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Promise by FLOW
- posted by BT Fasmer on 1/6/2020
FLOW - Promise review
What is a promise? Listening to New Age music supergroup FLOW’s new album got me thinking about how promises, big or small, are guiding stars. They follow us wherever we go, and our wellbeing is directly linked to how people around us live up to their promises – and how we keep promises to ourselves. I’m happy to report that we can have trust in FLOW too. “Promise” continues where their 2017 album left off, proving that the band was meant to be. It is a rock-solid second release, taking the group’s sound to new heights.

FLOW consists of Australian pianist Fiona Joy, acoustic guitarist Lawrence Blatt, flugelhorn player Jeff Oster, and Grammy Award-winning guitarist Will Ackerman. The album was produced by Tom Eaton and Will Ackerman at Imaginary Road Studios with guest artists
Jeff Haynes (Percussion) and the already mentioned Tom Eaton on guitar, bass, and keyboards.

The title track opens the album. “Promise” starts gently with guitars, piano, flugelhorn, and light percussion. True to their name, FLOW uses little time to find that groove that made their debut album highly memorable. I like how the song makes each group member shine. Notice how every instrument is center stage at some point. It is a fabulous piece and a promise of what’s to come.

The first part of this album is quite contemplative and dreamy. “Something on Tuesday” makes us reflect on time, and how everyday life is filled with moments of beauty. Its quiet elegance makes the listener relax and dream. “Adrift at Sea” is one of the finest pieces on “Promise”. To be carried by ocean currents, when you have all the time in the world and no appointment on your calendar, is a fantastic experience. The song communicates this feeling splendidly. I like the ending; the song fades away as we hear waves, birds, and Oster’s lonely sounding flugelhorn. It is a good kind of loneliness.

All these Years
Time is an important topic on “Promise”. “All these Years” takes us down memory lane, to revisit places we used to know, people of the past, and moments in our lives when the world was new and filled with opportunities. The light vocalization is very nice, like a distant whisper.

At this stage, it really begins to get interesting. “Last Light”, the album’s first single, has a long intro. Around 2 minutes, the rhythm picks up, and we are introduced to the song’s theme. Wow, what a fantastic gift to us FLOW fans, and to the world. Just like “Arrival” defined their 2017 release, so do “Last Light” defines this album. “Fresh Air” continues in the same atmosphere. Fiona’s piano is center stage. It is a very colorful piece, taking the listener on a refreshing walk. I don’t know about you, but FLOW’s music always makes me breath easier. “Fresh Air” is an inspired piece!

“Nightfall” is quite different. Darkness is upon us, and FLOW does a fantastic job creating an exciting ambiance. It is indeed dark. Halfway into the song, we sense a shift; This night is not filled with dangers, but life and warmth. “Blue Umbrella” is another contrast. Its light, carefree vibe and triumphant ending make it into a very enjoyable listen.

FLOW has saved a jewel for the ending. “Chasing Secrets” has a nice touch of jazz and a free-flowing structure. Oster’s flugelhorn is in its right elements, backed beautifully by guitars and piano. It seems like a truism; when a FLOW song has a steady rhythm, Mr. Ackerman & co. deliver yet another winner.

“Memoire du Dome”, the last track, seems to underline the album’s thoughtful nature. Without the guitars, the piano and flugelhorn have a lonely sound. It is a homage to a memory, sad and lovely at the same time.

