The Lightness of Dark
Fiona Joy Hawkins & Rebecca Daniel – Little Hartley Music
Fiona Joy Hawkins (piano and vocals) and Rebecca Daniel (violin, organ, vocals, piano) , joined on five tracks by the Kanimbla Quartet have created a starkly beautiful musical portrait of the passing through of grief and sorrow to healing and light. A contemporary classical influence dominates these sublime compositions and all the artists involved (including cellist Trish McMeekin on one track) give their all in these richly textured somber pieces. Exquisitely recorded with extreme attention to production detail, this is music in which to totally immerse oneself, allowing the emotional depth to penetrate deep into your own memories of sadness and healing.
Bach Side of the Moon – Baroque Adagios Reimagined
Piers Adams & Larry Lush – Red Priest Recordings
Recorder maestro Piers Adams joins forces with synthesizer artist Larry Lush on Bach Side of the Moon, a revisiting of some of Bach’s Baroque period adagios on which the pair combine the centuries old woodwind with contemporary synthesizer melodies, textures, and string accents. Unlike similar recordings in the past, the thirteen selections on this album lean more closely to the source material as opposed to, for example, the early works of synthesizer pioneers including Tomita. As a result, classical music purists should find much to enjoy here. Adams’ recorder playing is a mixture of technical artistry and soulful talent and Lush expertly weaves in an assortment of synthesizer elements with utmost deftness.
Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy – Mystic Journey
Wife/husband team Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy weave a hypnotic and sensual aural tapestry on Autumn Monsoon, fusing an assortment of world music influences into a hybrid that mesmerizes the listener from first note to last. Teng’s flutes carry the lead melodies to which Levy provides the rhythms via a wide assortment of percussion and string instruments. Both also play synthesizer, using the electronics more as textural accompaniment than as a forefront musical element. Most of the ten songs are paced at a slow tempo making this a great album for accompaniment to yoga or one can simply luxuriate in the sonic perfume pouring forth from the speakers.
Paul Adams & Elizabeth Geyer – Lakefront Productions
Deeper Imaginings is the follow-up to Adams’ 2015 Imaginings album (which garnered Adult Contemporary Album of the Year from Zone Music Reporter). It features a more concentrated emphasis on influences from the music of the Indian culture, most notably via the presence of electric sitar and bansuri flute. Besides Adams and Geyer, guests perform on aforementioned bansuri, trumpet, guitar, and balaban. Adams plays guitar, electric sitar, percussion, oud, halusi, and synthesizer while Geyer handles piano, vocals, and flugelhorn. Other than the mellow jazziness of “All That I Am,” and the closing “Hope For The Game” the music here is meditative and serene, ideal for massage or just window-gazing on cloudy days.
Dean Evenson & d’Rachael – Soundings of the Planet
By now, if you have been reading my reviews here in Retailing Insight, you know what a big fan I am of Dean Evenson. Here he reunites with renowned harpist d’Rachael (whom he has recorded with many times before) for yet another sonic excursion into blissful flute and harp melodies, perfectly accented with discrete nature sounds and deft application of synthesizers. Relax in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and you will almost be able to feel the ocean breeze and the warmth of the sun on your face as peace and content wash over you.
Memories of Water and Light
Scott Cossu – Heart Dance Records
Pianist Scott Cossu entered on the ground floor of New Age music back in 1980 with his first album, Still Moments. His 2015 album, Safe In Your Arms, showed he hadn’t lost a step and now, with Memories of Water and Light, he reestablishes himself as one of the premier players in the genre once again. Working with guitarist Van Manakas and cellist Holly Reeves, Cossu displays his abundant talent for fluid melodies and heartfelt compositions across the recording’s ten tracks. By turns reflective, romantic, and subtly playful, the music on Memories of Water and Light is a sheer delight and would be a great disc for backcountry road trips.
A Day Like Any Other
Darshan Ambient – Spotted Peccary Music
It’s a tragedy that Michael Allison (Darshan Ambient) passed away mere days before the official release of his last album, A Day Like Any Other, which was released posthumously upon his wishes by Spotted Peccary. Throughout his career, Allison displayed a great talent in and affinity for a variety of ambient styles. Here many of the tracks are rhythmic and upbeat, even dramatically so, as on “Ah! Sunflower” with its orchestral strings and pulsing drums. I can’t help but think that Allison meant this release to be an affirmation of life even as he battled with cancer at the end. It is a superb final chapter in his enduring legacy.
Doug Hammer – Dreamworld Productions
Influenced by his many appearances at concerts with other pianists at which he performed impromptu improvisational duets as a finale, Doug Hammer thought, “Why not do a duet with myself?” and Piano2 was born! So much more than just a “gimmick,” the fifteen songs on this album offer proof aplenty of Hammer’s versatility and imaginative compositional skills as he (times two!) navigates among a wide assortment of genres including jazz, pop, New Age, neo-classical and more (on “Chasin’ Possum” he brings the house down with some great jump boogie!). His “two” performances on each song fit hand in glove no matter the style, tempo, or mood.
Lisa Hilton – Ruby Slippers Productions
One of jazz piano’s brightest stars is at it again! Lisa Hilton’s latest release features nine original compositions as well as an imaginative cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue Boy.” Hilton is joined by a great trio of musicians (J.D. Allen on tenor sax, Rudy Royston on drums, and Luques Curtis on bass) and the four fit together seamlessly on all ten tracks. I’ve stated it many times in previous reviews of Hilton’s albums that she is among the most unselfish artists in an ensemble setting and she displays that same sense of “we’re a team” yet again. Whether uptempo, bluesy, or romantic, Hilton’s utmost command of nuance and artistic virtuosity carries the day with ease.
Robin Spielberg – Playmountain Music
Pianist Robin Spielberg’s 19th album is a collection of well-known covers from artists such as Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and more (sixteen songs in all). Drawn from rock, pop, and easy listening, each one of these pieces is given a unique arrangement by the ultra-talented Spielberg so that all of them are recognizable yet also infused with new wrinkles. Spielberg’s music frequently features melodies that have a romantic feel to them and, obviously, with the album titled Love Story, you can correctly assume that is the case here as well. Her version of Springsteen’s “My Hometown” will tug at even a die hard cynic’s heartstrings!