graced the world with a very promising debut in "Reflections At the Piano"! It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/9/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Reflections_At_the_Piano_by_Daniele_Pagliuca-450-1900418-249616-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Reflections_At_the_Piano_by_Daniele_Pagliuca-450-1900418-249616-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Thu, 9 Oct 2014 22:51:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Rupam Sarmah
2014 / Rj International
105 minutes

"Omkara: The Sound of Divine Love" by Rupam Sarmah is an extraordinary project both musically and therapeutically. Collaborating with a very impressive group of musicians from India and all over the world, some of them Grammy Award winners, Sarmah has created a work of staggering proportions. Omkara means “Sound of God.”  Based on years of research, the music of "Omkara" demonstrates the positive connection between music, fundamental science, the creative frequencies of the universe and chakra energy. (The seven chakras are the energy centers in our bodies that balance the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of being.) The eight tracks, ranging from about 5 1/2 minutes to almost 24 minutes, combine classical Indian melodies with ragas, western musical styles, new age and world music. The instrumentation is as varied as the musicians which makes for a unique listening experience.

Each of the first seven tracks represents one of the chakras. The eighth track represents a new energy point named “Heaven Bridge” and was composed with nine different creative frequencies to take listeners on a journey from birth to enlightenment. The research on Omkara Music Therapy is currently being conducted at disability institutes and with cancer patients. The deliberate use of musical sounds has been shown to have healing vibrations that can help to uplift and even help to stimulate brain signals of people with disabilities. Sound vibrations can be used effectively to relieve pain, depression, and even diseases. Amazing stuff!

Conceived and produced by Rupam Sarmah, the instrumental and vocal arrangements were created with the majestic sound of Mohan Veena (slide guitar) by Grammy winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Best World Music). Other musicians on this project include Padmashri Sumitra Guha, Grammy winner Laura Sullivan (Best New Age), Rocio Marron, Pandit Subhen Chatterjee, Pranjal Borah, Matthias Muller, Jonathan Kay, and many others. The album was mastered by four-time Grammy-winning engineer Brian Vibberts.

Rupam Sarmah is originally from Assam, India and currently lives in California. Over the past twenty years, he has written many songs in a variety languages, screenplays, and film scores that have earned international awards. As a film director, Sarmah earned the Best Documentary Award for the film In Search of God at the International Indian Film Festival. He is a Guinness World Record holder for composing and directing a symphony, A Musical Journey for World Peace, with 315 unique musical instruments from all over the world and over 500 performers onstage.

"Omkara: The Sound of Divine Love" is available from www.OmkaraDivineLove.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/7/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Omkara_The_Sound_of_Divine_Love_by_Rupam_Sarmah-450-1900357-249559-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Omkara_The_Sound_of_Divine_Love_by_Rupam_Sarmah-450-1900357-249559-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Wed, 8 Oct 2014 03:57:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Tim Neumark
2014/ Tim Neumark
49’40”

"Influence, Solo Piano, Op. 3" is the newly-remastered edition of Tim Neumark’s 2009 release. Remastering smooths out some of the melodic and harmonic lines and makes the sound of the album consistent with Tim’s other releases. Joe Bongiorno did the remastering at his Piano Haven Studio in Sedona, AZ - beautiful work, as always! Below is the “remastered” version of my original review:

"Influence" is Tim Neumark’s third solo piano release since 2007, and what a delight it is! As the title implies, "Influence" is dedicated to many of the people and places that have inspired Neumark’s music, and each track has a specific dedication that is explained in the liner notes. Honorees include Neumark’s youth choir director, composer Antonin Dvorak, and an ever-happy dog named Thurman. The twelve pieces range from serene to playful to reflective to rather dark, creating a portrait of selected highlights of Neumark’s life so far. None of the music is big or boisterous, so although the pieces are varied in mood, there are no jarring changes that would interrupt some quiet time or a cozy meal.

"Influence" opens with “The Conductor,” a piece dedicated to Neumark’s teacher and youth choir director. Warm, tender, and affectionate, Ms. Croft obviously holds a very special place in Neumark’s heart. The lovely melody for “On My Way” popped into Neumark’s head as he was driving home - wistful and slightly yearning. “Kenyon Court” is one of my favorites. Quietly reflective and very melancholy, the deep emotions expressed go right to the heart. “Six Weeks” is another favorite. Written for the time span when both of his wife’s grandparents passed away, it is a gentle love song that celebrates a long life together. “Birds of Prague” is a tribute to Antonin Dvorak, Neumark’s favorite composer. Incorporating bits of some of Dvorak’s music into the themes, the piece reflects the ease and grace of birds flying - something Dvorak liked to watch. “Thurman” is a lively and joyful tribute to a very happy dog that belonged to a family Neumark lived with in 1998 while playing baseball - laughter set to music! All of Neumark’s albums include a meditation piece, and this one is “Meditation: Giving Thanks,” an “expression of thanks for the ability to write and share music that others enjoy” - beautiful! “Church On A Hill” has a serene tranquility combined with a gentle flow that is truly exceptional. Inspired by the two church congregations that gave Neumark his start as a performer, it is a song of heartfelt gratitude. The closing track is “Leaving Frostburg,” a piece composed in honor of Neumark’s parents, who recently retired and moved from their thirty-year home to be closer to family. Warm and nostalgic, it is a loving tribute.

I can’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate the people and events in ones life than with a collection of deeply personal pieces such as this. Tim Neumark has poured heart and soul into "Influence" and has created an enduring gift to share with everyone. It is available from www.timneumark.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/3/09 (updated 10/6/14)]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Influence_2014_Remaster_by_Tim_Neumark-450-1900341-249544-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Influence_2014_Remaster_by_Tim_Neumark-450-1900341-249544-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 6 Oct 2014 22:47:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Tim Neumark
2014/ Tim Neumark
49’40”

"Influence, Solo Piano, Op. 3" is the newly-remastered edition of Tim Neumark’s 2009 release. Remastering smooths out some of the melodic and harmonic lines and makes the sound of the album consistent with Tim’s other releases. Joe Bongiorno did the remastering at his Piano Haven Studio in Sedona, AZ - beautiful work, as always! Below is the “remastered” version of my original review:

"Influence" is Tim Neumark’s third solo piano release since 2007, and what a delight it is! As the title implies, "Influence" is dedicated to many of the people and places that have inspired Neumark’s music, and each track has a specific dedication that is explained in the liner notes. Honorees include Neumark’s youth choir director, composer Antonin Dvorak, and an ever-happy dog named Thurman. The twelve pieces range from serene to playful to reflective to rather dark, creating a portrait of selected highlights of Neumark’s life so far. None of the music is big or boisterous, so although the pieces are varied in mood, there are no jarring changes that would interrupt some quiet time or a cozy meal.

"Influence" opens with “The Conductor,” a piece dedicated to Neumark’s teacher and youth choir director. Warm, tender, and affectionate, Ms. Croft obviously holds a very special place in Neumark’s heart. The lovely melody for “On My Way” popped into Neumark’s head as he was driving home - wistful and slightly yearning. “Kenyon Court” is one of my favorites. Quietly reflective and very melancholy, the deep emotions expressed go right to the heart. “Six Weeks” is another favorite. Written for the time span when both of his wife’s grandparents passed away, it is a gentle love song that celebrates a long life together. “Birds of Prague” is a tribute to Antonin Dvorak, Neumark’s favorite composer. Incorporating bits of some of Dvorak’s music into the themes, the piece reflects the ease and grace of birds flying - something Dvorak liked to watch. “Thurman” is a lively and joyful tribute to a very happy dog that belonged to a family Neumark lived with in 1998 while playing baseball - laughter set to music! All of Neumark’s albums include a meditation piece, and this one is “Meditation: Giving Thanks,” an “expression of thanks for the ability to write and share music that others enjoy” - beautiful! “Church On A Hill” has a serene tranquility combined with a gentle flow that is truly exceptional. Inspired by the two church congregations that gave Neumark his start as a performer, it is a song of heartfelt gratitude. The closing track is “Leaving Frostburg,” a piece composed in honor of Neumark’s parents, who recently retired and moved from their thirty-year home to be closer to family. Warm and nostalgic, it is a loving tribute.

I can’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate the people and events in ones life than with a collection of deeply personal pieces such as this. Tim Neumark has poured heart and soul into "Influence" and has created an enduring gift to share with everyone. It is available from www.timneumark.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/3/09 (updated 10/6/14)]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Influence_2014_Remaster_by_Tim_Neumark-450-1900341-249543-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Influence_2014_Remaster_by_Tim_Neumark-450-1900341-249543-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 6 Oct 2014 22:46:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Peter Calandra
2013 / Pecamusic
58 minutes

"Ashokan Memories" is a collection of solo piano improvisations by pianist/composer Peter Calandra. Inspired by experiences and visions at his summer home in The Catskills/ Hudson Valley region of New York, each of the eighteen pieces was based on a “small idea” Calandra felt depicted the spirit of the place. (That’s important information to have before determining the meaning of pieces like “Gertrude’s Nose,” “Buttermilk Falls,” or “Peekamoose”!) It also explains the diversity of the music which ranges from lyrical and flowing to minimalist to edgy jazz. Calandra is best-known for his film and television music and has performed keyboards in a very impressive list of major Broadway productions. He is also on the faculty at Queens College, CUNY where he teaches Masters Level classes on Pro Tools Sequencing and Music Technology. This is definitely not the kid down the street who bought a keyboard and decided to record a CD! Masterful yet free and spontaneous, this music takes listeners on an auditory tour that is descriptive, evocative and throughly enjoyable.

"Ashokan Memories" begins with “Awosting Morning,” a beautiful piece that expresses optimism and a fresh beginning. “Ramblin’ Nightime” is dedicated to Levon Helm (of The Band), who did weekly performances in his barn studio in Woodstock that Calandra and his wife often attended. Gentle yet energetic, it’s a wonderful tribute. “Frost Valley” is very peaceful and relaxing - a lovely favorite! The melodic “Overlook” is grace and serenity set to music. “Peekamoose” is the name of a mountain in The Catskills and this  piece conveys an elegant majesty that is inviting and welcoming. The rapidly-flowing title track has an infectious, swirling energy with only brief pauses here and there. “Tubin’ the Esopus” has an edgy sense of fun and adventure, moving all over the piano keyboard, offering surprises and suspense. “Gertrude’s Nose” returns to a more peaceful expression - spare and open - and is named for a beautiful escarpment with incredible Hudson Valley views up in the Shawangunk mountain range. “Ver Noy Falls” is another favorite. Darker and more mysterious than the other tracks, it has a very haunting quality that I love. “The Ice Caves” was inspired by “really cool” caves that are kept cold year-round by underground streams. Calandra uses a bright and more percussive touch on this piece to convey the chilly feeling and perhaps the sparkle of ice formations inside the caves. I really like this one, too! “Shaft 2a” is named for a swimming hole in the Shawangunk mountains - cool and lazy, it’s the perfect refreshment on a summer afternoon. “Buttermilk Falls” brings this excellent album to a close with a shimmering grace and beauty. Great stuff!

