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LALITA The Eternal Feminine by Al Gromer Khan
- posted by Richard Gürtler on 5/4/2015
enthralling soundworlds reveal all the magic
richardgurtler May 2, 2015

Al Gromer Khan "Lalita" *****

German virtuoso instrumentalist, sitarist and composer Al Gromer Khan has released during the middle of March 2015 through Rasa Music his newest album entitled "Lalita", focusing on The Eternal Feminine and its significance in music. 4-panel digipak nicely displays this theme with its rather plain cover design.

Shorter intro, "Tears At The Paisley", with its hauntingly infectious laid-back rhythm immediately sets the atmosphere, which is meticulously magnified by Al's narration and sitar subtleties counterpointed with ambiguous female choirs. The next piece, "On Golden Boat", keeps on the tranquilizing path, where gentle rhythms are bridged with voice fragments, chants, clapping sounds and sitar traceries. Uniquely scented and seductively nuanced!!! "Flower Child In Clearing" attracts by Al's expressively embracing lyricism (featuring words from the poem "Wake" by Timothy Allen) diverged with responding fragile female voice and distant chants of, I believe, Ute Gromer. Additional spectacle of sitar, guitar and piano patterns coalesces with fluttering beats. "Ahira" excels in stringed curlicue delicacy occasionally amalgamated with Al's voice and Ute's chant. A truly peculiar listening experience!!! "All Of This And More" swiftly fills the air with graceful soothingness, where misty monochromatic reverberations hang above strikingly splendorous piano nostalgia. The magic continues with the title composition, "Lalita-The Eternal Feminine", which masterfully blends richly fragranced sitar bravura with rhythmic delicacies at a leisurely pace. The next composition, "Elvis Went To Durgapur", is as much challenging as its title. Exceptionally enveloping serenity at the beginning transports the listener into an aural paradise of exquisite elegance, later fastidiously augmented by orientally scented vocal/chant magnificence. Deeply contemplative travelogue awaits here!!! A Hall of Fame composition!!! "The Pilgrim And The Crow" is another strongly unique, slow paced piece conjugating bizarre drifts and effects, sitar, tabla and string expressions with chants and voice fractions. "Less" dives into more enigmatic terrains, where isolated drone mindscapes ride atop acoustic contemplativeness, ranging from piercing through ear-tickling to balmy. "Lancron" is brief, but richly traversing escapade, where quieter, meditative passages contrast with eccentrically emerging lively arrangements. "Bhim Strats" attracts with an array of luminously warm sounds painting a truly mesmerizing circles temporarily enhanced by Al's chants. "Wanting Nothing", with 10-plus minutes length by far the longest piece, unveils with remote static drone safely guarding above occasional piano subtlety crossed with warmly cascading cinematic washes and puncturing sitar swells. Sublimely expansive and amorphously immersing, yet astonishingly fragmented finale!!!

Al Gromer Khan with his guests, which include except already mentioned Al's wife Ute, also Peter Maunu (guitar noises), Suman Sarkar (tabla) and Emin Corrado (sound treatment), delivers on "Lalita" a truly exceptional piece of music showcasing intricate instrumentation with some of the most unique scents. Sure, as a listener, you need to be fully devoted to these, beyond the ordinary explorations, but as soon you discover these long lasting perfumes, just follow them, because these truly enthralling soundworlds reveal all the magic. And as always they are complemented with spirit, dedication, refinement and exquisiteness!!!

Richard Gürtler (May 01, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)
Rating: Excellent
Next by Jeff Oster
- posted by Michael Diamond on 5/3/2015
next by Jeff Oster
Trumpet and flugelhorn player, Jeff Oster, is charting new sonic territory in his expansion of these instruments into a context of electronica, down-tempo grooves, and loop based electro-orchestral tracks. Readers here may be familiar with Jeff from his various solo albums, but they may have also heard his eloquent horn playing on the numerous recording sessions he has participated in which were produced by GRAMMY winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, who was intimately involved with this project.

