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Souvenirs by Christine Brown
- posted by Michael Diamond on 4/17/2015
Souvenirs by Christine Brown

Christine Brown is a highly regarded pianist and composer who’s 10th recording, “Souvenirs”, was chosen for “Best Piano Album of 2014” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. In addition, Christine has the rare honor of being selected as an official Kawai Piano Artist, representing this esteemed piano company, and joining their roster that includes some of the top pianists in the world.

This award winning album gets off to an exceptionally strong start, with “Rhythm of the Rain” that blows in like a summer storm, with the first drops falling gently, and eventually building in rhythmic intensity, drenching the listener in liquid arpeggios and soulful chord structure. This is perhaps, my favorite song on the album. Both the sun and the moon inspire Christine’s creativity in a lovely pair of songs respectively titled “Prelude to a Sunrise” and “Chasing the Moon,” that celebrate two distinctively different times of day, yet share a lightheartedness in contrast to some of her more wistful tunes. Christine makes perfect use of an appropriately descending chord structure on “Aqua Abyss,” which for me evoked images of a mermaid drifting languidly through the watery depths.

I can definitely see why Souvenirs was chosen to receive an award like “Best Piano Album of 2014.” It’s a radiant recording that reveals the heart and soul of an immanently talented composer and instrumentalist. While Christine has impeccable technique on the piano, which I greatly enjoyed listening to, what impressed me as much was her writing. If I had to choose one word to describe Christine’s musicality, that word would probably be “expressive.” Each piece tells a story born of personal experience and deep feelings. Christine’s compositions resonate with an emotional eloquence that is profound and moving, whether inspired by life’s challenges or joys. Fans of solo piano with neo-classical and new age influences will certainly want to make Souvenirs a part of their music collection.

Rating: Excellent
Signature - Solo by Fiona Joy
- posted by Michael Diamond on 4/13/2015
Signature - Solo by Fiona Joy
Among the things that distinguish Australian pianist/ composer Fiona Joy in the genre of new age music is her commitment to releasing her music on a wide variety of formats including super high fidelity audiophile recordings. This album was Fiona’s first on the Blue Coast Records label run by award winning producer/ recording engineer Cookie Marenco who worked extensively on this project at her San Francisco Bay area studio. While Fiona often performs as a solo pianist, her previous releases have featured many well-known studio musicians in the course of her recording sessions with Windham Hill Records founder and GRAMMY winning producer Will Ackerman. However, as the title indicates, the new Fiona Joy release is primarily a solo piano recording.

The album features Fiona’s original composition “Grace” which also appears as a large ensemble version on the “Winds Of Samsara” CD by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman, which recently won the GRAMMY in the new age category. A track entitled “Once Upon Impossible,” which Fiona describes as: “love that has tried its hardest but cannot work,” appears in two versions on the album, one as a solo piano, and one as a duet with guitarist Lawrence Blatt, who is the sole accompanist on the album. The duet version also features Fiona’s airy Enya-like vocals. One of my favorite songs was “From The Mist,” which draws from Fiona’s Irish and Scottish roots. It is especially significant to her since it was co-written by her father.

What impressed me the most was the emotional range and diversity that emanates from her heart and soul into her fingers as they dance on the keyboard. Fiona’s composing and piano artistry and are like a rainbow reflecting the colors of the spectrum. Each tonal shade draws the listener in to what she is feeling and expressing. But no matter what the mood, anything that Fiona plays is marked by an elegance and aesthetic that is evocative and inspiring. In her own words: “You will hear my feelings in these songs; they are dedicated to saving that small place in everyone’s heart, the place where fairytales linger, and where we find the strength to meet our reality...with grace.”
Rating: Excellent
Spiritual Haven by Russell Suereth
- posted by Michael Diamond on 4/12/2015
Spiritual Haven by Russell Suereth
Russell Suereth (pronounced sue – reth) is a composer/ recording artist with a vision. In fact, many visions, which we’ll soon see. As the title of his third and latest release implies, expressing and fostering universal spirituality is motivating force in his life and his music. The sounds heard on Spiritual Haven are rich in imagery, often of sacred places around the world, as well as those within us. Although he started out playing guitar at a young age, he later became interested in possibilities offered by keyboards, synthesizers, and samplers to add the sound and flavors of exotic instruments from diverse cultures as well as traditional Western orchestral instruments to his musical creations. This is something that Russell uses to full advantage to enhance the imagery that is so central to his compositions.

The album begins with “A Magic Flight,” which Russell envisions as a journey much like an enchanted flying carpet ride, with the listeners having a feeling of themselves and their spirit rising above the landscape. The music alternates between rhythmic passages, sometimes propelled by harp-like arpeggios or hand drums, and more mystical sounding interludes. This was something I found often in Russell’s compositions as they flow and evolve through a variety of movements and musical modes. While many of the songs on the album are about external sacred places, some are about internal spaces. “Glimmer of Light” is one of these and reflects the idea of dealing with difficult life experiences and in turning to spirituality, one begins to see a solution or hope on the horizon. The music is rhythmic yet mellow, featuring the percussive sound of marimba, hand drums, and electronic beats, as well as layers of flute, strings, choir, ethereal female vocals, and more. Characteristic ingredients in the album overall are Russell’s woodwind melodies and his unusual rhythmic patterns that sound Middle Eastern one moment and Pacific Rim-oriented the next.

One of my favorite tracks is “Red Moon Calling,” which opens with a yin-yang contrast of a spacey synthesizer sound juxtaposed with the earthy tones of a marimba. Another detail I appreciated on this song is Russell’s use of electronic beats. While these can sometimes be relentless and overpowering in contemporary music, here they are implemented judiciously and spaciously, interlocking with other rhythmic elements to provide one of the coolest grooves on the album. Russell Suereth is a talented and evolving instrumentalist and composer. I particularly appreciate his flair for arranging in the way he weaves together the many and varied threads of his musical tapestries in interesting and often unexpected ways. But what stands out to me most about Russell is that he is a storyteller. Each song tells a tale that can evoke imagery in the mind’s eye of the listener.

Rating: Very Good +
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