"Ashokan Memories" is an outstanding album of solo piano improvisations and Peter Calandra is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists! The album is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/5/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Ashokan_Memories_by_Peter_Calandra-450-1900325-249524-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Ashokan_Memories_by_Peter_Calandra-450-1900325-249524-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Sun, 5 Oct 2014 20:21:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Jorge Granda
2013 / Rosevil
43’26”

"Filmworks" is the fourth album released by Spanish composer Jorge Granda. Granda  specializes in music for film and visual media and his training includes lessons in various musical disciplines and studies in the fields of sound production and computer music. With twelve years of training in classical music, Granda has also studied and performed jazz, rock and pop music primarily as a guitarist. He currently resides in the city of Valencia where he continues his career as a film composer, album producer, sound engineer and guitarist. Always looking for new projects, challenges and ideas,  Granda has composed and recorded music for more than two dozen independent short films and he has earned two consecutive nominations for Best New Age Instrumental Work by the prestigious Hollywood Music In Media Awards in Los Angeles (considered the Oscars of film music) as well as several awards at international festivals and competitions.

Something that many people may not be aware of is that film music is supposed to enhance the visuals and emotional elements of what people see on the movie screen, but it is not supposed to draw attention away from the film or to distract in any way. Obviously, there can be deviation from this in the opening and closing credits, but not within the film itself. With that in mind, it is quite a challenge to create music that is powerful but not distracting. On the other hand, listening to music created to be background music with full attention can be a little “underwhelming,” as it should be by definition. Granda’s music for Filmworks is minimalist and mostly acoustic (guitar, piano and xylophone) accompanied by synths and electric bass, most of which are performed by Granda himself; other musicians appear on drums, percussion, and piano.

Listening to the music with full attention can be a bit too repetitious for my ears, but when I listen to the music while doing other things, not focusing as much attention on it, I love it! There is a lively world music spirit in several of the pieces while other themes are more universal. Not surprisingly, some pieces have a Spanish flavor. Track 2, “Paradise,” is the piece nominated for this year’s Hollywood Music in Media Awards, and it’s a peaceful, rather somber guitar piece backed by drums, percussion and piano. The production quality of the music is outstanding. I would recommend this music for dining, driving, working, or any activity where some beautiful but unobtrusive music could enhance the occasion. "Filmworks" is available from Amazon and iTunes. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons

MainlyPiano.com

10/3/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Filmworks_by_Jorge_Granda-450-1900305-249499-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Filmworks_by_Jorge_Granda-450-1900305-249499-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Fri, 3 Oct 2014 22:54:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Paul Avgerinos
2014 / Round Sky Music
67’25”

"Bhakti" is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos’ nineteenth album to date. Best-known for his ambient music, Avgerinos goes in a different direction with "Bhakti" (a Sanskrit word that means love and devotion). Avgerinos has practiced yoga, meditation, chanting and devotional singing all of his life and became a student of a Bhakti yoga guru from India when he was sixteen. He has been very active in a small Christian church for the past twenty years although he was raised in the Greek Orthodox church. Using a combination of Eastern and Western musical traditions and instruments as well as chanting and singing, Avgerinos has brought all of those influences together into a musical celebration of love and devotion. Calling it a “must have for energizing any yoga practice,” "Bhakti" is very calming, joyful, and uplifting. Avgerinos sings several of the tracks - a first in almost ten years - and also plays bass, a variety of guitars, keyboards, and did the sound design. Guest artists appear on sarod, EWI, “angelic” vocals, sitar, and violin. All of this is backed by “Bollywood” beats and Christian Sanskrit mantras. Warm and accessible, this is music that should appeal to a broad audience for both its spiritual and musical offerings. Six of the eleven tracks are primarily instrumental although most of those have wordless vocals. All have a strong Indian influence.

Appropriately, "Bhakti" begins with “Invocation,” a very peaceful opening that sets the spiritual tone of the album. “Shanti Om” is more of a chant sung by beautiful, ethereal voices with a simple but very rhythmic background that becomes more complex as the piece evolves. “Love and Devotion” combines Sanskrit and English lyrics in an upbeat, joyful song with jazz flute passages and a catchy beat. “Om Namah Christaya” is a favorite. Voices are layered (including Avgerinos’) in a very peaceful chant/song backed with a strong rhythm that gives the song a quality that is very serene as well as invigorating. “A Path with Heart” is my favorite of the instrumentals. A bit more Western in its approach, Eastern instrumentation combines beautifully with ambient keyboard sounds - very soothing. “Hare Jesu” again puts Avergerinos’ voice in the forefront in a chant that is both Christian and Hindu - fascinating! Although angelic voices are utilized, “Joy of Being” is primarily an instrumental that is sometimes melodic and sometimes ambient. “Forgiveness and Healing” is a 9-minute track that goes even more ambient and meditative. The closing track, “Peaceful Contentment” provides well over ten minutes of tranquility - gentle and blissful throughout.

"Bhakti" is quite an unusual but very enlightening listening experience. Paul Avgerinos is likely to garner a great deal of attention and probably another round of awards with this one! It is available from Amazon and iTunes.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/1/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Bhakti_by_Paul_Avgerinos-450-1900273-249461-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Bhakti_by_Paul_Avgerinos-450-1900273-249461-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Wed, 1 Oct 2014 20:55:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ This Isn't A 'Plain Jane' Double-Dip: It's An All-New Recording ... And It's Terrific!]]>  
Yes, lyrically it’s the same song, but this version has stripped away what must’ve been a rather weak orchestral backing (from the version that was issued as part of the motion picture soundtrack OLD DOGS).  Because it’s gone, Bryans’ vocals take center stage along with the basic guitar work.  To be fair, “Friend” has been one of the man’s best tunes in several years, so I’m glad it’s part of this collection, and I’m even gladder that he took the time to give it a different spin, even if it’s a mild one.
 
“You’ve Been A Friend To Me” is a toe-tapping delight!  Thanks, Bryan!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_You_ve_Been_A_Friend_To_Me_The_Tracks_Of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900254-249439-This_Isn_t_A_Plain_Jane_Double_Dip_It_s_An.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_You_ve_Been_A_Friend_To_Me_The_Tracks_Of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900254-249439-This_Isn_t_A_Plain_Jane_Double_Dip_It_s_An.html Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:58:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ Subdued Vocal Performance Allows A Brilliant Piano Accompaniment To Shine]]>  
Bryan Adams’ version of “God Only Knows” is a wonderful affair.  His signature rasp is present at just the right places, though the tune is highlighted by a mesmerizing and magnetic piano accompaniment that gives this particular take its greatest distinction.  It’s crafted in such a way to coincide with the introspective nature of the lyrics – one person trying to imagine what life would be like without that special significant other to share it with.
 
It’s a subdued interpretation, one that doesn’t rely on big moments to flourish, but instead ruminates the way a good wine would.  Excellent!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_God_Only_Knows_The_Tracks_of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900253-249438-Subdued_Vocal_Performance_Allows_A_Brilliant_Piano.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_God_Only_Knows_The_Tracks_of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900253-249438-Subdued_Vocal_Performance_Allows_A_Brilliant_Piano.html Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:49:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ "Down on the Corner" Just Misses The High Marks]]>  
As much as I enjoy it, Bryan Adams’ rendition of “Down on the Corner” is one such take.  It’s great to hear Bryan’s signature vocals on a track from Creedence Clearwater Revival; in fact, one could argue that perhaps the local stylings of CCR’s John Fogerty and Canada’s Bryan Adams aren’t all that different.  Listening to this new version, one can hear some fundamental similarity.  But – in the end – there’s nothing all that fresh or different to this interpretation, so methinks it’ll fail to stand the test of time enjoyed by the original.
 
Still a great listen – it’s definitely a head-shaking affair – “Down on the Corner” just misses the high mark.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_Down_on_the_Corner_The_Tracks_of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900252-249437-_Down_on_the_Corner_Just_Misses_The_High_Marks.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_Down_on_the_Corner_The_Tracks_of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900252-249437-_Down_on_the_Corner_Just_Misses_The_High_Marks.html Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:39:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ A Definitive Version, So Far As This Longtime Adams' Fan Is Concerned]]>  
On “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” Adams largely dials back his signature rasp and instead lets the strength of his singing voice carry the tune from start-to-finish.  While the accompanying piano work is also worth noting, it’s Adams’ work that truly brings the song to life, perhaps adding in an almost world-weary sense to this tune about needing someone – maybe anyone – in order to have the strength to see another sunrise with some measure of happiness.
 
This one is easily one of the best tracks on Adams’ “The Tracks of My Years” album.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_Help_Me_Make_It_Through_The_Night_The_Tracks_of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900250-249436-A_Definitive_Version_So_Far_As_This_Longtime.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-_Help_Me_Make_It_Through_The_Night_The_Tracks_of_My_Years_Bryan_Adams-450-1900250-249436-A_Definitive_Version_So_Far_As_This_Longtime.html Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:30:33 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Christine Brown
2014 / Key Image Music
58 minutes

I’ve been reviewing Christine Brown’s albums since her 1997 release, "Winter Tapestry," and she has become one of my very favorite artists. A mixture of passion, exceptional  playing chops and an abundance of grace consistently puts her music in a category of its own. "Souvenirs" is a collection of fourteen breathtaking original piano solos inspired at least in part by the arrival of Brown’s new piano, a Kawai RX-7 grand. The pieces express a wide range of emotions and experiences with depth, sincerity and an elegant touch. Already nominated as “Album of the Year” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, I’m sure "Souvenirs" will be on my list of Favorites for the year as well. The album was recorded and mastered by Joe Bongiorno on his Shigeru Kawai at his Piano Haven Studio in Sedona, AZ - as always, impeccable!

"Souvenirs" begins with “Rhythm of the Rain,” another wonderful example of how well the piano expresses the feeling of rain, be it a wild and crazy storm or a gentle shower. This is somewhere in the middle, flowing gently but steadily with varying levels of intensity. The title track is a  beautiful, bittersweet waltz (the original title!) composed after the passing of a close friend to cancer. More reflective than mournful, it’s one of my favorites. I also really love “Shiver,” which went without a title for nearly two years. The piece is in constant motion, sometimes gracefully and sometimes more intense. It makes my fingers itch! “Prelude to Sunrise” is more ambient and descriptive, often using  rapidly arpeggiated chords to depict beams of light coming through clouds (my interpretation). “Aqua Abyss” is yet another favorite. Brown says, “I don’t recall what initiated the writing of this song, but it immediately reminded me of falling gently, spiraling downward in the water, dark and mysterious, yet calm and beautiful,” and that’s exactly how it feels. Gorgeous!!! “Silhouette” was the first piece Brown composed on her new piano, exploring the touch and dynamics of the instrument. The resulting piece sounds a bit like a classic movie theme - nostalgic, sentimental, and very beautiful. “The Hour Glass” reflects on the passage of time. Gently but relentlessly flowing, it pauses only occasionally. “Stepping Stones” happily recalls life’s milestones, what Brown refers to as the “stepping stones of life.” “Guardian Angel” is a heartfelt prayer full of love, sincerity and deep emotion. Inspired by the white field of clouds below the airplane on a recent trip, “Cashmere Clouds” is a peaceful lullaby that serenely brings us to the end of this excellent album.