On “next,” Jeff has assembled what can only be called an “all-star cast.” In addition to some of the great new age artists on the album, Jeff has enlisted a trio of the most famous studio musicians in the world to play on his album including Nile Rogers, Bernard Purdie, and Chuck Rainey, whose collective resume’s read like a “Who’s Who” of the music industry. If this isn’t the rhythm section made in heaven, I don’t know what is. While Jeff is well acquainted with being a session musician himself, this album is all about stepping out front in a leader’s role, as well as about taking risks.

From the opening track, the mood is smooth and the groove is chill providing just the right mix of mellowness and motion to make you want to kick back, yet still tap your foot or nod your head in time to the beat. While the rhythm section does what they do best, Jeff’s lighter than air horn phrases soar above the mix. Jeff calls this alchemical blend “new age ambient funk.” On “Night Train to Sofia” Jeff not only plays flugelhorn and trumpet but also does percussion, sound design, and loop programming, as he does on many of the tracks. Another nice touch was the Enya-like vocal track by Melissa R. Kaplan that added an ethereal atmosphere here and elsewhere on the recording.

One of the most interesting an unexpected gems on the album is a cover of “I Cant Make You Love Me,” a song made famous by Bonnie Raitt. As much as I’ve always loved this song, for me, it is one of the saddest songs ever. Although this is an instrumental version, Jeff’s plaintive flugelhorn playing captures the poignant intent of the lyrics in a way that is visceral. While I generally like to mention all the musicians who play on an album or particular song, in this case, there are just too many to name here. But the multitude of tracks that make up this album were all expertly mixed by award winning recording engineer Tom Eaton and mastered by industry icon Bob Ludwig (Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, etc.)

For me, as a huge fan of Jeff Oster, this was a most eagerly awaited album. As the saying goes: “good things are worth waiting for,” and this is certainly true in this case. This recording is a remarkable achievement that furthers Jeff Oster’s stature as one of the foremost musicians of the genre.

Rating: Excellent
Letters from Far Away by Heidi Anne Breyer
- posted by Michael Diamond on 5/1/2015
Letters From Far Away by Heidi Breyer

“Letters From Far Away” is not only a “concept album” in which all the songs revolve around a central story, but is a double CD. One disc is an ensemble recording that features Heidi on piano accompanied by a host of world-class musicians from the studio of Grammy winning Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman. As on most projects recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios, the accompaniment is generally understated and supportive, without drawing attention away from the primary artist. The second disc contains solo piano versions of the same songs in the same order. Having listened first to the ensemble CD, and then to the solo CD, I felt that all the songs stood exceptionally well on their own, and I didn’t have a sense that anything was missing in the solo versions without the additional instruments.

Heidi’s music has wonderful dynamics, which rise and fall gracefully. I also appreciated the exquisite use of space in her playing. In addition to her alternately powerful and subtle piano work, on a track called “First Impressions,” Heidi adds ethereal wordless vocals that seem to drift in from far away. The depth of emotion that Heidi brings to the album’s title track is heart wrenching and its poignancy is further accentuated by the song’s sonorous string accompaniment. A real surprise, and a most pleasant one at that on this album of primarily original material is a unique instrumental version of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic “Scarborough Fair.” It would be an understatement to say that Heidi has taken great liberty and artistic license in her radically reworked rendition. But I must say that I was impressed with her bold interpretation of this iconic composition.

With this release, Heidi has provided us with a treasure trove of beautiful recorded music, as well as an upcoming fifth CD to look forward to. Heidi Breyer is a truly remarkable instrumentalist and composer whose expressive and melodic range is impressive, as is her emotionally evocative touch on the keyboard. “Letters From Far Away” is musical storytelling at its best and illuminates the talents of a rising star in the piano world.

To read a full length feature article on this CD, as well as others, please visit:
Rating: Excellent
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