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Piano Sanctuary by Masako
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/9/2018
Solo piano brilliance
I had the delight of coming into the world of Masako in 2012, a year of many changes; her music then calmed the soul and brought a new focus to my life. The changes have constantly rang out for me over the past 6 years and in 2018 Masako’s latest release now plays its gentle refrains into my heart and soul, so why not join me on this new musical sojourn, through the works of Piano Sanctuary.
The style and narration and a musical prowess is clear to see, and we are off on an emotive ride with the first offering entitled When You Were Little, a composition that is filled with the light of sweet memory, passion and happiness, the perfect way to open any album.
The piano of Masako is always something worth waiting for and on Ragrima we have a gentle but reflective melody that will be loved for an age. There is something almost timeless about this piece that attracts me, the notes fall from her fingers like, crisp brown leaves from an autumn tree, and with each stroke manifests such a rich tapestry of tone to enjoy.
One of the most picturesque and sensitive arrangements is the very beautiful The Bird And The River. Her performance structure can change with an ease that is hardly noticed, but non the less very evident, and here on this piece one could almost watch a small bird, dip, swoop, and sip from this ever abundant river. Masako has a rare talent to be able to draw wonderful art within each composition she creates, and this one is a fine example of that.
On Midnight Sun, we have a little Jazzy motif that fits so beautifully; this laid back song seems to sparkle in this night sky of radiant music with such a smooth refrain. The confidence in performance here draws an even more elaborate picture for us to enjoy, and once more the magical skills of the artist brings us total peace and harmony.
I stayed over in New York, but didn’t have the time to visit Central Park, but I could see it from above as my plane took off for the Midwest. This is a sublime representation of the area in music and Central Park Retreat is indeed a sanctuary to many, perhaps even a piano sanctuary.
At the mid-way point we come across a charming piece called A Tale of Lonely Otter (Solo Version). There is indeed a sense of remorse and sadness built in here, but as always a tale to tell with the keys and this track seems to wend its way through a nature narrative of happy free times, mixed with moments of reflection and memory.
Time to take a trip across the lakes and seas on Sailing, there is a real energy about this offering that I love; it also has a little Beatles ethic sown in for good measure at the start. The power in this track is very redolent of the subject matter; we could feel at ease as if we are sailing on choppy but sun kissed waters within its construction.
As we move from the waters of Sailing, we come across The Land We Called Hope. Masako seems to be able to change course at will and here on this piece we have a sense of a fresh start and possibilities built into its musical narrative. The style is both confident as well as empowering and brings a new energy to the album that flows so wonderfully.
Something different is on offer on this next piece called The Lost Estate. This composition is intriguing and seems to manifest an essence of grandeur, but one that floats on the energies of past memories. I adored the performance here, at times almost classical, with a hint of Jazz thrown in for good measure, listen also to the elevation of intensity within this piece, this has to be the cleverest track on the album, with ease.
Within the next offering called Koto, we have a piece that could be classed as almost cinematic in parts, it’s has that essence and energy of drama, but seems to also create a narrative of musical quality that is truly addictive.
Frozen Quarry is yet another vista of great musical quality painted by the piano of Masako. The slow tempo, but assured melody draws us a wonderful picture of a frozen wasteland, through each touch of the piano Masako uses a little power, partnered with a gentle touch to illustrate this masterpiece of winter.
Sadly we have now reached the very last gift of musical genius from the artist Masako on her album Piano Sanctuary; this final composition is called Tender Stories. The exit from this her latest project has an energy of empowerment built around a calming and tender refrain, this musical confidence will allow us to leave the album fully aware that we have listened to a truly superb album, and will be very eager to revisit it yet again.
Piano Sanctuary by Masako is another step up for the artist, her skill sets grow and expand constantly, and on this release, she hasn’t only shown what a consummate performer she is, she has revealed to the world, that she is a composer of sublime and cultured music, music that can speak to each and every listener she connects with. This is a truly marvellous release and thoroughly recommended for anyone who wants to hear solo piano, played brilliantly.
Rating: Excellent
Soundscapes by Deborah Offenhauser
- posted by Dyan Garris on 2/3/2018
Deborah Offenhauser - Soundscapes
Deborah Offenhauser’s album, “Soundscapes,” is a masterful blend of a variety of sounds and superb ensemble instrumentation, combining elements of smooth jazz, neo-classical piano, World music, and New Age.