Christine Brown’s tenth album could be her best music yet - truly inspired and from the heart - and I give it my highest recommendation! "Souvenirs" is available from ChristineBrownPiano.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/29/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Souvenirs_by_Christine_Brown-450-1900227-249409-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Souvenirs_by_Christine_Brown-450-1900227-249409-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Tue, 30 Sep 2014 02:32:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ Partners is one of the best albums of 2014.]]> I love every song on this album. Barbra proves that she can take these classic songs and make them sound new and special with any partner. My favorite is “New York State of Mind”. I forgot how much warmth and wisdom Billy Joel’s voice contains. Barbra sounds great singing with the piano man. Barbra harmonizes so well with John Legend on the song “What Kind of Fool”. I absolutely love the original with Barry Gibb, but John gives this song a new soulful quality. The piano and acoustic guitar playing are so pretty on the song “Evergreen”. Babyface sounds so smooth and soulful on this classic song.

“I’d Want It to Be You” is a beautiful duet with Blake Shelton. This song makes me believe that Blake and Barbra could be the best of friends I have never heard of this song before, and it is a pleasant surprise. I love Barbra’s duet with Stevie Wonder entitled “People”. I love Stevie’s harmonica playing on this track. His vocals are superb too. It is great to hear him sing anything after such a long absence. Only Streisand could get all my favorite singers to perform on her album. “Come Rain or Come Shine” features John Mayer playing a bluesy electric guitar. This song sounds so cool because of John Mayer’s talents. The biggest surprise may be Barbra’s duet with her son Jason Gould on the song “How Deep is the Ocean”. This is a very touching and beautiful song. I can’t stop listening to this CD. It is one of the best of the year.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Partners_by_Barbra_Streisand-450-1900212-249393-Partners_is_one_of_the_best_albums_of_2014_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Partners_by_Barbra_Streisand-450-1900212-249393-Partners_is_one_of_the_best_albums_of_2014_.html Mon, 29 Sep 2014 05:55:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Mesa Verde Soundscapes
Jill Haley
2014 / Jill Haley
58 minutes

Jill Haley’s "Mesa Verde Soundscapes" is the third in a series of albums inspired by US National Parks. During a two-week stay at Mesa Verde as an Artist-in-Residence, Haley was afforded the opportunity to explore many sites, dwellings, and landscapes while creating music. Anyone who has visited this magnificent park is forever changed by the experience of visiting the cliff dwellings and imagining the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived there. The CD includes a 15-page booklet with gorgeous photos taken by Jill Haley to illustrate each of the 14 tracks. The music is exceptionally beautiful and features Haley’s family on some of the accompanying instruments. Haley performs on piano, guitar, bass, oboe and English horn (recorded by Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studio); Haley’s husband, David Cullen appears on guitar and bass; and her children, Dana, Graham, and Risa Cullen appear on horn, cello and viola respectively. It’s an impressive project that invites the listener to experience the sights and sounds of Mesa Verde by way of masterful musical expression. 

"Mesa Verde Soundscapes" opens with the graceful and very serene “Chapin Daybreak,” a piano and oboe duet inspired by a sunrise viewed from the Chapin Amphitheater. As the light becomes more intense, the piece expands to include the songs of various birds and insects - a lovely beginning! “Curves of Burnt Orange” depicts the color of a sunset on the walls of Mug House, one of the cliff dwellings. Piano and English horn evoke images of lengthening shadows and a peaceful calm. “Seep Spring Song” has a very light, flowing feeling, representing the life-giving water near or in many of the dwellings. “Towers and Kivas” is a spirited trio for guitar, bass and oboe that tells of the space-saving methods of building vertically within the cliff dwellings - towers that rise in the cliffs and kivas that were created in sunken areas of the dwellings. The acoustic nature of this rhythmic piece is both contemporary and traditional. “Sleeping Ute Mountain” is quietly soothing yet haunting in its beauty. The pastoral “Vibrant Mesa Blossoms” describes the plants and flowers that have graced the area for centuries. If you’ve ever visited the cliff dwellings, you have experienced the feeling that the spirits of the ancestral Pueblo people live on in those spaces. “Living Walls” expresses that feeling via a wonderful piano and English horn duet. “Far View,” a very cinematic piece for horn, oboe and piano, is named for the largest building in the community and its expansive views. The music suggests vast open space and feelings of quiet contentment. The last Soundscape is an evocative piano solo called “Mesa Nightfall.” It expresses the magical time when the many of the colors of the sunset merge and blend to become the peaceful night sky. 

Jill Haley is creating a wonderful series of albums inspired by the beauty and majesty of some of our National Parks - what an amazing tribute! "Mesa Verde Soundscapes" is available online from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/11/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Mesa_Verde_Soundscapes_by_Jill_Haley-450-1900209-249389-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Mesa_Verde_Soundscapes_by_Jill_Haley-450-1900209-249389-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:49:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Inspired
Bryan Carrigan
2014 / Peonies Music
46 minutes

"Inspired" is Bryan Carrigan’s fifth album of original music and he calls it “a soundtrack for inspired life.” Blending the genres of ambient, new age, and positive chill out, "Inspired’s" twelve tracks take the listener on a sonic journey through hope, joy, contentment, and elation. A producer, engineer, music editor, synth programmer, scoring sound designer, remixer and composer of electronic music, Carrigan’s career has encompassed virtually all music genres while working in the recording, television and film industries, lending his skills to hundreds of diverse projects. His previous release, "Below Zero," was awarded “Best Chill/Groove” album for 2013 by Zone Music Reporter and his album, "Windows," was a nominee for Best Ambient Album in 2012. Inspired will no doubt continue this trend! While Carrigan’s music is distinctive and unique, some of this album reminds me a bit of some of Ray Lynch’s classic electronic music - mostly because of its buoyant spirit and masterful musicality. 

"Inspired" begins with “Elation,” an energetic piano-based piece that mixes strings, guitar and keyboard sounds with an infectious rhythm and soaring joy. “Hope” expresses how I  imagine floating on a cloud would feel with a repeating rhythm pattern behind ethereal washes of sound - very relaxed and soothing. “Lemon Drops” is vibrant and joyful, incorporating world rhythms with guitar sounds, voices, and layered instrumentation. I don’t think it’s possible to feel down in the dumps while listening to this one! “Floating Above” returns us to that sonic cloud and sense of blissful contentment. “Along the Path” is relaxed yet gives the impression of moving forward at a lively pace.  “Kaleidoscope” kicks up the rhythm a bit behind montages of sounds that swirl and merge as the title suggests. Bright and in constant motion, it exudes feelings of freedom and joy. “Caravan” becomes more exotic and edgy while “Really Fun Song” just about dances out of the speakers with its high energy and giggling good humor (my favorite track!). “Warm Embrace” returns us to a more ambient, ethereal feeling that surrounds the listener like a lingering hug. “Offerings” closes the album with peaceful washes of sound that gently soothe and uplift, leaving the listener refreshed and feeling positive. 

Bryan Carrigan has now established himself as one of the leading artists in the ambient, chill, and new age categories and "Inspired" will give you a really good idea of why that is. If you are new to Bryan’s music, be sure to check this one out. Fans of his previous releases will love this one, too! "Inspired" is available from www.BryanCarrigan.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/12/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Inspired_by_Bryan_Carrigan-450-1900208-249388-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Inspired_by_Bryan_Carrigan-450-1900208-249388-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:44:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Reflections & Recollections, Vol. 1
Mark John McEncroe
2013 / Koi Music Pty. Ltd.
71’52”

"Reflections & Recollections, Vol. 1" is the debut recording by Australian composer Mark John McEncroe and is promised to be the first of a series. "Volume 1" contains thirteen original piano solos performed by Helen Kennedy, a pianist who has concertized internationally and who has been McEncroe’s piano teacher since 1999. Much of McEncroe’s music is inspired by the French Impressionist period, and while it is complex and free, it isn’t as demanding as the music of Debussy or Ravel. The idea behind McEncroe’s composing style is to express his recollections of his life experiences using a garden setting (his koi pond/bonsai courtyard) with references to water, shadows, climate, fish, etc. Without intending to “further the boundaries of musical innovation or to showcase virtuosity,” McEncroe hopes to transport listeners to a “reflection and recollection” journey of their own. While most of the music on this album is slow and graceful, there is a very interesting variety of styles and approaches from Baroque to blues. A retired chef, McEncroe does a lovely job of blending and balancing his sonic ingredients, creating a tasty and satisfying musical dish. 

"Reflections & Recollections, Vol. 1" begins with “A Lazy Summer’s Afternoon,” a gently flowing piece that expresses a peaceful kind of warmth that refreshes both heart and soul - a beautiful start! “Andante Moderato” a multi-movement work with a strong Baroque influence in its structure and constant movement. This is one of my favorites to play from the companion sheet music book, and I really enjoy listening to it as well. I love the title “A Fish With The Blues” almost as much as I like the song! A variety of themes combine to make a descriptive piece that is fun to listen to while occasionally tugging at the heartstrings. “Ghosts From the Past” is another favorite. Reflective and haunting, it expresses many moods and thoughts with grace and deep emotion. “Introspective Moments” is a lovely slow waltz with a dreamy lilt. “Shades of Autumn” weaves a variety of moods, thoughts, and feelings into a tapestry of sound that expresses the beginnings and endings that occur in autumn along with the changes of season. “Shadows In the Water” moves slowly and expressively, never hurried or anxious - very soothing. “The Pendulum” has a free-form right hand over a repeated left hand pattern, reflecting on how time continues to move at the same pace no matter what we’re doing (my interpretation, anyway!). 

Mark John McEncroe is off to a great start with his newest career as a composer! "Reflections & Recollections, Vol. 1" is recommended to those who like their solo piano music with a strong classical influence. It is available from www.markjohnmcencroecomposer.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. 

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/17/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Reflections_Recollections_Vol_1_by_Mark_John_McEncroe-450-1900207-249387-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Reflections_Recollections_Vol_1_by_Mark_John_McEncroe-450-1900207-249387-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:38:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> In the Moment
Rich Batsford
2014 / Mouflon Music
47’46”

"In the Moment" is Rich Batsford’s second solo piano album. His debut album, "Valentine Court," was released in 2009, and "Mindfulness," a vocal album, was released in England and Australia in 2012. Batsford calls his music “Classically Chilled Piano,” reflecting a variety of influences and musical experiences. "In the Moment" is a collection of ten piano improvisations composed and recorded as they were being created - in the moment! In 2012, Batsford relocated from England to Australia where he is performing regularly, composing and teaching piano. In training for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order, Batsford’s  commitment to meditation, study and reflection is increasingly informing his music and lyric writing. Some of the improvised recordings I’ve reviewed over the years were interesting the first time through and then lost their magic. I’m not finding that to be true of Batsford’s work at all. The improvisations run from 2 1/2 - 7 1/4 minutes and are stylistically varied. Most are quiet and meditative, but some have a more spirited rock influence and/or stronger emotional content. I’m really enjoying this album as background music while working, music in the car, and music to wake up to!

