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Reflection by Shoshana Michel
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/4/2019
Piano played beautifully
My favourite style of solo piano is always the more reflective kind; so I was absolutely elated to find a new album by the award winning pianist Shoshana Michel on my desktop to review.
This is the artist’s fourth release and follows hard on the heels of her amazing award winning album Prelude to a Dream. Reflection is an album of memory packed compositions, the narration of her life as a composer and we start that voyage with the first sparkling opener called quite appropriately, A New Day Today. Here is the perfect composition to start an album of reflective memories with, its full of light and respect for the journey taken, and the excitement of what is still to come, played by Michel with a real lightness of spirit on the piano.
I found something that moved my soul deeply within this next offering; this wonderful opus is called Shooting Stars. The reflective mood here is magical and took me back to an old Neil Sedaka song from 1974, now whilst this composition is nothing at all like that, it does contain some of the finest emotive playing I have heard for quite some time in this genre since then.
The more this musical sojourn continues, the more impressed I become, and from the luscious refrains of the track Finding Bliss that respect grew tenfold. I felt this was quite moving, but in a totally different way to the preceding arrangement, this moves me from a point of enlightenment, finding bliss truly does sum up a happy performance, and perhaps one in the final respect of having achieved your goal, as the light bulb goes on, and you bathe in your own destiny.
Within in us all there is a storm ready to cause ripples on our little lake of calm, this is perfectly illustrated by the quite brilliant performance on the piece Soothing the Tempest Within; what the artist does so well here, is to illustrate that tempest, and then show the cure can be found inside us all. The dualistic nature of the performance here is stunning and very enjoyable to listen to many times over, just so you don’t miss a thing in this magical theatre of a composition.
We can now approach the half way juncture; by enjoying the tones of this next offering entitled Bittersweet. The reflective nature of this piece is deeply emotive; the taste of happiness and sadness combined gives us all a bittersweet taste. Here Shoshana Michel really plays with her heart on her sleeve, in a truly fluent and emotional musical presentation.
As we gaze down into the meadow of the last half of the album we come across a charming offering called Island in the Mist. Through the quite beautiful and full flowing narrative emanating from the piano, one could easily be transported to the top of a vast green hill, to glimpse the view of this almost mystical island from our vantage point, a classy recital indeed.
The moon is a powerful energy in my life; its silver essence captures my imagination and bathes me with a purifying light. Michel really turns on the style on this piece, this is a magical offering that really sparkles like the night sky called The Moon’s Lament, but there is also an underpinned essence of sadness here too, perhaps one that tells us not to take our lives for granted, a very clever offering indeed.
In a Time Lapse is a track that seems to be very familiar to me in narration. Whilst this is a smooth and peaceful performance, one can feel a mood of memory within the construction of the offering, perhaps one that is pondering on one’s life path, and perhaps thinking that, it feels like I have done this very thing many times over and it feels like I am stuck in a time loop.
Now as we edge deeper in this musical forest we come across a marvellous piece called Forever and a Day. There is a more delicate sense of reflection here, but one that is perfectly balanced with a sense of blissful positivity, that one is doing the right thing. The artist manifests a melody here that is quite memorable, so much so I may be whistling it around the house for a few days yet.
Our penultimate song is entitled Labyrinth, and as you may guess it has that sense of mystery and suspense built into its musical narrative, one that weaves its way superbly through the composition, perhaps illustrating all the corridors, alleyways and labyrinths that life presents to us on our journey.
So we finally arrive at the very last track off this glorious new release from Shoshana Michel and her album Reflection. This last gift of musical brilliance is called Through the Eyes of a Child. There is a delightful elevation of energy in this piece that is really exciting and from the performance, perhaps we are once again seeing life through the eyes of a child, learning from mistakes of the past and just getting on with what really matters. The artist has really pulled off a masterstroke by ending with such an upbeat last offering, and delivers a very empowering end to what is a truly elegant album.
Reflection by Shoshana Michel is her fourth album, but a release that shows the ever growing maturity of her path in the business, and her willingness to show to the world that she constantly has more to offer. Reflection is an album that will take you down memory lane, introduce you to thoughtful moments of solo piano that are beautifully played, and create an insightful awareness into the journey taken by the artist thus far.
Rating: Excellent
Beyond Measures & Time by Steve Rivera
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/24/2019
Beautiful calm ambient piano
Steve Rivera has made a steady progression in his musical career, I remember the intensity and emotion of his last offering Dividing The Darkness back in 2015, now he is back with a sparkling new release called Beyond Measures & Time.
On this new offering there seems to be a real connection with the soul and heart, a combination of emotive performances with such a beautiful arrangement and performance structure, all of that is here and more, like for example the supremely gentle and radiant opener Suspended Dream, simply the perfect starting composition.
Rivera has manifested something so emotive and meaningful on this new release, listening to tracks like Unlocking the Moments, is like pulling the curtains back on a brand new sun kissed day and the hope of better things to come.
The artist embraces a longer style in Falling Closer, a track filled with a pristine gentleness, creating space and ambience with such natural precision, then the fluent tones of pieces like Waves and Particles, both tracks creating a rock pool of ambient pleasure in their own way.
Life can be dualistic in nature and on arrangements like Dark Tides we see a musical toe being dipped into those murkier waters of emotive intensity, the performance here is sublime at creating a really introspective mood.
There can be no doubt that as a pianist Steve Rivera is on the rise in this genre and this album is a fine example of this steady and thoughtful progression. The last track of the album Measures & Time is perhaps a fine example of future musical foot paths that the artist may travel. This has to be one of the most spacious, calm and ambient releases on piano I have heard for some time, and an album that is so very easy and charming to listen to as well.
Rating: Excellent
Life by Haiku (The Haiku Project)
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/24/2019
Another notch of brilliance
There are somethings in life that are certain, one is that when you receive a new album by The Haiku Project, it is going to be utterly encapsulating and smoothly brilliant and that premise has not changed with the arrival of this latest album called Life.
From the very off we are transformed into a world of mellow tunes, tranquil compositions and angelic vocalisations. I was initially transfixed by the opening two tracks, a gentle piano soothes us all on Little Calf and an added guitar layers a realm of comfort and calm on A Turtle Song, however my favourite moment of bliss came from the long form composition Existence, which in my view is one of the best slices of ambient music I have heard for years.
Henrik Hytteballe has a talent that is rare and a skill set bathed in genius to bring to the listener some of the most beautiful and tranquil music ever, tracks like the inspiringly moving The Bright Side and the warmth and relaxation enthused paradise manifested by the lush tones of pieces like Great Barrier Reef, are but two stand out examples of this.
Life by The Haiku Project is yet another notch of brilliance in the headboard of master pieces by the artist, and in my view is an album you could leave on all day and lose yourself in with ease. This is an release easy to recommend, it’s jam packed with pristine performances and utterly exceptional compositions, that have all been created by a musician who is clearly in touch with his musical muse.
Rating: Excellent
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