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Playlist – January 2020

Let Go

Christoph Berghorn – Capitol Sound Records

www.christoph-berghorn.com/musician

 

It is said of Denver, Colorado, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes!” Christoph Berghorn’s album is kind of like that. With 22 tracks in all, there is likely to be something for everyone. The overriding influence is new age music, but other elements can pop up on certain songs, e.g. jazz, world, et al. Guest artists contribute on cello, alto and soprano sax, flugelhorn, and percussion, while Berghorn handles the keyboards. Despite the mix of styles, there is a cohesiveness, which I attribute to the artist’s way with melody, tempo, and rhythm as well his choices for keyboard sounds which are classic new age!

While It Lasts

Geoff Hall – Hall Studios

www.geoffhallcomposer.com

 

Geoff Hall does not list the instruments featured on While It Lasts, but I hazard a guess it’s acoustic guitar and keyboards (for accompanying textures, e.g. orchestral strings, as well some sampled other instruments, e.g. the flute on “Something on the Wind”). His fingerstyle guitar playing is fantastic, which is immediately apparent on the opening uptempo piece, “Arrival.” The album’s nine songs encompass a wide range of emotional moods and musical styles but no matter which direction a piece heads in, Hall displays uncommon deftness on the guitar and his composing virtuosity is impressive to say the least.

Wings

Peter Kater – Point of Light Records

www.peterkater.com

 

It seems that Peter Kater never runs out of inspiration for new music. With each release over the years, he effortlessly expands his color palette. On Wings, he pares down to just piano with subtle (yet occasionally lush) string orchestrations, deftly applied to underscore the emotional evocation of the track on which they are featured. What stands out the most though, as one would expect, is Kater’s virtuosity on the ivories. Whether soaring through dramatic melodies or taking a softer, more tender approach, he demonstrates why he has racked up seemingly countless accolades since bursting on the scene in 1982. No doubt Wings will enthrall his legion of followers and, perhaps, increase the “flock” with new-found fans.

Woodlands

Rudy Adrian – Spotted Peccary

www.spottedpeccary.com

 

New Zealand-based synthesizer artist Rudy Adrian has been crafting superb ambient soundscapes since 1990, with 12 studio and four live albums so far. Woodlands is his 13th studio effort and, like all of his work, it showcases his abundant talent at layering multiple synthesizer tones, effects, and melodic elements in stunning fashion. Per the artist’s liner notes, “Woodlands is a reflection of the pleasures of walking through the leafy glades, sheltered under the spreading boughs of forest trees.” So, you can correctly assume that the 13 tracks are based on flowing melodies, sometimes warm, sometimes haunting, but always sublimely crafted with care and extreme attention to detail.

Promise

Flow – Self-released

www.flowthegroup.com

 

Flow, the contemporary instrumental supergroup (Fiona Joy on piano and vocals, Lawrence Blatt on guitars/ukulele/bass, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn and trumpet, and Will Ackerman on guitar) return for a second go round and, as impossible as it may seem, they have eclipsed the excellence of their debut album. Promise is chockful of superb musicianship in the service of equally excellent compositions. Flow are a true ensemble with no showboating exhibited by the four principal artists, instead showing a seamless symbiosis of their individual artistry. Tunes vary from sedate and quiet to gently rollicking and the overall vibe is relaxing to the max.

All the Pieces

Lynn Tredeau – Self-released

www.lynntredeau.com

 

In her own quiet way, pianist Lynn Tredeau is cementing her place with the best solo piano artists recording today. All the Pieces is her sixth album and, to my ears, it is both her best and her most personal/intimate release so far. Tredeau has always shown an affinity for playing with a subtlety and utmost control of tone and nuance, and this album showcases those talents from beginning to end. Overall, the mood on the album is reflective and introspective, wavering between warm and somber, but not quite delving into melancholy. It would be a perfect soundtrack for daydreaming on grey, rainy days or nights in front of a glowing fire.

The Spaces Between Breaths

Sherry Finzer & Will Clipman – Heart Dance Records

www.heartdancerecords.com

 

When you bring together two of the most talented and accomplished artists on their respective instruments, you should rightfully expect something dazzling to come of it. The Space Between Breaths unites flutist Finzer and drummer/percussionist Clipman and, my goodness, even with the lofty expectations I held, I was still impressed with the end result of their collaboration. Space limitation prevents me from listing the variety of flutes (Finzer) and drums/percussion (Clipman) performing on the album, but it’s a formidable list. By turns primal, sensual, haunting, somber, and even playful, The Space Between Breaths presents two artists at the pinnacle of their talent.

Revealed

Gina Leneé – Self-released

www.ginalenee.com

 

Revealed is pianist Gina Leneé’s second album helmed by Grammy-winner Will Ackerman and ace studio engineer Tom Eaton. It “reveals” that her first effort with them (2017’s Red Diamonds) was a musical precursor of more greatness to come. Revealed’s songs are deeper, more intimate, and richer with nuance. The mood is more introspective than Red Diamonds, showcasing Leneé’s extremely deft touch on the ivories. Supporting her, as one would expect from an album recorded at Imaginary Road Studios, are these talented guest artists: flugelhorn maestro Jeff Oster, cellist Eugene Friesen, violinist Charlie Bisharat, sax player Premik Russell Tubbs, and percussionist Jeff Haynes, as well as Ackerman (guitar) and Eaton (electric bass).

One World

Michael Stribling – Leela Music

www.mysticjourney.net

 

Michael Stribling’s 11th release is a literal musical voyage “spanning the globe.” You would be hard-pressed to find a more diverse collection of world fusion tracks. Fifteen songs whisk the listener away to exotic places with musical influences from Australia, Japan, Spain, Africa, Scotland, Germany, and more. Obviously trying to sum up the music on One World would require a lot more space than I have here, but regardless of either the geographic region Stribling focuses on or the culture he draws inspiration from, the results are impressive. Add in flawless mastering from Tom Eaton (Imaginary Road Studios), and you have the makings of a globe-hopping musical extravaganza!

Within Us All

Monica Williams – Heart Dance Records

www.heartdancerecords.com

 

Flutist Monica Williams’ Within Us All is a sublimely healing and life-affirming recording, ideal for bodywork/massage. Playing an assortment of flutes across the 10 tracks, featuring titles such as “You are Forgiving,” “You are Resilience,” “You are Enough,” and “You are Free as a Child” Williams ushers the listener into various states of relaxation, contemplation, and serenity, via her wafting melodies, accompanied on four of the album’s tracks by guest artists pianist Lynn Tredeau, fellow flutist Sherry Finzer, percussionist Will Clipman, and guitarist Michael Kent Smith. John Herrera plays additional keyboards and percussion throughout. Within Us All is a recording to indulge in and savor time and time again.

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Bill Binkelman has been reviewing New Age, ambient, and world music since 1997. Email him at [email protected]