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Reflected In A Flowing Stream by Kathryn Kaye
- posted by Candice Michelle on 3/24/2017
Kathryn Kaye - Reflected In A Flowing Stream
Reflected in a Flowing Stream is the sixth full-length album from notably accomplished and award-winning pianist-composer, Kathryn Kaye. Co-produced by Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton and herself, Kathryn’s latest release was recorded at Will’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, as well as mixed and mastered by Tom. Comprised of eleven compositions spanning fifty-five minutes, a talented team of guest musicians are variably featured throughout, of which includes Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Tony Levin on bass, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn, Jill Haley on English horn, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Tom Eaton on accordion, and Will Ackerman on guitar. As always, the most visually suited cover artwork was chosen to represent her album, with this one perfectly capturing a gentle repose, observant of nature and the seasonal cycles of the year.

“A Lark in the Last Night of Day” offers a gently spirited solo piano introduction with notable classical touches, delicately alternating between drifty notes and bubbling, flowing key strokes. Capturing a sense of nostalgia seemingly reflective upon the past, an allusion to the end of a season is conveyed, as further indicated by the title of the next piece, “As Seasons Change”. Here, a solemn touch of cello is accompanied by bass, preceding a lovely piano melody that becomes more formidable, yet remains ever graceful, before softly winding down again. The next composition, “Procession of Moon and Stars”, is likewise aptly-named, as it moves along in a procession-like manner with a marching stanza in the lower registers. Alternating between major and minor chord shifts throughout its main melodic riff, this exquisite number is further enhanced by accordion and cello, as the caressing sound of flugelhorn lends an interval of dreaminess. Bookended by sparse piano notes, “The Stillness Before Dawn” ensues, while a more clearly defined melody exchanges subtle gestures with English horn nestled in-between. Noticeably brightening up the mood is “No Reason Not to Dance”, an optimistically lively, moderately-paced ensemble piece joined by accordion, bass, percussion and violin. I’m especially fond of the closing piece, “Arctic Night”, which is likewise accompanied by cello and bass. As if having saved the best for last, this mysterious number beautifully paints a nocturnal landscape, while brooding minor chords softly cast a shadow upon cascading influxes of improvisational piano throughout.

Reflected in a Flowing Stream gently nudges the listener to take a pause for quiet reflection. It never becomes bombastic or overly imposing in nature, but rather feels intimately subdued. Executed with utmost elegance and an expertly refined restraint, Kathryn’s prepossessing compositions feel innately unhurried and mindful of every detail within the present moment. Her compositional style, along with the moods she creates, often bear reminiscence to the works of Chad Lawson, as well as those of early David Lanz, such as his Narada-released album, Nightfall. Existing fans of Kathryn’s work will note much to praise about this album, while newcomers will find a perfect place to start, especially, those who enjoy classically-infused, contemplative new age piano music!
Rating: Excellent
Souvenir d'Italia by Elizabeth Naccarato
- posted by lillian on 3/22/2017

American pianist and composer Elizabeth Naccarato has musically captured one of her favorite places, Italy, on her sixth album, SOUVENIR D’ITALIA. The dozen instrumental tunes are like picture-book snapshots of an Italian adventure that capture the feelings of sitting at sidewalk cafes, meeting friends at the Spanish Steps, driving through the countryside, dancing, serenading, romancing, wandering through cathedrals and museums, sampling regional gourmet delights, and feeling the passion of the people.

Naccarato’s previous popular recordings are JARRELL’S COVE, NORTH SYCAMORE, STONE COTTAGE, ONE PIANO and HISTORY. Naccarato got her degree in piano performance at the University of Southern California. Over the years he has worked with other musicians including Michael Gettel and Nancy Rumbel. Naccarato mostly composes her own music, but on her new album she decided to cover the Italian classic “That’s Amore” as an instrumental.