“Improvisation 1” is one of my favorites. Reflective and relaxed, its gentle flowing nature reminds me a bit of Suzanne Ciani - a lovely beginning! “Improvisation 2” uses a repeated pattern of blocked chords to set a mood and then becomes more fluid and lyrical. “Improvisation 4” is one of the bolder and more dramatic pieces, with the middle section being smoother and more melodic. The graceful and beautiful “Improvisation 5” is another favorite, expressing feelings of peaceful contentment and deep thought. “Improvisation 6” is much lighter and more playful. “Improvisation 8” conveys a mix of moods and emotions that blend into an expressive and very elegant piano solo - also a favorite. “Improvisation 10” is the longest of the improvs and the only one of the ten that has some minor edits. It begins quietly and simply, gradually building a subtle energy that keeps it moving forward while staying subdued. About four minutes into the piece, it becomes much bigger and more powerful for about a minute and then returns to a more tranquil state - a fascinating piece!

"In the Moment" takes the listener to a place of creative freedom and spontaneity. The music is “rich” and very pleasant to listen to, revealing new things each time you listen. It is available from RichBatsford.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/19/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-In_the_Moment_by_Rich_Batsford-450-1900206-249386-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-In_the_Moment_by_Rich_Batsford-450-1900206-249386-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:33:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Songs of a Siren
Lea Longo
2014 / Sweet Life Music
46 minutes

Lea Longo’s "Songs of a Siren" is a very interesting collection of original and cover love songs that mix smooth jazz vocals with Indian chants and mantras - and they actually sound like they belong together! Longo’s voice is warm, clear and soothing and, with the exception of a couple of uptempo songs, this is an easy album to relax with. Not a newcomer to the music industry, Longo has released several other albums and her music has been featured in major motion pictures as well as on television. In 2004, she won the National Songwriting Competition at the prestigious Canadian Music Week Festival in Toronto. In 2006, she traveled to India and discovered music mantras and  chanting, working with some of the masters of the art. She is a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor and teaches mantra meditation to deepen her yoga practice and musical expression. These unique life experiences are reflected in Longo’s music and lyrics and her vocals are supported by drums and percussion, keyboards, guitar, bass, sitar, back-up vocalists, tabla, flute, and Fender Rhodes - quite an east-meets-west collaboration! I do wish the chants were translated to see how they relate to the songs themselves - a minor complaint. 

"Songs of a Siren" begins with Lea Longo’s version of the Peggy Lee classic, “Fever.” Her  slow, “chill” approach cools this torch song considerably and leaves me longing for the original - one of my all-time favorite vocals, so it’s hard to be fair with this one. Next is another standard, “The Very Thought of You,” which works better for me. The minimal accompaniment really puts Longo’s silky and often hypnotic voice front and center. “Love Is All You Need” is featured here and as a bonus track at the end. The first version is jazzy and upbeat with a mix of eastern and western instrumentation behind the lively and joyful vocals. “Here’s To Life” is the third of the three jazz cover tunes, and I like this one the best. Accompanied by gentle hand percussion and guitar, Longo’s voice is bittersweet and knowing. “Om Radha Krishnaya Namaha” is my favorite track. Without knowing how the chant translates, the longing in Longo’s voice expresses so much. “To Heaven” is a somewhat bigger production, with Longo’s voice altered so that it sounds like she is in the distance - haunting. The bonus track is a Ben Leinbach mix of “Love Is All You Need.” After an opening chant, sitar and tabla set a catchy, danceable rhythm that is full of infectious fun and happiness - a great way to end the album!

"Songs of a Siren" is quite a different as well as enjoyable listening experience! It is available from Amazon and iTunes. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/22/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Songs_of_a_Siren_by_Lea_Longo-450-1900205-249385-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Songs_of_a_Siren_by_Lea_Longo-450-1900205-249385-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:24:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Experiences
Ryan Michael Richards
2014 / Ryan Michael Richards
46 minutes

"Experiences" is the very impressive first full-length recording by guitarist Ryan Michael Richards. Produced by the legendary Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill Records and a world-class guitarist himself) at his Imaginary Road Studios, two of the eleven original pieces are solo acoustic guitar and the others feature an assortment of brilliant backing musicians such as Derrik Jordan, Tom Eaton (who co-produced), Jeff Oster, Ackerman, Premik, Noah Wilding, Eugene Friesen, and Jill Haley. Richards started playing the guitar at the age of fourteen and includes Alex DeGrassi, Will Ackerman, Nick Drake, Eddie Van Halen, Jaco Pastorius and Christian McBride in his list of influences. Richards’ music is smooth, heartfelt and often very romantic. To quote Ackerman, “Ryan Michael Richards is a guitarist whose heart is in every note. He seems incapable of anything that isn't true to him. This brilliant artistic honesty is the hallmark of what he has created in 'Experiences'.” That artistic honesty will also communicate to a wide range of musical ears and hearts and will undoubtedly send this delightful music soaring up the music charts. 

"Experiences" begins with “Her Garden,” a lively yet peaceful piece that features Richards on both acoustic guitar and electric bass, Derrik Jordan on electric violin, and Tom Eaton on keyboard. The optimism and joy expressed in the music brings images of warm sunshine and beautiful flowers nodding their heads to the rhythms of the breeze. “Heather Moon” is a peaceful favorite that is mostly solo acoustic guitar with subtle piano embellishments performed by Eaton. “Pathway To Love” was featured on the recent The Gathering II compilation of Ackerman-produced artists and is another beauty. It begins as a guitar solo and becomes a duet with Jeff Oster on flugel horn and muted trumpet. Ackerman steps front and center as lead acoustic guitarist on “Coastline,” which also features Premik on lyricon and Eaton on percussion. The gentle, peaceful quality of this piece will take the edge off of any day! “On the Way to the Shore” reflects the happy anticipation of visiting a favorite place and includes the haunting vocals of Noah Wilding and light percussion by Eaton. “Townbank Bay” is another favorite. Other than some backing vocals from Wilding, this one is all Richards playing from the depths of his soul. It begins with an almost percussive repeated guitar pattern and gradually becomes a gorgeous flowing melody with hypnotic vocals that send it soaring. “Victorian Love” is a tender and evocative duet for guitar and English horn (the wonderful Jill Haley) - an unusual pairing that works magically. As the title suggests, “Day of Play” is a light and carefree guitar solo that brings this excellent album to a close. I hope your “replay” button works well for this album!

"Experiences" is a truly exceptional debut with no weak tracks on the entire album. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/28/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Experiences_by_Ryan_Michael_Richards-450-1900204-249383-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Experiences_by_Ryan_Michael_Richards-450-1900204-249383-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Sun, 28 Sep 2014 19:53:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Mehdi Boukharouba
2014 / mehdi-boukharouba
about 20 minutes

Mehdi Boukharouba is a young composer from Algeria who has already assembled an impressive portfolio of original music for films and theater, symphonic compositions, rock, pop and jazz music, and music for commercial use. His CD, "Ethnic Algerian and Arabic Music," is based on instrumental and vocal folk music of North Africa, Algeria and the Middle East and is Oriental in style, instrumentation, and origin. Influenced by the music culture and history of the Mediterranean region, Mehdi’s music is culturally unique in that he combines diverse musical styles with contemporary genres of music such as pop, new age, and jazz. The result of these combinations is a rich variety of musical statements that are intellectual and refined as well as very interesting and enjoyable to listen to. Additionally, this broad range of musical styles will appeal to a wide variety of ages and musical preferences.

"East Winds Blowing Towards the West" is a piece that was composed by combining the sounds of the Arabic canun (a keyboard instrument) and pop music. This piece shows the chronology of the development of Oriental music and how this kind of music adapted to  globalization. Using a unique Arabic instrument, the composer describes the destiny of an ethnically unique culture when it becomes part of the global unification of musical cultures, resulting in the disappearance of many unique musical cultures as well as ethnic songs, instruments and traditions. On the other hand, by combining ancient and newer styles of music, traditions are preserved for future generations at the same time as creating new types of Oriental music.

"Nakhwa Oriental" is traditional belly dance music combined with modern styles and instruments of the  Arabic Middle East. This music features the ethnically unique Oriental style and is performed on traditional Arabic instruments. It has an Arabic belly dance rhythm and is composed with a scale that uses 1/4 and 1/8 tones. This belly dance is an interpretation and fantasia of Oriental music, love and dance.

"Algeria" is another Oriental composition, but this one is based on the rhythm and melodic style of the traditional European waltz - a fascinating combination that works beautifully. The idea of the waltz is represented as a dialogue between the West and North-West in the South-Eastern Mediterranean cradle of civilization. This is very romantic music that has a refined Oriental melody. The waltz was born in the European culture, but Mehdi has made it sound like Middle Eastern Arabic music.

"Conquest of the East" is serious symphonic music that would be very effective as  illustrative music for a documentary or fiction movie about the history of the Roman Empire and/or other ancient civilizations. Sometimes very bold and dramatic and sometimes more melodic and graceful, it’s an outstanding composition that evokes  many visual ideas in the listener’s imagination.

"Relax Music Chill Out (Nassim Al Saba)"  is piano music that would work well in documentary and/or fiction movies. This is a fresh and unique style of new age or smooth jazz music with its melody stylistically connected to Middle Eastern music.

Mehdi Boukharouba is creating new music that is culturally unique and based on Middle Eastern Arabic music while utilizing traditional scales and instruments. He successfully combines musical genres that are Oriental or Algerian by nature with new age, pop, and jazz styles. He also applies these cultural mixes to his more serious symphonic genres, film and theater music, and music for advertising. Mehdi brings us a unique new musical voice that is both traditional and contemporary, as well and original and very interesting. Samples of his music are available on SoundCloud.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/8/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Ethnic_Algerian_and_Arabic_Music_by_Mehdi_Boukharouba-450-1900019-249239-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Ethnic_Algerian_and_Arabic_Music_by_Mehdi_Boukharouba-450-1900019-249239-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 8 Sep 2014 22:09:08 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Adam Andrews
2014 / Adam Andrews
39 minutes

"Road to Ambo" is the remarkable debut album by pianist/composer Adam Andrews. The eleven original pieces tell the very personal stories about Andrews’ family’s journey to adopting their son from Ambo, Ethiopia as well as some of the other life events he encountered along the way. A Colorado native, Andrews started taking classical piano lessons at the age of seven. After college, he founded the band Cede who toured the US playing contemporary Christian music as well as their own compositions. Over a period of five years, the band recorded and released four successful folk-pop Christian-music albums of original material: The Roots, Surrender, To You and Carried Away.  Andrews composed about 25% of the band’s material, and wrote and performed two piano solos on their last album. After leaving Cede, Andrews continued composing, occasionally performing for church services, worship groups and conferences.  He also established a successful career as a senior director at a major non-profit ministry where he contributed to the launch of an orphan care ministry and helped shape international ministries to families.  Of his music, Andrews says: “These tunes represent some of my stories, but I feel sure the emotions behind the music are universal and can be felt and appreciated by everyone.” I couldn’t agree more! The music ranges from buoyant joyfulness to more more poignant and reflective, and there isn’t a weak track on the album.

