The Gathering II 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.