||Music by Masako is always directly from her heart and soul. You can feel that when you hear the very first notes of any of her compositions. She exhibits an incredible sensitivity and grace in every note and every nuance.
Masako is a Japanese-born composer and pianist, with extensive training in classical music and jazz. She is the winner of five Zone Music Reporter (ZMR) awards, including “Album of the Year” and “Best Piano Album with Instrumentation” in 2020. “Call of the Mountains: Ascent” is her 7th album.
Just over an hour and 14 tracks, the pieces on this album are all of good length. Co-produced by Masako, Will Ackerman, and Tom Eaton, with engineering and mastering by Tom Eaton, Eugene Friesen’s cello sweetens Masako’s already excellent piano performance on some of the tracks, such as the opening, “Calling.” Just gorgeous.
Following is the magnificently beautiful, “Final Ascent,” where along with Masako’s twinkling piano, we have Eugene again on cello, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Noah Wilding on soft ethereal vocals, Premik Russell Tubbs on EWI, and Tom Eaton on synth and bass. Now here’s 6 minutes that will soothe your soul in every way.
“Elusive” and “Conifers” are two perfectly lovely piano solos. “Embraced by Green” is a favorite on the album, with its flowing, melodic piano. The piece features Charlie Bisharat on violin, Jeff Oster on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jeff Haynes on percussion, and Noah Wilding’s heavenly vocals. Outstanding.
“Solitude” is a piano solo that brings us even more fully into the peacefulness of the mountains and forest. The piano is dreamy and relaxing. “Traverse” is another piano solo that perfectly captures the mood and ambiance of carefully traversing a mountain ridge. “Mothers” is deep, with good use of the lower register. This is a very nice, contemplative piano solo.
Just like its title, “Swift River” draws us in with its scintillating piano, movement, and excellent balance of upper and lower registers. Love this.
Noah Wilding’s haunting, delicate wordless vocals add nicely to the mountain “escape,” in “What I Left Behind.” We can feel any stress melting away here. Jeff Oster’s horns, add even more to this atmosphere. How beautiful.
If there’s a way to calm a bear you might come up in the mountains, this is probably it. “How To Calm a Bear,” is a gorgeous piano piece that is sure to tame the “wild” in anything. Just as gorgeous, and equally as calming, “Deepening Autumn” transports us to a peaceful place of serenity. Great piano solo.
Treated again to Eugene Friesen’s cello, Jeff Haynes’ percussion, Noah Wilding’s wordless vocals, Premik Russell Tubbs’ EWI performance, and Tom Eaton on synth and bass, along with Masako’s expert piano performance, “Above the Treeline” softly carries us along with its beauty. Really pretty.
This “must have” album closes out with the calming, “Lady’s Slipper.” Aptly named, lady’s slipper is a form of wild orchid whose root has been used medicinally as a remedy for anxiety and the like. It’s also the state wildflower of New Hampshire. What a perfect close to this perfect album.
Inside text from the CD cover says it all, I think:
“The mountains. . .
help us to be humble and kind,
give us self-knowledge and discipline,
teach us not to take things for granted, and
let us overcome our fears.
The mountains are calling. . .”
Available digitally (iTunes or Amazon), OR as a physical CD.
Get it here: https://www.masako-music.com/
Charlie Bisharat (Violin) #5
Eugene Friesen (Cello) #1, #2, #13
Jeff Haynes (Percussions) #2, #5, #13
Jeff Oster (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) #5, #10
Noah Wilding (Vocals) #2, #5, #10, #13
Premik Russell Tubbs (EWI) #2, #13
Tom Eaton (Synthesizers, Bass) #2, #5, #10, #13
Masako (Piano) #1 ~ #14
Broadcast and Media Promotion:
Ed and Stacey Bonk