"The Road to Ambo" opens with the title track, an energetic piece that represents the strength and courage it took to make the adoption of Andrews’ son happen - a very promising beginning! “Unknown Hero” celebrates people whose selfless acts of kindness change lives. Bright and upbeat, it’s a grand celebration! “Hope and Joy” turns to love and tenderness in a piece written and named for Andrews’ two daughters - such a sweet gift from a devoted dad! The lyrical and heartfelt “We Are Brothers” was created out of grief, loss, hope, and love, touching deeply and expressing great emotion. “You Were There” is a love song for Andrews’ wife, pure, simple and very sincere. “Smoky Hill” is a favorite and was inspired by Andrews’ quest to find the brighter side of depression and discovering the beauty in what follows. “New Normal” describes the adjustments and lessons learned during and after the difficult process of adoption - and in finding a more joyful perspective on life itself. “Breathe” is another favorite. It was composed as Andrews imagined riding through the countryside and being in the moment. Lighthearted and blissful, it’s a wonderful closing to a great album!

Adam Andrews is a brilliant new voice in the solo piano realm and his debut album is outstanding. "Road to Ambo" is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/6/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Road_To_Ambo_CD_by_Adam_Andrews-450-1898803-249212-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Road_To_Ambo_CD_by_Adam_Andrews-450-1898803-249212-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Sat, 6 Sep 2014 20:49:04 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Jonn Serrie
2014 / New World Music
65’ 36”

Over the past thirty years, Jonn Serrie’s name has become synonymous with space music. He recently released his twenty-third album of electronic music called "Day Star," the second chapter in his sci-fi series that began with the 2010 release of "Thousand Star." Serrie has been composing and performing music for planetariums since the early 1980‘s, and his first album, "And the Stars Go With You," was in memory of the astronauts lost in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. He has worked on projects for Lucasfilm, IMAX Corporation, NASA, the United States Navy, Hayden Planetarium, Expo Seville, and CNN, to name a few. Serrie's music is also featured in the planetarium theater aboard the Queen Mary II, the world's most advanced cruise ship. Although I have been familiar with Serrie’s music for a long time, I only recently learned that he is a US Air Force Auxiliary mission pilot with advanced instrument and commercial ratings and holds the coveted Disaster Relief Presidential award with Valor
for his flying in the Deep Water Horizon gulf oil spill. He also flies for the Civil Air Patrol as a search-and-rescue pilot.

"Day Star" is made up of seven relatively lengthy (six-thirteen minutes) tracks that are intended to tell a science fiction story in sound rather than words. Serrie is a master of creating feelings of deep, vast open space where anything (or nothing) can happen. The song titles and poem (in the liner notes) act as a guide to the voyage with timing and sound design elements that emphasize direction and space. This is music that easily slips into the background, creating a peaceful, floating ambience, but listening with full attention will send listeners on a voyage into their own imaginations. Enjoy the trip!

"Day Star" is available from www.NewWorldMusic.com, Amazon, and iTunes.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

9/2/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Day_Star_by_Jonn_Serrie-450-1899800-249105-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Day_Star_by_Jonn_Serrie-450-1899800-249105-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Wed, 3 Sep 2014 02:59:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Mark Catoe
2014 / Mark Catoe
45 minutes

"Vignettes and Improvisations" is the debut album by pianist/composer Mark Catoe. The project began as a creative challenge for Catoe to turn his wife’s name into a piano solo. Because of the constraints he placed on himself, Catoe found himself using a musical vocabulary he wouldn’t normally use. Having a lot of fun in the process, Catoe then set out to compose a piece based on a simple number. His next project was based on his grandfather’s CB handle and then a Kickstarter campaign was started where people could have their names or the names of loved ones encrypted within piano solos. The resulting album is a collection of seventeen piano solos, some of which were were improvised in the studio. Six pieces have titles and the eleven “Vignettes for Solo Piano” were each assigned a number, leaving it up to the listener to interpret what the music is about. The tracks range in length from just under two minutes to about 3 1/2 minutes, so they are all relatively short and concise. Some are more melodic than others, and most are on the peaceful side (a few are livelier and more playful), but all are accessible and very enjoyable.

"Vignettes and Improvisations" begins with “Journey’s Dawn,” a piece that blends the quiet calm of daybreak with the anticipation of venturing into the unknown - a lovely start! “The Winding Path” has an easy tempo that suggests the feeling of walking on a path where surprising beauty appears at every turn - and taking the time to savor it. “Quiet Repose” is a stress-melter with its slow, graceful melody and gentle deep-bass accompaniment - a favorite. “Vignette I” is quite different. Much more energetic and playful, it shows a different side of Catoe’s musicianship and is certain to bring a smile! Several of the Vignettes (tracks 6-16) show some influence from Erik Satie with their fluid ambience and gentle abstraction. “Vignette V” has a flowing left hand with an uncomplicated right hand melody that works especially well. “Vignette VI” is lighter and more carefree. “Vignette VIII” reminds me of Satie’s “Gymnopedies” although it isn’t an arrangement or imitation of the piece. The bass pattern is similar in places and the melody is simple and poignant - another favorite. “Vignette XI” is upbeat and energetic, overflowing with optimism. The album closes with the lyrical “Near or Far,” which feels very much like a love song - sweet and tender.

"Vignettes and Improvisations" is a very impressive first effort, and I look forward to hearing what else Mark Catoe has up his sleeves! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/29/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Vignettes_and_Improvisations_by_Mark_Catoe-450-1899682-249008-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Vignettes_and_Improvisations_by_Mark_Catoe-450-1899682-249008-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Sat, 30 Aug 2014 01:00:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Susan Merdinger
2014 / Sheridan Music Studio
66 minutes

"Soiree" is the seventh album to date by internationally-acclaimed classical pianist Susan Merdinger. I have to admit that this is the first of Merdinger’s recordings that I’ve heard, but I’m blown away by the beauty of her playing, which is technically perfect yet overflowing with emotion and heart. Ms. Merdinger can execute crystal-clear, lightning-fast runs and then turn a phrase into a delicate flower. Merdinger has won an extraordinary list of awards from competitions all over the world beginning as a young adult. Her vast repertoire spans three centuries and she regularly performs as a soloist with orchestras, recitalist, duo pianist, and as a collaborative pianist with distinguished members of the New York Philharmonic, the New Jersey Symphony, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Merdinger received her formal education from Yale University, the Yale School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Westchester Conservatory of Music, the Ecole Normale de Musique in Fontainebleau, France, as a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards. Having formerly taught at Yale University, Westchester Day School, and New Music School of Chicago, Ms. Merdinger is currently on the Piano Faculties of the Summit Music Festival in New York, Burgos International Music Festival in Spain, and the Fine Arts Music Society Festival in Indiana. She is also the Artistic Director and Founder of Sheridan Music Studio in Highland Park, Illinois.

"Soiree" includes music by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy, and Franz Liszt - a formidable combination that works beautifully as separate tracks and as a complete album. The opening tracks are the four-movement Schubert Sonata in B major, D. 575, K. 147. Schubert is one of my favorite classical composers, but I’ve never attempted this sonata, which is lighter and more upbeat than much of his music. Composed when Schubert was only twenty, Merdinger imbues the music with youthful zest and playfulness. The two Brahms Rhapsodies (Op. 79) are pieces I dearly love and have worked on with a couple of my advanced students over the years. I have never heard them played to such perfection, with passion and power as well as tenderness where the music calls for it. Brava! Debussy’s three-movement “Estampes” is a colorful and very challenging work very different from Schubert’s or Brahms’ music, but Merdinger makes it her own with precision and energy. The two Liszt pieces are his “Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto” and his “Hungarian Rhapsody #12 in C# minor,” and both are breathtaking!

If you are a fan of masterful classical piano music, Soiree is a must-have! I look forward to exploring some of Susan Merdinger’s other releases, as I believe I have found a new musical hero(ine)! "Soiree" is available from SusanMerdinger.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/26/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Soiree_by_Susan_Merdinger-450-1899560-248928-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Soiree_by_Susan_Merdinger-450-1899560-248928-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Tue, 26 Aug 2014 23:22:44 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Ray Spiegel Ensemble
2014 / Simla House, Inc.
53 minutes

"Moksha" is a fascinating East meets West musical odyssey by the Ray Spiegel Ensemble. The eight tracks were recorded from 2001-2003 and are dedicated to the memory of Stephen James Stress, who passed away in 2005. Stephen James, who studied with Ravi Shankar, plays the Sarod (a 25-string Indian lute) on most of the tracks and co-composed four of them with Spiegel. Ray Spiegel is one of the few Americans who have learned the traditional style of tabla from master Ustad Alla Rakha. An extraordinarily versatile musician, Speigel is as comfortable playing tabla in a classical concert in India as he is playing vibes in a jazz club in New York or San Francisco. The album title is a term referring to liberation from the cycle of life, death, and reincarnation. One of the things that impresses me about this album is that most  tracks sound like the musicians were having a great time playing together! Although the music is based on traditional Indian ragas, there are strong jazz influences in some of the music - even a vocalization resembling scat-singing on the title track! The Ensemble also includes Ramesh Misra on Sarangi (the bowed lute of India), Ira Coleman on bass, and Tani Tabbal on drum set; additional percussion is performed by Frank Velardi, Junior Gabo, and Robert Levin. Together, the Ensemble performs a wide range of stylings from hard driving dance beats to meditative, spiritually-oriented music.

The album begins with the title track, an 8 1/2-minute piece that is probably the best example of the merging of jazz and traditional Indian music. Rhythmic and often high-energy, there is no doubt that this album will be a unique listening experience! “Once Around” is a much shorter solo featuring Spiegel on tabla drums and manjira. “Tal Sawari” is a traditional piece arranged by Spiegel as a solo, this time on tabla drums and marimba - an energetic and very unusual combination! “Wolfy’s Dream” is another amazing merging of musical styles that this time includes some rock influence as well. “Connect the Dots” is my favorite track. All percussion, this one really rocks and makes it impossible to sit still! “Wild Mushrooms At Telluride” is a 14 1/2 minute tour de force that includes nature sounds and takes the listener on a wild “trip” that gets more frenetic as it evolves, calming slightly in the final few minutes. “Farewell” closes the set with a somber yet elegant and heartfelt piece composed by Barun Kumar Pal, who performs on Hansa Veena (Hindustani slide guitar). Stephen James plays violin and other instrumentation includes bass, tabla, percussion, harmonium, drums, and harp.

"Moksha" is a fascinating hour (almost) of jazz and raga fusion. Check it out at Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/24/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Moksha_by_The_Ray_Spiegel_Ensemble-450-1899528-248899-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Moksha_by_The_Ray_Spiegel_Ensemble-450-1899528-248899-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 25 Aug 2014 23:46:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Karen L. Gerig-Scott
2014 / Delved in Dreams Music
2 tracks available separately

Karen L. Gerig-Scott is the first artist to be featured by new record label, Delved in Dreams Music. Initially, two tracks are being made available for download, “Je t’aime (I Love You)” and “Dwelling Place.” Both are orchestrated piano pieces and both were composed by Ms. Gerig-Scott, who started playing the piano before first grade and has been composing music ever since. She says “I have an idea, or feeling or expression and I do it with music technology.” The Indiana-based artist attended Indiana University‑Purdue University Fort Wayne as a music major and electrical engineer, and has extensive experience with choral music as both performer and director. She goes on to say, “Music is a living Art. It has feelings, it has expression. It is something everyone can experience.” Both of her initial releases are full of passion, melodic, and very accessible. Both tracks are a bit over six minutes each.