This contemporary instrumental album is an enticing cornucopia of thirteen compelling, original compositions from Offenhauser, a multi-instrumentalist, who has an impressive musical career spanning thirty years. “Soundscapes,” which is an exciting and deliciously different album, seems a natural segue for both us as listeners and for this artist. The album is over one full hour of intriguing compositions sure to hold your attention and captivate both your imagination and your heart.

Deborah’s career milestones include piano performances for Broadway tours of West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, A Chorus Line, Oliver, Sound of Music, Peter Pan, Nutcracker, Miss Saigon, The King and I, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Producers, Mama Mia, Hairspray, and The Full Monty,

The album has the kind of vibe and verve that is well suited to music licensing, TV, and film soundtracks. So it is not entirely surprising that Deborah’s music has been heard on many hit TV shows as well as The Weather Channel.

That she can play the piano and play it very well, is obvious. This album, however, is an intriguing piece of artistry that’s a little out of the box, and showcases her growth, range, and immense talent as an artist and composer.

“Soundscapes” was recorded with renowned, Los Angeles based sound engineer, artist, and producer, James Linahon, whose work has included several well-known and major award-winning projects.

The album begins with “Decidedly Joyful,” which is as might be expected, decidedly joyful. Smoothly flowing, with incorporated jazz elements, percussion, and other instrumentation, mixed expertly with piano, it’s one of my favorites on this album.

Following on track 2 is the tantalizing “Free Radical.” It’s a lush landscape, infused with nature sounds, piquant piano melodies, strings, and various other interesting electronica and instrumentation along the way. There is nothing boring about this composition which is constantly changing, holding our interest all the way through. In fact, the whole album is that way.

“Nothing Can Touch You Now” is one of my favorite songs on this album. Again, there is nothing remotely mundane here, and this is truly brilliant in every way. The track begins with soothing nature sounds, which evoke initial feelings of a rainforest. Strings, and other pleasant aural elements are introduced, before the whole thing opens magnificently onto a lush, and richly textured expanse of completely gorgeous piano and more. Gently flowing and moving, one could listen to this song over and over again and never tire of it in this lifetime.

Aptly named is “Irrational Exuberance” on track 4 with its playful, percolating, plucky strings, flute, and piano. The subsequent “Tanz” is mysterious and worldly, with an awesome atmosphere of the exotic East. In continuance of the World music style, is “Spatial Palace,” which initially transports us to what could be a busy outdoor marketplace. The piece is Asian in flavor, tantalizing and enticing us with what comes next.

Starting off softly and gently and then becoming quite big and grand is “Through a Glass Darkly” on track 7. This is a richly layered, fascinating composition full of passion and emotion.

Dreamy, twinkling piano along with otherworldly, atmospheric percussion, introduce the piece “Rosemont Theme,” which one might possibly construe as being kind of eerie. However, just when you may be thinking or feeling that, the composition evolves into a stunningly beautiful piano melody. Warm strings and more soon accompany. This is a diverse, breathlessly outstanding piece, and one to get completely immersed in.

“Air” is a delightful and melodic tune. This begins with guitar, airy and light, and capturing the emotions of what it might feel like to be light as air. As the song progresses and takes shape, we are led to imagine air perhaps evolving into a body of sorts. Ultimately, then, air returns to its natural state of being, fanciful and free. Another truly interesting composition.

Next up is “The Gloaming” with its somber, but still sparkly evocations of mystery and suspense. How you perceive this piece depends upon how you view twilight in general. It would make an excellent soundtrack to a movie thriller or horror film as would the song “Tanninim” (meaning “sea monsters” or “creatures of the sea), on track 12.

