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Patterns of Reflection
By Peter Sterling
Label: Harp Magic Music
Released 1/6/2012
Patterns of Reflection tracks
1. Terra Nova
2. Onward and Upward
3. Little One
4. Honey Dew Drop
5. Child of Light
6. The Emerald Forest
7. Tantra of Love
8. Enchantments Awakening
9. Modern Times
10. Transmission
11. For Love and Honor
12. The Grail Quest
13. The Morning After
14. Waterfall Cascade
15. Parting of the Way
16. Tulipe Time
Patterns of Reflection
For Patterns of Reflection, his twelfth album, harpist/flutist/keyboardist Peter Sterling has returned to his "New Age" roots, as it were. After releasing the globally influenced (with a touch of chill-out) The Sands of Time, followed by a solo harp effort (Silhouette) and the unique wind-harp recording Circles of Light, Sterling brings his considerable talents to bear (along with a stellar crew of guest stars) on sixteen tracks of cheerful bliss. Sterling is one of those special artists who find a way to infuse music with a sense of joy and celebration while never losing sight of crafting music which is relaxing and soothing to the troubled heart. Even when a song moves at a fast tempo or with a sense of fun, Sterling finds a way of tempering those more high-spirited features so that the listener can still simply relax and go with the flow. No easy task, that!

Besides Sterling (who performs on electric harp, keyboards, and flute, as well as vocals), Patterns of Reflection boasts the additional musical gifts of Richard Hardy (silver flute, soprano sax, pennywhistle, clarinet and bass clarinet), Dov (violin), William Aura (bass on "Onward and Upward"), Bruce BecVar (guitar on "Onward and Upward"), Michael Reidinger (tablas on "Tantra of Love") and guest vocals from Ani Williams and Crystal Bliss. Despite the numerous accompanists and the musical variety of the tracks themselves, this is a cohesive musical statement, no doubt owing to the dominant presence of Sterling's superb harp playing. The songs range from uptempo to slower paced, with a scattering of nature sounds and a dash or two of world influence, such as Hardy's lilting pennywhistle which lends Little One a faint air of Ireland.

The CD opens with the joyous and lively Terra Nova amidst its sparkling harp notes counterpointed by caressing violin and lower register flute lines. Onward and Upward imparts the titular sensation of rising up through the atmosphere, floating among the clouds, as Sterling's relatively-subdued harp is accented by Aura's bass and BecVar's adroit guitar playing with some bass clarinet (courtesy of Hardy) for additional coloring. The pace picks up and more drama is infused as the track ends, as if we had broken free from the clouds and the wonders of the entire planet unfolded below us. The playful Little One flits and prances on lively yet delicate harp with the right amount of wordless vocals and the previously mentioned pennywhistle. Honey Dew Drop delights right from the start with a wonderful harp refrain that sparkles and shines while Dov's violin flits above the melody accompanied by a soft flute line. On The Emerald Forest Sterling shows off his fast tempo technique and is accompanied by some great flute melodies and lots of twinkling bell tones, both of which propel the music and paint a picture of walking amongst tall trees with sunlight peeking now and then through the overhead canopy. The track is an album highlight.

With sixteen selections on Patterns of Reflection, there isn't enough space to detail each gem contained on the CD, but rest assured that the album has nary a misstep–this is as solid a recording as you will hear this year, veritably chock-full of entertaining music, all of it produced and engineered to perfection (headphones will reveal a fantastic mix with clarity and depth). From the romantic mood of Enchantments Awakening to the fun-filled jazziness of Modern Times (on which Hardy shines on soprano sax), the flowing, fluid relaxation of Waterfall Cascade, and the bittersweet strains of subtle sorrow on Parting of the Way, each song offers up its own brand of magic.

A long time ago, in a review of another harpist's CD (which album it was I can't recall), I stated something along the lines of "How can someone NOT like harp music?" I still believe that, but to make a standout recording of harp music, one that showcases that instrument's unique "voice" while also incorporating other instruments, takes more than "average" talent. Peter Sterling has revealed, time and time again throughout his career, that he has a special affinity for the harp, crafting music that, by turns, delights, soothes, and captivates listeners, whether they are new to his "harp magic" or are long-time fans. Patterns of Reflection once more demonstrates not just his mastery of the technical aspects of playing, but also his skill as an ensemble leader, gathering great talent around him, as well as his ability to vary his music without losing his prime focus. By the way, if you are interested in learning more about how Sterling became a harpist (and it is quite the story), he has written a book about the fascinating journey that led him here entitled Hearing the Angels Sing which will be published soon. More details can be found on his website at harpmagic.com
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/23/2012
 
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