“Je t’aime (I Love You)” is a full and rich piece performed on piano with strings and other light orchestration. Gerig-Scott says that the piece “is about Love…all types of love. There are many stories out there in all types of relationships, including those between parent and child, two people, friendships and everything in between.” The warm, contented mood and gently swirling rhythms suggest a dreamy slow dance that could be for a romantic couple, mother or father and child, or even just one person dancing on a cloud. It’s a lovely makes-you-feel-good kind of piece.

The second piece, “Dwelling Place,” reminds the composer of where thoughts and memories dwell. More fully orchestrated than “Je t’aime,” the piano is still the main focus and takes the listener to a powerful place of hope and optimism. This seems like the perfect closing theme for a dramatic film about triumph over adversity or any movie with an emotionally-charged ending. Very stirring and moving!

Karen L. Gerig-Scott is off to a fantastic start in her recording career and I look forward to hearing more music from her in the near-future. Both tracks are available from  Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/25/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-KYLGS_by_Karen_L_Gerig_Scott-450-1899527-248898-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-KYLGS_by_Karen_L_Gerig_Scott-450-1899527-248898-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 25 Aug 2014 23:21:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Danny Wright
2014 / WH Sounds Studio
Disc 1: 59 minutes  Disc 2: 54 minutes

"Collage: A Timeless Collection of Medleys" is a collection of fifteen medleys beautifully arranged and performed by pianist Danny Wright. Two of the medleys were created specifically for this double-album and the others come from previous releases. This music was chosen to represent music from the greatest love stories from the past several centuries and includes classical music, film music, and some of Wright’s favorite show-tunes. A very popular entertainer in Las Vegas, Danny Wright’s playing style is warm and expressive, and he is not timid about using his very impressive and powerful  playing chops - but never to the point of overshadowing the music. A very passionate and accomplished pianist, it is obvious that Wright continues to pour his heart and soul into his music.

Disc One contains medleys that include Phantom of the Opera (three songs), Romance (one of the new medleys), Barbra Streisand, Classical Love Songs (the other new medley), Somewhere In Time, Henry Mancini, The King and I, and Salute to Freedom. All of these tracks are solo piano. Disc Two contains Porgy and Bess, Out of Africa, Les Miserables, Gershwin, Heartland, Variations on Somewhere, and another Phantom medley. All of these are solo piano except “Variations on Somewhere,” which has sound effects and some orchestration. My only criticism is that there are a few songs that appear several times - “Somewhere In Time” appears in three of the medleys, “Rhapsody on the Theme from Paganini” is in back-to-back tracks, and “All I Ask of You” is in both Phantom medleys. I listened to the two discs in the car while driving a distance and have to admit I thought my CD player might be repeating tracks. (Now, if “Summertime” had appeared that often, I would have been euphoric, so it’s a matter of perspective!)

Since this collection is made up of love songs, the mood of the music is smooth and flowing without a lot of surprises. I especially enjoy the new “Classical Love Songs” which is made up of “Fur Elise” and “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” and Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” The other new grouping, “Romance Medley” is the themes from Love Story, Romeo and Juliet, and Somewhere In Time. No surprises there, but it’s a lovely medley.

"Collage" will thrill Danny Wright’s many fans and will undoubtedly create new fans of folks looking for solo piano film music and show tunes. It is available from www.DannyWright.com, Amazon, and iTunes. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/20/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Collage_by_Danny_Wright-450-1899362-248784-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Collage_by_Danny_Wright-450-1899362-248784-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Thu, 21 Aug 2014 00:12:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> John Luttrell
2014 / John Luttrell/Ottersong Records
54 minutes

With one of the cutest and most appealing album covers I’ve seen in awhile, John Luttrell’s "The Dream Exchange" grabs your attention, piques your interest, and then soothes your stresses and worries away with close to an hour of warm, optimistic music that works seamlessly in the background or as music that flows in and out of close listening attention. Calling his music “atmospheric music” takes it in a somewhat different direction from “new age” or “ambient” because it’s both and yet neither from a purist standpoint. With elements of prog rock, the album features Luttrell on acoustic and electric guitars as well as keyboards with twelve songs that follow the theme of exchanging dreams. In the liner notes, Luttrell explains: “Throughout our lives we share our dreams with family and friends, and they share their dreams with us. If we're lucky we can help them activate and achieve their dreams and also work on achieving our own. How wonderful it is to experience and share in this Dream Exchange.” A lifelong musician who has lived and absorbed cultural influences from all over the world, Luttrell’s music reflects many of these influences and gives him a very distinctive sound.

"The Dream Exchange" begins with “Orange Sky,” a piece that combines dreamy atmospheric sounds with a gently-floating guitar melody and a lively rhythm that comes and goes - a very effective opening! “The Sphere” contains a variety of styles and is possibly one of the more prog rock pieces. From Hawaiian guitar to electric rock guitar over ambient musical and atmospheric sounds, it has no hard edges while continuously evolving as it develops. “Dreamcast” is a favorite. Slow and graceful with a shimmering beauty, it reminds me of watching a sunset by the ocean. The title track opens with the sound of rain and thunder and then the electric guitar enters, evoking images of the sun breaking through the storm clouds. From there, guitars express tones of peaceful calm and tranquility - also a favorite. I love the title “Somnambulistic Journey,” and the misty, dreamy music is the perfect accompaniment to a peaceful sleepwalking expedition. “Ethereal Raga” combines a catchy rhythm and mysterious ambient sounds to create colorful images that dance slowly in atmospheric clouds - fascinating! “Inland Returned” is light and fanciful with acoustic and electric guitars leading the way with a gentle smile. “With You” brings the album to a close with an easy, swaying rhythm and feelings of blissful contentment.

"The Dream Exchange" is quiet, relaxing music with plenty of substance to hold your interest while letting your imagination fly. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/15/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Dream_Exchange_by_John_Luttrell-450-1899169-248663-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Dream_Exchange_by_John_Luttrell-450-1899169-248663-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Fri, 15 Aug 2014 22:51:31 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Various Artists
2014 / West River Records
1 hour 16 minutes

"The Gathering II" is the stunning follow-up to the 2012 Zone Music Reporter’s Record of the Year (with the highest rating of any record in the history of those charts), "The Gathering." Like the first release, "The Gathering II" is a compilation of artists recently produced by Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, at his Imaginary Road Studio (most tracks were co-produced by engineer Tom Eaton). All but one of the pieces come from albums released 2012-14 and the other was released in 2010. Twenty-one artists are represented by one track from each. Some are solo instrumentals while the majority feature instrumental and vocal (wordless) support by such Imaginary Road luminaries as Eugene Friesen, Charlie Bisharat, Noah Wilding, Jill Haley, Jeff Oster, and Ackerman himself. I reviewed all but four of the albums as they were released, so it has been a joy to listen to what was selected as the best of the best for this compilation. I should note that many of the pieces were edited for length, but that process was done seamlessly and in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the music. In fact, it should give many listeners incentive to seek out the original recordings!

It is impossible to choose favorites from such a stellar collection - all of the music is exceptional, as is the sound quality of each track. The playing order flows seamlessly, creating a smooth, relaxing listening experience of more than 1 1/4 hours. The pianists include Jim Gabriel, Dave Kydd, Laura Sullivan (from her Grammy-winning "Love’s River"), Kathryn Kaye, Louis Colaiannia, Masako, Denise Young, Rebecca Harrold, Heidi Breyer, Dominic Silla, Stanton Lanier, Fiona Joy, Ann Sweeten, Vicente Avella, Isadar, and Lynn Yew Evers. The guitarists are Lawrence Blatt, Matteo Palmer, Shambhu, Ryan Michael Richards, and Vin Downes - a regular who’s who of some of the best acoustic musicians composing and recording today.

"The Gathering II" will definitely be on my list of Favorites for 2014 and I give it my highest recommendation. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/12/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Gathering_II_by_Various_Artists-450-1899058-248570-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Gathering_II_by_Various_Artists-450-1899058-248570-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Tue, 12 Aug 2014 17:44:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Louis Colaiannia
2014 / Louis Colaiannia
49 minutes

Louis Colaiannia has released an impressive body of work over the years, but "Closer" is his first album co-produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton and recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio. This new album reveals much of Colaiannia’s softer musical side, looking deeper within and expressing a broad range of emotions. There are still very strong jazz influences in some of the music, but as titles such as “Breathing,” “Journey Inward,” “Tears,” and “Lullaby” suggest, this album is much more reflective and soothing than some of Colaiannia’s previous releases. Two of the tracks are solo piano, but the remaining eight feature Imaginary Road regulars such as Eugene Friesen, Jill Haley, Jeff Oster, Noah Wilding, Tony Levin, Jeff Haynes and Will Ackerman.

"Closer" begins with “Aurora,” a beautiful piece Colaiannia wrote during the hours and days following  the tragic shooting at the Aurora, CO movie theater in 2012. Jeff Oster’s flugelhorn and Noah Wilding’s haunting vocals intertwine with Colaiannia’s piano to set a mood of solemn remembrance. All proceeds from this song will be donated to victims’ assistance funds. “The Way of the Rain” is a favorite and features Jill Haley and Tony Levin. Once again, the piano shows itself to be the perfect instrument to convey the feeling of rain, whether it is a gentle spring shower or a violent storm - in this case, it’s a refreshing outpouring from the heavens. Colaiannia has dedicated this piece to his first piano teacher, and I’m sure she is smiling! “Sailing” is tranquility and gentleness set to music. It starts out as a piano solo, becomes a piano and cello duet, and then a full ensemble piece - gorgeous! “Breathing” is the first of the two piano solos, and has the feeling of a free-flowing improvisation. Very spare and a bit on the dark side, it’s a good reminder to slow down breathe deeply. “Air” lightens the mood a bit, with Colaiannia’s fingers dancing on the piano keys and Eugene Friesen plucking the cello strings. About half-way in, Jill Haley enters with her soothing English horn. A soulful cello solo opens “Journey Inward,” a relaxing duet for piano and cello that later becomes a duet for piano and English horn. “Tears” is a passionate and often very powerful duet for cello and piano, expressing the depths of emotion. “Lullaby” is the second piano solo and closes the album on a very peaceful, loving note.

