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Half Moon Bay by Rick Sparks
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/28/2018
A sublime creation of beauty
I remember being totally entranced with the album Nightfall London by Rick Sparks and now the artist is back with an incredibly beautifully release entitled Half Moon Bay. Like Rick I share in his passion of a love of nature and the sea, I only have to look from my balcony to gaze upon its lapis depths.
On this Ricks fifth album we explore that very narrative of the ocean, nature and the tranquil peace and the serenity that can be found by embracing it. The release is a simply delicious 10 tracks of utter summer bliss and reflection, all mixed into a glorious sun kissed compilation of tranquillity.
My first and favourite selection would be the opening piece Sand and Stars, I adored the major and minor combinations here, the ethereal wordless vocals are so moving that one could literally be there, in the moment, in Half Moon Bay. The natural floating keyboards here are divine. I fell in love with this piece, I could imagine walking in a summer sunset along this mystical beach with my beautiful wife Chrissie, yes this is a composition filled with love and created with the same wondrous energy and to be shared in love too.
Rick has a passion for the incredible talent of The Beach Boys, and surely they must be the musical epitome of the word summer when you think about it. The guitar here is beyond serene and Half Moon Bay, the title track, is as beautiful as the title suggests, I would imagine that Beach Boys Brian Wilson would completely approve of this moment of musical mastery, it is simply stunning.
The entire album is faultlessly magnificent, this for me is how real New Age music should be performed, with sensitivity, from the heart and bathed in love and a sense of tranquillity and peace.
My last suggested moment of genius from this incredibly gorgeous album is the final piece, Summer's Gone, this really moved me; I guess I am feeling that right now as autumn starts to poke its head around the corner of our world on my island. The gentle and reflective energy of this composition and the soft strings sections allows us to wave goodbye to the summer for now, and leave the album in a state of complete relaxation and happiness.
Half Moon Bay by Rick Sparks is one of those albums that only comes around every so often, but when it does one must snap it up quickly, and bathe in its tones daily. Half Moon Bay has been produced and created by the tender soul of an artist who really feels his music and Rick Sparks will be proud of this timeless creation of sublime beauty for many years, they don’t get much better than this, and I would recommend Half Moon Bay in a heartbeat.
Rating: Excellent
World Café by Ron Korb
- posted by Lise Watson on 9/24/2018
Ron Korb Continues to Amaze!
Grammy-nominated Ron Korb continues to amaze with his versatility and virtuosity in his latest release, World Café. Once again Ron knocks down cultural boundaries as he sends us sailing around Cuba, Argentina, the Caribbean, New Orleans, Spain, Brazil and Old Montreal. Latin jazz meets tango, flamenco, tresillo, samba, saudade and French café music.

World Café is a perfect example of what is possible in a culturally diverse city like Toronto, Canada. Based on the Carnevale traditions celebrated all over the Caribbean and Latin America, in Carnival, Ron manages to show his Japanese roots by inserting the shinobue flute. He does this again on Island Life, which features Ron on Japanese ocarina. This track has a feel-good sound that is reminiscent of the South African penny whistle and township jive rhythms. Such is the magic of what we have come to know as World Music.

A lively tribute to the Grammy-nominated and JUNO award winning Hilario Duran, Hilario draws on Ron’s jazz talents and, in fact, features the Cuban born jazz pianist himself. Along for this fine ride are excellent Cuban percussionist Jorge Luis Torres Paumier “Papiosco” on congas and jazz bassist Roberto Riveron.

Argentina, the country, features largely in two pieces. Argentina invokes images of the sultry tango, with Ron’s flute blending nicely with the accordion, cello and piano. Patagonia is a road song; we can imagine Ron’s long hair blowing in the breeze as he drives through the Argentinian desert.

Take My Hand is a departure for Ron Korb in that he wrote personal lyrics to accompany the melody. Although they are not vocalized on this track, they are part of the cd notes. This song has the melancholy of Portuguese/Brazilian saudade, but it also gives a feeling of hope. The warbling of the unique cuica flute is a lovely touch.

Other notable tracks include Bailar Conmigo, Cordoba and New Orleans. Bailar Conmigo starts off the cd with optimism. The flavourful Spanish guitar of Johannes Linstead is a highlight of Cordoba. New Orleans is a bouncy Afro-Cuban blues tribute to the infamous multi-musical city.

The French inspired Sans Regret holds World Café together solidly, appearing as both a reprise and a finale after the opening version on Track 2. Ron’s choice of showcasing the seductive accordion of Joseph Macerollo in the first two versions pays off soundly. Sans Regret Reprise has a faster tempo and again features, Macerollo, whereas in Sans Regret Finale, the accordion is replaced with Ron on bass flute, Margaret Maria on cello and Laila Biali on piano. We could be in Paris or Old Montreal, as Ron references, and It all works.

The tremendous effort Ron Korb puts into every project with which he is involved shows again in World Café. As with his previous release Asia Beauty, it comes with an attractive cover complete with twenty-four full colour pages of beautiful photos and notes about each song. Kudos to Jade Yeh, for another tour de force in graphic design and photography.