SOUVENIR D’ITALIA is beautiful, Italian-flavored, gentle, piano-oriented music. Naccarato wrote these compositions after spending a lot of time in Italy. Then she gives the listener the emotional feelings of traditional Italian music by bringing in guest musicians on violin, mandolin and accordion. Plus she adds the occasional saxophone, bass and drums to round out the arrangements. The result is soft, melodic music that, if you close your eyes while you are listening, is the next best thing to an Italian vacation.
Rating: Excellent
Prayer to the Energy by Hollan Holmes
- posted by Candice Michelle on 3/22/2017
Hollan Holmes - Prayer to the Energy
Every once in a while, I’ll come across an album that is so profoundly moving and personally resonant that it leaves me utterly speechless. This time, it’s a double album clocking in at over two hours, titled Prayer to the Energy, by ambient-electronic music composer, as well as fine artist, Hollan Holmes. With a title and accompanying cover art that appears to be a nod to Nikola Tesla, one might get the impression upon first glance that the music herein is rather observational in nature, and while that’s true, each piece is also deeply emotive and incredibly haunting without ever becoming morose. Comprised of fourteen flawless compositions, Prayer to the Energy is Hollan’s sixth release, as well as his first recording that employs both vintage and digital analog hardware synthesizers, with the first part of the album largely centered around dynamic electronic sequencer passages, and the second part offering up a deep space excursion.

Fluidly shimmering sequencers open the title track, “Prayer to the Energy”, which are soon joined by emerging layers of lush chord progressions underscored by a pulsating bassline; all seemingly evolving in a circular rotation like electrical sparks flashing upon a dark, gravitational whirlpool. Immediately beguiling the listener, the rest of the album continues in this motif, with “Insulated” offering up dynamically swirling textures that seemingly conjure real-time images of atomic particles and molecules. While there isn’t a weak link among this perfectly stunning album, I certainly came away with a few favorites; among these include “Darkness and Light”, a supremely gorgeous composition that softly treads into chill-out territory, as drifty piano notes wash over a pristine electronic soundscape. Easily one of the most affective pieces of music I’ll have heard all year, this tantalizing passage is mysteriously evocative of beholding an evening ocean tide, as waves of bioluminescent plankton magically light-up the shoreline. “Lucid Dreams” is another standout with its subtly churning sequencers and languid keyboard notes, which seemingly emerge from the ether as they steadily move across a vast expanse. Equally enthralling is “The Ephemeral Spark”, a piece that reminds me a bit of Norwegian electronic music composer Erik Wøllo, likewise conveying images of a cold, isolated northern landscape. Bearing further reminiscence with its textural guitar sounds, subtly echoing percussion and floating bed of sequencers, this gently melodic composition lends itself to a melancholic and pensive mood that permeates the listening space. Concluding our first part of the journey is the engrossingly sublime, “A Midwinter Night’s Dream”, which clocks in at over nineteen minutes. Beckoning from afar like the call of distant cosmic voices, this indescribably beautiful piece conveys a sense of having become dissolved among the primordial essence of the universe itself.

Introducing the second part of the album is “The Suspension of Time”, as misty drones appear to extend across the furthest reaches of tangible limits. “Cloud World” follows with an encompassing haze that seemingly enshrouds a landscape that is both familiar and alien. Slipping further into a foreboding atmosphere is “Cover of Darkness”, which comfortably evokes a sensation of slowly descending into an immeasurable spatial abyss. Closing out the album at almost twenty minutes is “Cerro Torre”, in which the eventual re-emergence of subtle sequencers towards the end of this long-form piece signals a returning to our original destination.

Culminating in a truly unforgettable listening experience, every composition on Prayer to the Energy is spectacularly arranged, as Hollan continually layers new textures over rather simple yet deeply affecting chord progressions throughout. In fact, just the very notion that these inexplicably beautiful sounds could be created by modern machines seems miraculous in of itself. That they are emanating from the incredible mind of a sentient being is even more incomprehensible. Sitting on par with the greatest ambient-electronic works ever recorded, this album particularly recalls some of the finest outputs by Erik Wøllo and Steve Roach. As someone who first discovered ambient/electronic music as child, as well as having since amassed quite a collection over the years, I can assuredly conclude that Prayer to the Energy is destined to become one of my favorite albums of all time! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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