As far as I know, any kind of darkness is always followed by the dawn, and “It Is Written” is very well-placed here after “The Gloaming,” as track 11. “It Is Written” is one of the most exquisitely beautiful songs on “Soundscapes,” and my absolute favorite in all aspects. Supremely relaxing, its movement is graceful and flowing. As rich and as multi-textured as the rest of the compositions on the album, and possibly written with film in mind, this one speaks directly to the heart in a poignant, tender, and powerful way. Just gorgeous through and through.

“The Wonderful Unfoldment of Blue” winds up Deborah Offenhauser’s thoroughly enjoyable “Soundscapes.” Somewhat somber, yet also peaceful at the same time, it’s a good way to exit this notable and refreshing album.

Buy “Soundscapes” on CDBaby now:

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Soul Dreams by Christopher Boscole
- posted by Dyan Garris on 2/3/2018
Christopher Boscole - Soul Dreams
Christopher Boscole is a classically trained pianist and composer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Master of Music in Studio Music and Jazz, as well as a Masters in Teaching. His eleventh album release, “Soul Dreams,” is quite aptly named, as the solo piano compositions take us on an effortless, delightfully flowing, and soothing journey of almost one hour, on which we are invited on a soul level to transcend the physical and elevate the spirit.

The twelve piano solos found on this album are mainly neoclassical in style, yet at the same time dimensional in nature. There is a lot of easy, natural flow and liquidity here, and in my opinion Christopher’s style brings in some additional facets to our general concepts of “New Age,” solo piano, or traditionally classical music.

And along with the visually attractive album cover art, the music on “Soul Dreams” is exceptionally beautiful as well. Dreamy and peaceful, with some of it possibly improvised, as that is one of Christopher Boscole’s many musical talents, the compositions are fluid and light, transporting us so very easily to a voyage that is beyond ourselves.

The album begins with the lovely and melodic, “New Hope.” This is an ultra-dreamy, truly delightful “soulscape” of sound. Supremely relaxing, flowing, and tranquil, here we are drawn enticingly and willingly into the rest of the “dream.” “New Hope” is followed by the genuinely enchanting “Polyana,” with its gentle, tender-hearted vibe. These are two tracks you may find yourself listening to over and over again.

Track 3, “Heart Traveler,” is passionate and emotional but with a light, calming melody. This feels like it could be conveying the journey of one heart connecting somewhere in the ethers with another heart, melting together into one perfect harmony and one love. In any event, there is much to love here all around.

Not to be overlooked in any way are “Happy Day” and “To See You Again,” which are both quite captivating and enchanting. However, of particular note, and in the vein of “Heart Traveler,” the song on track 6, “Empathy,” seems to capture perfectly how we might feel to be heart-connected with someone else. This is my absolute favorite song on the album. It’s rich, expressive, and hypnotic, with emotional depth and breadth. Plus, it is deeply relaxing, as is also the very authentic feeling, “The Question.” And the tranquility and peace we discover in “Soul’s Journey” on track 8, reminds us that the journey of the soul goes on, even if we may not quite understand the answer to “the question” of what we are doing here or where we go from here.

“Soul Dreams,” the title track, follows on track 9. In alignment with the fluidity of the compositions on the album, the song is quite mesmerizing. And this one is actually a bit “trance-inducing.”

The last three tracks on the album, “Peace of the Soul,” “Mistery,” and “Suite Sunshine,” are more ambient rather than structured. But ambience sometimes has its own definitive structure within. These last three are “shimmery” and “glittery,” perhaps like the sparkling scintilla of our very soul’s essence.

The album, “Soul Dreams” by Christopher Boscole is an effervescent cascade of liquid light and a highly recommended addition to your solo piano collection. ~ Dyan Garris

Buy “Soul Dreams” here.

Official Artist Website:
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