This is the fourth of Louis Colaiannia’s many albums that I’ve reviewed, and it’s by far my favorite so far. "Closer" is available from Amazon and iTunes. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/10/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Closer_by_Louis_Colaiannia-450-1898916-248511-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Closer_by_Louis_Colaiannia-450-1898916-248511-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:29:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ ADAM ANDREWS DEBUTS WITH SOLID CD THAT SHOWS HIS TALENT]]> If you follow the new age or contemporary classical music scenes, you know there are a lot of solo piano CDs being released each year.  And the nature of the beast is that it is difficult to tell the pianists apart.  Some offer dramatic tempo changes, and others play forcefully, while yet other ones play very light and delicately.  Of course some do all of the above.  So give up trying to spot a particular piano player’s style so that you can name them when you hear them on the radio.  Just let the music wash over you, and if you like it, if it moves you, then seek out the player and listen to some more.  Fortunately many radio programmers announce who they are playing, and many online radio channels or satellite feeds put the name of the artist and song on your screen.
 
Which brings us to a new solo pianist named Adam Andrews who has his debut album, Road to Ambo, out.  As per preceding paragraph, it would be hard to pick him out of a crowd of solo pianists, so really the criteria here should be: Is he any good?  The answer is: Yes.  He plays fairly forcefully and mostly with a fast or at least medium tempo (occasionally changing tempo within a tune), but he also works in one or two slower, softer pieces.  Most of the melodies are strong and, well, melodic.
 
The first piece, “Road to Ambo,” inspired by his family’s journey to adopt a black African baby and bring him to the United States, has a nice joyous feeling to it.  Several of the tunes (perhaps one too many) start with very high notes (“New Normal,” “Upside Down Church” and “We Are Brothers”) before he descends and starts working in the normal range, and strangely enough, when he does, several of these turn out to be his most lovely.  One of the slow numbers is “Hope and Joy” which starts slow and simple, but has a wonderful dramatic quality to it, especially as it slows way down at around the three-minute and four-minute marks.
 
Adam Andrews gets a recommendation for his debut outing.  He has created a solid recording that is definitely enjoyable to listen to.  If not highly distinctive (almost impossible in this genre), the music is at least quite captivating and well thought-out.  Probably the only way for him to create his own sound, would be to broaden out in the future and work in a few more instruments in hopes of making arrangements that sound more unique.  Meanwhile, sample what this ivory-tickler has to offer by finding some streams or excerpts online.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Road_To_Ambo_CD_by_Adam_Andrews-450-1898803-248426-ADAM_ANDREWS_DEBUTS_WITH_SOLID_CD_THAT_SHOWS_HIS.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Road_To_Ambo_CD_by_Adam_Andrews-450-1898803-248426-ADAM_ANDREWS_DEBUTS_WITH_SOLID_CD_THAT_SHOWS_HIS.html Wed, 6 Aug 2014 11:51:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ GERMAN MUSICIAN UWE GRONAU SHOWS VERSATILITY ON HIS LATEST INSTRUMENTAL CD]]>  
Gronau has a great touch on the keyboards.  He can play forcefully or so gentle you want to cry.  He can give you a Brian Auger-style organ solo.  Gronau might make his synthesizer sound like a xylophone, a guitar or some strange futuristic instrument from a sci-fi film.
 
He goes from slow numbers like “At The Beach” (it feels like lying in the sand at midnight staring up at the stars) and “Hiding Place” to uptempo rockers such as “Brazil” (with a cosmopolitan South American feel to it) and the back-to-back “Deep in my Heart” (with piano and acoustic guitar) and “Make It Happen” (featuring organ).  There are some left-field entries such as the ambient (lack of melody, random notes and beats) “Special Movement.”  One thing is for certain, Gronau will surprise you again and again.  You absolutely will not be able to predict where is going from tune to tune, or even within a given number (some instruments do not even enter the picture until he is halfway through).
 
The bottom-line is that musically there is a lot going on and it is all good stuff.  This is one you will want to check out, especially if you are one of us music junkies always looking for our fix of interesting, exciting, new music that says something some way that has never exactly been stated like that before.  Go for it.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Thoughts_Of_Tomorrow_CD_by_Uwe_Gronau-450-1898801-248425-GERMAN_MUSICIAN_UWE_GRONAU_SHOWS_VERSATILITY_ON.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Thoughts_Of_Tomorrow_CD_by_Uwe_Gronau-450-1898801-248425-GERMAN_MUSICIAN_UWE_GRONAU_SHOWS_VERSATILITY_ON.html Wed, 6 Aug 2014 11:41:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ This is such a fun soundtrack.]]> Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer. This soundtrack reflects the humor of the film so well The songs are not in order as they appear in the film, but that is okay. "I'm Not In Love" is the first song featured in the movie. I like this song, because it reminds me of all the girls I liked in my youth. "Moonage Daydream" is probably my favorite track on this soundtrack though. This song fits the film's space adventure theme better than any other song on here. I am a David Bowie fan so that is why it is one of my favorites. "Hooked On A Feeling" is another good song. I prefer the BJ Thomas version, but this cover works just fine. "Fooled Around And Fell in Love" by Elvin Bishop is featured in one of the funniest scenes of the movie. I haven't heard "The Pina Colada Song" in years. This song topped the charts way back in the last month of 1979, but I still enjoy listening to it. I love the feisty spirit of the song "Cherry Bomb" by the Runaways. This song features a very young Joan Jett singing her first hit song. "Ooh Child" and "Aint No Mountain High Enough" are two fun R and B classics that add to the diversity and enjoyment of this soundtrack for me]]> http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Guardians_of_The_Galaxy_Awesome_Mix_Volume_1-450-1898744-248369-This_is_such_a_fun_soundtrack_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Guardians_of_The_Galaxy_Awesome_Mix_Volume_1-450-1898744-248369-This_is_such_a_fun_soundtrack_.html Tue, 5 Aug 2014 00:35:54 +0000 <![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Matthew Schoening
2014 / Matthew Schoening
54 minutes

"Narrow Path" is the fifth solo electric cello album from Matthew Schoening (Shay-ning), a true master of his instrument. His 2011 release, "Elements," was named Best Instrumental Album for that year by Zone Music Reporter. Although the music is performed on solo electric cello, the sound is that of a full band or even a symphony orchestra complete with percussion and ambient sounds that are accomplished through a complex process of live looping. Using the technology as a compositional tool, Schoening creates layers of loops that play back instantly as he performs and become part of the pieces. His two compositional rules are that his music must be able to be performed live, with no pre-recorded sounds; and that every sound must come from the electric cello through blowing, strumming, percussive and pizzicato (plucked strings) techniques, and his proficiency with effects pedals. "Narrow Path" consists of nine original compositions, one of which is a 15-minute meditation, that represent what it means to Schoening to walk his path.

"Narrow Path" opens with “Writing on the Walls,” an upbeat, high-energy piece that exudes excitement and anticipation as we begin our journey. “Odyssey” is a favorite. It conveys a sense of adventure, but is quieter and more subtle than the first track, taking time to observe and experience along the path. Sounding more like a cello ensemble that adds players as the piece evolves, it’s soulful, peaceful and very beautiful. I also love “Structure,” with its jazzy, intoxicating rhythms and swirling vitality. The first part of “Faith” is much more ambient, but a gorgeous melody line enters later, evolving into a layered cello ensemble that expresses peace and gentleness. “Frolik” is my favorite. The juxtaposition of the lively, percussive rhythm and a Baroque-like cello opening are infectious and compelling. As the piece unfolds, the melody becomes more contemporary with the classical sound continuing in the background and the percussive effects propelling it forward. (There is a wonderful video of this piece and others on YouTube.) I keep pressing the “repeat” button on this one! As its title suggests, “Surrender (Float)” is ambient and very tranquil. Here, the cello sounds more like a guitar with strings and ambient washes of sound in the background. “Breathe” is a fifteen-minute meditation that would be wonderful for its intended purpose. Very atmospheric and silky-smooth, it provides a peaceful respite from the chaos of daily life. For active listening, it’s very interesting, but a little long.

Matthew Schoening is truly a one-of-a-kind artist who deserves a much bigger audience for his music. "Narrow Path" is available for download from www.SoloElectricCello.com and on physical CDs from Amazon. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

8/3/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Narrow_Path_by_Matthew_Schoening-450-1898702-248332-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Narrow_Path_by_Matthew_Schoening-450-1898702-248332-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Sun, 3 Aug 2014 22:46:57 +0000
<![CDATA[ I love the voice of Jenny Lewis.]]> I love this new album from Jenny Lewis.  “Head Underwater” reminds me never to give up in life because there is always something to look forward to.  This is a very upbeat song to start the album.  “The Voyager” is a song that encourages me to explore all the possibilities in life.  It reminds me that I need to detach from all material things to spur my creativity.  Just One of The Guys is another song I really like.  This is a song about resisting going with the crowd and doing my own thing in life.  These three songs really resonate with me lyrically. “Love U Forever” has great guitar riffs.  I love the musical arrangement of this song.  Jenny Lewis shows such a sensual quality in her voice on the song “Late Bloomer”. I really like her vocal performance on this song.  “She’s Not Me” is a song about the pain that men cause women and vice versa in a relationship.   I love the sounds of the waves on the song “Aloha and The Three Johns”.  This is probably the most upbeat song about the end of a relationship I have ever heard.   I am from Hawaii.  It is ironic to hear that any Hawaiian song can drive someone crazy.  Despite of this reference, I enjoy this song very much.  “The New You” is a song about how people have to adjust to a new stressful situation every day.  The electric guitar sounds beautifully subtle on this song.  This entire album sounds terrific.
 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Voyager_by_Jenny_Lewis-450-1898603-248250-I_love_the_voice_of_Jenny_Lewis_.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Voyager_by_Jenny_Lewis-450-1898603-248250-I_love_the_voice_of_Jenny_Lewis_.html Tue, 29 Jul 2014 21:35:30 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Roger Davidson
2014 / Soundbrush Records
1 hour 18 minutes

"Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies and Meditations for Solo Piano" is the genre-defying debut solo piano recording by Roger Davidson and his twentieth album to date. Initially a self-taught pianist/composer, Davidson has traveled the world learning as many styles of music as possible and studying with masters of the many genres and eras of music that interest him. Known mainly as a jazz and classical pianist, Davidson is also known for his chamber, symphonic, Latin, Brazilian, tango, Klezmer, choral and children’s music. It is no wonder then that "Temple of the Soul" has such an international flavor with so many influences coming into play - influences that have seamlessly become a part of Davidson’s musical soul. All twelve of the tracks on "Temple of the Soul" were improvised in the studio, flowing from his heart and spirit without technical restraint or stylistic boundaries. The album was recorded on an impeccably-restored 1876 Steinway grand and was produced by Pablo Aslan, Adam Abeshouse, and Davidson. Davidson is the founder of the Society for Universal Sacred Music as well as his recording label, Soundbrush Records.

