||Two guitarist, a pianist, and a horn player walk into a studio. Now if that sounds like the beginning of a good story, it is, but the punchline is something quite exceptional. The eponymous album is FLOW. The group of four consists of Australia’s darling daughter, pianist Fiona Joy. One of the guitarists is the skillfully able Lawrence Blatt. The third is the most sought after accompanists of contemporary music, flugelhorn artist Jeff Oster. The fourth is a legendary guitarist, the one talent that has become an icon for the genre, Will Ackerman.
The music is about four friends that have known and supported each other and, more importantly, each other’s work for years. Finally one of them said, “Let’s do this” and they did. The results are extraordinary.
A simple piano intro starts the first track, Arrival. The beginning is unpretentious, but then things begin to change. The flugelhorn joins in and the melody becomes more complex. It is a foundation where things are built upon at the suggestion of unity. It only gets better from here.
Oster’s horn appears like an apparition in the song Whisper Me This. It solidifies into waves of sound that are sometimes sculptural and at other times without shape, as if the reverberation resonates from within. The tune is driven, pushing our thoughts out in front of us.
The title tune, Flow, joins all the elements together in one cohesive ballad. Supernal vocals blend with guitar and horn as they create a dance of pure joy. The cadence changes, a different instrument takes the lead and then surrenders it, but the harmony is uniform throughout. In this case, the flow, is a shared entity.
One of the best songs on the album, although there was nothing I did not like, is called Waiting for Sunshine. One can almost imagine the rain pattering on the metal roof, disturbing everything and yet, adding a natural rhythm that cannot be duplicated. It is a hopeful refrain, a tune of wishful thinking, but there’s always plenty to do while we wait.
Clear. Hazy. Gray. Fill in your own choice with the song called And the Sky Was. The song meanders through the mind, coursing, changing, expanding, and dissolving. The piece is somewhat moody, but never angry and I liked it for that. The music suggested clouds in every shape imaginable and expansive stretches of cerulean blue. Your daydreams are coming up next.
There are 1,700 steps to the Path of the Gods, a popular tourist site in Nocelle, Italy. It is a place where the mountain is in love with the sea and where tranquility is a constant companion. A Night in Nocelle, with the guitars singing in harmony, offers the twilight splendor of that time on the Amalfi coast where magic and faith live as one. The track is sparkling, effortless, and it creates an atmosphere of quietude.
The echoing voice of the guitar saunters in like an old chum on the song Rest Now My Friend. It is a tune of memories, of fires shared, wined poured, and where the universal question was put to task a thousand times over. If this be an elegy, then play on. For its gentleness, its tender texture, and its pensive aire is what makes those memories.
One of the more intricate tunes on FLOW is called Rosita & Giovanni. I can’t pretend to know the history of this tune, but I can assure that the melody is rich in character and memorable as a theme. Like the song, the music of partnership is balanced, fair, and complimentary.
Hearing the harmonically-lavish music of FLOW is like witnessing the four known elements coalesce into the quintessential listening experience. Every note is painstakingly gracious to its neighbor. Every song is a careful compromise of melody and structure. If you ever wondered what a deftly-produced relationship between New Age and contemporary music might sound like …it sounds like this.