Rating: Excellent
Even For A Moment by Gary Schmidt
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/21/2018
A sublime soothing release
I’m now on my third listen to this album, I was just doing some lengthy promotional work and decided to play this release just before I started to write the review for it, I have to say that was the best decision I have made so far today; the whole release is bathed in such a level of calmness and tranquillity, my mundane job just floated past in a reverie of this superb collection of blissful compositions, so let’s all go on that musical voyage with the artist right now.
The first calming oasis is called, If This Is the Time. The melody here is so tranquil, but also deeply memorable and utterly reflective, one could easily listen to this whilst musing on future opportunities, as we watched the sunlight filter in through our open windows and draw patterns of light and shade into our world.
From the perfection of the first piece we now move to another favourite of mine called Inside This River, the piano of Schmidt speaks beautifully, with such a romantic lilt it is delightful to drift with, however when you add in the sumptuous Cello of Hannah Alkirie you have a meditative slice of sheer genius in a five minute plus track you simply never want to end.
The kindly Light That Lights My Face is up next, this is really charming, there is a certain warmth that brings this whole piece into the light, the smoothness and chilled vibe is undeniable and when the careful acoustic guitar joins the dance, the mood is lifted even further in this most pleasing of pieces.
This is Gary Schmidt’s second release in this genre; I enjoyed immensely Landscapes of the Heart his previous album, and here Gary has grown further and expanded his knowledge and on this track has created a superb solo piano composition that could be regarded as truly ambient in nature and called A Train Leaves the City.
On The Breath At Dawn we are in for a real treat as Schmidt is joined by new age flute performer Sherry Finzer and together they create a sense of meditative ambiance that seems to float on the musical horizon with ease. The artist has manifested a musical narration here, one that truly creates some amazing images of a forest walk as dawn is breaking, and adds all the layers of that very peaceful moment into the weave whilst doing so, this as you may imagine, is yet another favourite piece of mine.
I am fortunate enough to have a copy of La vie en piano, Gary’s Classical album in my database. That is stunning, as is this piece called Menuet in G Minor. It is a pleasure to listen to Schmidt in classical mode, I sit here with eyes closed and soak in the moment, and I could be forgiven to think that I have drifted back in time and am listening live to a performance by Beethoven, this is simply magical.
I had been waiting for this to arrive, it is that mid-way juncture of the release and when we climb to that musical pinnacle of the album we come across the delightful title track called Even For A Moment. The strings are an addition that is perfectly welcome and the slight elevation in tempo recharges our energies and fills us with such a sun kissed moment of tone and talent.
The blissful nature of this album can be further exemplified by this next amazing composition called Sub Tide, Schmidt’s constant narrative on piano is added to by the creative acoustic guitar of Roger Schmidt, together they create something of a minimalistic nature, but one that contains such warmth in its arrangement.
We can find a colourful attraction on the next offering entitled Simply By Looking, a piece that has a beautiful elevation and a decreasing of tone built into its musical matrix. The Cello creates an extra dimension of style to one of the most fluent and captivating compositions off the album and one that has an almost film score style to its nature as well.
Crescent Light is one of those crisp and pristine tracks that will always bring a smile to the face and happiness to the heart, the energy in this piece alone is exquisite and while at just under two and a half minutes long it is the shortest track off the release, it brings such cheer and light to this musical agenda.
As we move ever deeper into the album, we come across one of the most beautiful pieces off it called The Light Seems To Move. The Cello is so mournful here, but its Schmidt’s piano that takes centre stage as the master narrator; the artist manifests such a fine array of imagery, one could picture for instance an old country lake and the sun dappled leaves drop down upon its mirror like surface creating fractal patterns of light as they do so, this composition is simply the perfect soundtrack for that event.
On No Better Gift we find a present of musical peace and plenitude, this has all the hallmarks of a composition that is bathed in confidence and warmth. The added flute is a gentle addition truly appreciated, but the charm with which the artist performs here is truly satisfying and welcoming.
Once we step through this doorway we enter a realm of utter class and talent and this threshold is called Adagio for Strings. Gary Schmidt’s sensitivity here is well matched by the tenderness with which his performance exudes. This is a dimension of sound that one could escape into, with a blissful sense of ambience and tranquillity. At nearly six and a half minutes long, it gives us plenty of time to relax in its peace filled realms.
It’s incredible to think that we must now leave this world of music manifested by the artist, but before we do so he has a parting musical gift to perform for us before we go, it is called Postlude to a Moment. This is a fine musical musing, a reverie of our journey with the artist, one that is also played with such style and attention to detail.
Even for a Moment is a musical reminder that we only have, and only will ever have, the moment we currently reside in. With such style and skill Gary Schmidt has manifested one of the most soothing releases this year and brought to the genre an album that will be regarded as a timeless collection of beautifully performed and produced opuses dedicated to the ambience of the now.
Rating: Excellent
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