"Temple of the Soul" begins with the title track, a piece Davidson says “felt like the beginning portal into the spiritual journey that this album is.” The piece has a Middle Eastern feeling in much of its 8 1/2 minutes,  but there are also some very strong American influences. Sometimes big and exhilarating and sometimes quiet and reflective, this piece alone is quite a journey. “Ethereal Ocean” was named for its feeling of ebbing and flowing. Very free and in constant motion, it evolves and develops organically and in the moment. Nature has a strong influence on Davidson’s music, and “Forest Prayer” expresses his connection to “trees, birds, and everything in the forest” -  a favorite. “Fountains of Life” reflects Davidson’s love of the French Impressionist composers in a piece that he refers to as a “celebration of life.” “From the Rising Sun” is based on the scale played on the Japanese Koto, a thirteen-string zither. Cinematic to meditative, it’s a beauty. “Blue Voyage” hints of Gershwin and the blues-infused popular music of that era. Peaceful yet edgy, I think this is my favorite on the album. “Freedom For All” comes in a close second with its references to African-American spirituals and gospel music - very earthy and soulful. The impassioned “Journey of Wisdom” suggests difficulties and hardships along the way to enlightenment - a struggle worth enduring. “Waves of Reflection” brings this evocative album to a thoughtful and peaceful close.

"Temple of the Soul" is an amazing musical journey. While it may be more of a listening challenge than much of the music I review, it is music that reveals new meanings and nuances the more you listen to it. Roger Davidson is an extraordinary pianist in so many ways! This album is available from Amazon, iTunes, and many other music retailers. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/28/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Temple_of_the_Soul_by_Mark_Davidson-450-1898593-248238-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Temple_of_the_Soul_by_Mark_Davidson-450-1898593-248238-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:20:19 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Million Dollar Piano Is Worth Every Penny]]>  
What can I say?  I was young.  Naïve.  Etc.
 
Anyway, they proceeded to recommend other tunes for me to explore – ones not from his pop playlist catalogue directly – and they proved me wrong.  It would seem that, like many performers do, Elton (and his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin) has a talent for producing not only radio-friendly tracks but also an understanding of just how those accompanying vocals must be produced for the same environment.
 
Still, Sir Elton is largely known for those songs that found Top 40 fame, and there’s no better way to explore them and his exceptionally showmanship in the latest DVD release, ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO.  From start-to-finish, the man clearly grasps the genius of his setting, and he more than aptly demonstrates why fans come to see him again and again over the years.
 
The show’s track lists essentially is a collection of his greatest hits, performed one after another without a lot of interlude … but when he does speak to the audience, Elton does so in a way that demonstrates the fondness and affection for those who’ve listened and still do today.  He even takes a time-out to recognize precisely how much his fans have meant to him over the years.  It’s clear that, as a performer, he’s immeasurably cognizant of what the audience expects of him, and he sets out to achieve a measure of ‘thanks’ by doing what he does best: play his music.
 
Caesar’s Palace is a terrific venue, and Elton has made the best of it.  It’s a terrific stage – one accommodating a large back-up band and a small chorus of singers – as well as the usual pomp and circumstance.  There’s a series of lighting and video effects that play nearly continuously; and, if there’s any distraction, it could be that – for creative reasons – director Chris Gero felt the need to keep shifting between what seems like a billion different camera angles.  While it’s great that he tried to get everything in, there is something to be said for nuance, and I would’ve appreciated a few sequences of showing the piano man do what he does from one, two, or three specific perspectives.
 
But there’s no denying Elton’s love for the experience.  During his rendition of one of his biggest hits (“Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”), he even insists on pulling members of the audience up onto the stage to join him in the mix.
 
For those of you who don’t know it, Elton John has been an entertainer for over five decades.  He’s likely forgotten more secrets to performing than most musicians ever learn.  To see him is to see a living legend at work.  And THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO is a must for music fans everywhere.
 
ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO (2013) is produced by Rocket Music Entertainment Group.  DVD distribution is being handled by Eagle Rock Entertainment.  For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a concert performance taped from his “The Million Dollar Piano” concert performed at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.  As for the technical specifications?  Wow!  Director/producer Chris Gero went to great lengths to capture the look, presence, and mood of the venue (having been there, I think it’s one of the best places I’ve had the good fortune to see).  Lastly, the disc boasts a 20+ minute documentary on the challenges of capturing a live performance, as well as another show (from Kiev, a four-set performance) captured live.
 
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE.  So far as this music reviewer is concerned, Elton John remains one of the consummate showmen of his generation (and quite possibly ANY generation).  As any viewer can see on THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO, Elton loves playing.  He loves the music.  He loves the concert experience.  He loves his fans.  He loves everything about being an entertainer, and, unlike so many others in the business today, he knows how to deliver a million dollar performance.
 
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Eagle Rock Entertainment, Ltd. provided me with a DVD copy of ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Elton_John_The_Million_Dollar_Piano-450-1898396-248180-The_Million_Dollar_Piano_Is_Worth_Every_Penny.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Elton_John_The_Million_Dollar_Piano-450-1898396-248180-The_Million_Dollar_Piano_Is_Worth_Every_Penny.html Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:21:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Yanni
2014 / YanniWorks
51 minutes

"Inspirato" is an impressive collection of thirteen pieces composed and orchestrated by Yanni  and sung by some of the biggest names in opera. I have to say upfront that I am not a fan of operatic singing, but I really enjoyed Yanni’s earlier Voce and Voices, so I thought I’d give it a try. Yanni didn’t write any of the lyrics (most of which are not in English) and the songs have been retitled, but these are some of Yanni’s best-known pieces and should be easily recognizable to long-time fans. All of the music is orchestrated and most songs include piano, strings and other instrumentation, providing a lush accompaniment to some of the most powerful singing voices from around the world. Yanni has always been an artist who dreams big and has a way of making those dreams come true, so it must be quite a triumph to make this complex project come to fruition so beautifully. With classical music becoming a dying art, I salute Yanni for bringing what are often totally opposing forces  in music (contemporary and classical) together and clearly demonstrating that music is music no matter what the genre. I can only imagine the thrill of having artists like Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming singing your songs!

The featured singers are Renee Fleming, Vittorio Grigolo, Placido Domingo, Katherine Jenkins, Nathan Pacheco, Placido Domingo Jr., Micaela Oeste, Chloe Lowery, Russell Watson, Lauren Jelencovich, Rolando Villazon, and Pretty Yende. Most appear as soloists, but there are a couple of duets and a quintet that present several of them in combinations. Placido Domingo Jr. wrote the lyrics for six of the pieces and Nathan Pacheco wrote words for four.

This is not one of my favorite Yanni albums, but it is still very beautiful and well worth a listen. Inspirato is available from Amazon, iTunes, and just about any other music outlet.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/23/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Inspirato_by_Yanni-450-1898350-248152-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Inspirato_by_Yanni-450-1898350-248152-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:47:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Written in the Key of Me: Notes from My Audiobiography
Christine Bustos
2014 / Christine Bustos
42 minutes

Writing a review of Christine Bustos’ "Written in the Key of Me: Notes from My Audiobiography" is a very special pleasure because it is the first CD I’ve reviewed by a former piano student of mine. Christine found me sometime ago on Facebook and when she asked if I’d give her new CD a listen, I agreed, not really expecting to be blown away by the music. I was and am! A very gifted musician even as a child, Christine started playing the piano for her church when she was quite young, often improvising hymns and making up songs as she played. As far as I can remember, that was in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, so it’s been awhile. 

Written in the Key of Me... Notes from My Audiobiography" is a group of unpolished personal recordings that were not originally intended to be released. Bustos was recording a diary without inhibition, “finding herself in imperfection.” The eleven original piano solos were often inspired by her two daughters as well as other events and  people in her life. The music is very melodic with a lovely, flowing quality, and each piece comes from a special place in Christine’s heart, played very expressively and with deep emotion. 

"Written in the Key of Me" begins with “Behavior,” a somber, melancholy piece that gradually lightens as it evolves, telling its story with great feeling and sincerity. “Crimson Tide” has a dark intensity and passion that make it compelling. I’ve often said that the piano is the perfect instrument for depicting rain, and Christine figured out the secrets for making “Raindrop Reflection” percussive without being harsh. The slow tempo and poignant melody give it the feeling of watching or listening to the rain late at night. “Keiki Lullaby” is my favorite track - so simple and yet so evocative and soothing. “Train to Tachikawa” picks up the tempo and spirit a bit with lots of deep bass accents and a sense of moving forward. “Midori” is another favorite. Slow, introspective, and  passionate, it’s beauty! “Beyond the Limit” has the graceful flow and warmth of a romantic slow dance. “The Fragile Child” feels very spontaneous - an outpouring of deep emotion, perhaps late in the night. “Footprints to Forever (A Walk With Gail)” is a tender tribute to a dear friend who recently passed away. Overflowing with love and hope, it’s a wonderful memorial that comes from the heart.

Christine Bustos is off to a fantastic start with her recording career and has touched me deeply with her music! "Written in the Key of Me: Notes from My Audiobiography" is available for download from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/22/14

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Written_in_the_Key_of_Me_Notes_From_My_Audiobiography_by_Christine_Bustos-450-1898245-248092-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Written_in_the_Key_of_Me_Notes_From_My_Audiobiography_by_Christine_Bustos-450-1898245-248092-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Wed, 23 Jul 2014 02:57:15 +0000
<![CDATA[ From MainlyPiano.com]]> Mark Freshwater
2014 / Mark Freshwater
46 minutes

"Trees of Life" is the third solo CD from keyboardist/pianist/composer Mark Freshwater. The twelve songs on the album were inspired by family members and friends, making this music a very special and personal expression of love and appreciation. The music is mostly piano-based with keyboard orchestrations and embellishments and occasional nature sounds. A few of the pieces are light and playful, but most are reflective and meditative. Mark Freshwater has had an eclectic life in music with strong influences from classical, choral, folk, Christian, rock, new age, and smooth jazz genres. He started playing the piano at the age of five and has been at it ever since, although he took a 38-year break from composing until a couple of years ago. Hopefully, now that he has some momentum going, he’ll continue to compose and record!

"Trees of Life" begins with “Winter Reflections,” one of my favorites on the album. Chilly atmospheric sounds blend with haunting ambient music to create a feeling of icy calm. “Rhapsody,” composed by Dan Siegel, lightens the mood considerably with a gentle but catchy rhythm and easy sway. “Debbie’s Waltz” is Freshwater’s first composition in 3/4 time and is dedicated to  his wife. With a tender and delicate keyboard touch, the piece moves gracefully like the dancer who inspired it. “Native Meditations” is another favorite.  Peaceful yet poignant, piano narrates the story as flutes, strings, and other instruments add colors and intensity to the mix. As its title suggests, “Solace” was designed to be a comforting piece to commemorate the loss of family members. Quietly reflective, it gives the listener room to be with his or her thoughts and emotions at one of life’s most difficult times. “Blood Brothers” is rather dark yet very evocative, composed with a spiritual connectedness in mind - I really like this one, too. “Etude No. 1 in C Minor” is very classical yet very in the now, smoldering with a quiet intensity. “Snoqualmie Suite”  is the most upbeat and joyful track on the album, ending it with a smile and warm sense of satisfaction.


With three new albums to his credit in the span of less than two years, Mark Freshwater is producing an impressive body of new music. "Trees of Life" is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very nicely done!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/21/14]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Trees_of_Life_by_Mark_Freshwater-450-1898201-248058-From_MainlyPiano_com.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/d/UserReview-Trees_of_Life_by_Mark_Freshwater-450-1898201-248058-From_MainlyPiano_com.html Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:04:27 +0000