In conclusion: FLOW has delivered a well-made, positive, and unpretentious follow-up to their 2017 debut album. At this stage, FLOW is almost like a genre description. They have a sound other artists and bands will try to imitate. Playing in a band brings out the best in each artist. The album is a promise of what’s the future has in store for this unique supergroup.
Rating: Excellent
Sensations by Gabriele Saro
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/23/2019
An amazing musical ride
Music of such a nature as this album most certainly is passionate, and literally demands to be listened to, it has that power and intensity to root you to the spot and take you on a musical journey like one never taken before, and this statement perfectly sums up the latest release by Gabriele Saro entitled Sensations.
Morrow starts our sojourn into the realm of Sensations, and what a blissfully crisp, yet melodic opening it is indeed, and to follow that up with the pristine delights of the track Stilness was sublime, there is something about this offering that literally makes me tingle, the violin is sumptuous and the piano is almost David Lanz at times.
Saro himself is extremely multi-talented, his performance on violin on Bliss is something truly to be admired, another offering that has a sensational build and progression, and then within the next piece called Merriment, we hear a careful, almost cautious and mysterious piano performance from Andrea del Piccolo, who takes the master composers work and manifests it into something quite spectacular.
Now it’s time for one of my personal favourites from the album entitled Enchantment. I adored the chord structures here on piano and when the violin joined this dance, a symbiotic partnership was formed that was classically breath taking.
The next piece is far deeper than the previous offerings and the power and intensity of Contrasts is moving, the strings see to that, the imploring build on this composition is incredibly impressive, a performance by the ensemble that is truly wonderful in its musical theatrics. This leads us perfectly into a gentle composition that will glide us towards the half way marker of the album and is called Regrets. As you may expect the energy of reflection and sadness can be found here, but one done so well that it also creates a sense of ambience into the proceedings as well.
We now stand with one foot in the second half of the album and as we do so we come across a piece called Accord. I was intrigued by this arrangement; its illustrious European motifs took me back to my days of studying Film Noir at college, mysterious and passionate would sum up the performance nicely, Saro’s Violin sung to my heart on this piece.
On Torments that delicacy is taken and changed into an ethic of an air of almost desperation, the tones created on this piece were so emotionally charged and beautiful to listen to, another film track quality piece with ease, one that perfectly drifts us into the welcoming arms of this next song called Chills, and another favourite of mine, the violin here was so sensitive in its approach and the Cello delightfully mournful. I found this track so deep and mesmeric in quality, I have a feeling that I may well be visiting this opus of genius many times over.
The purposeful posture of this next offering was quite clever in its approach; a colourful and empowering narrative on piano was gifted to us with the emergence of the track Nostalgia. Then the most breath-taking magical moment of all, as Saro’s violin stole the show with a deft and emotive performance, one that would leave any listener with a tear in their eye.
The charming sense of a truly sun kissed performance can be found on the composition entitled Gracefulness, and one that reminded me of Spain’s Oscar Pascasio at times. This is one of the most stylish and lush performances on the album, one that is impossible not to like and leads us gently, but happily into the following offering called Delicacy, a track which works so very well with, and after the pervious piece. Yes there is a somewhat intriguing fragility to this song, but it’s not an offering that is frail, the performance on piano is beautifully confident, and when the violin enters its increases the depth of the piece completely, to emphasise the artistic endeavours of the ensemble to a level that is so very smooth and classy indeed.
The penultimate offering of our musical sojourn into the works of the Gabriele Saro ensemble is called Liberty and once more is a personal favourite of mine, the timeless performance on piano and violin were outstanding, and would build into a splendid progression that would literally allow the piece to burst free from its chains in an illustrious moment of musical liberty.
However the big finish would be brilliantly achieved with this final composition entitled Serenity. A crafted flourishing narrative started the piece, but one that soon danced with the pomp and circumstance of the piano, the violin gave us the feeling of achieving a great goal, and manifested a truly clever and masterful way to leave the album.
Sensations by Gabriele Saro was an amazing musical ride, the partnership of Saro on Violin, Andrea Del Piccolo on piano, and the talented Francesco Pinosa on Cello, were the team to make this dream of an album become a reality. Each of the pieces on the release were beautifully performed and with such heart and passion too, it’s hard to see this album not being appreciated by fans right across the many genres it will most certainly touch.
Rating: Excellent
Santa Plays the Stick by Michael Kollwitz
- posted by R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews on 12/10/2019
Santa Plays the Stick
Michael Kollwitz
Santa Plays the Stick

Michael Kollwitz, a veteran of more than two dozen recordings, releases a traditional Christmas album called Santa Plays the Stick. Kollwitz plays the Chapman Stick, a device that looks like a long, fat electric guitar without a body. By tapping on the strings, it issues a unique electronic sound that reproduces chords and note simultaneously. Kollwitz’ music is fifteen tracks of traditional Christmas fare without jingled bells and with some very merry tones. It is light, cheerful, and there’s even some jolly in it.
With a tiny echo of synthesizer, Michael starts out with Away in the Manger. A warm, cozy piece of traditional comfort. Nothing better than when Michael takes a melody and goes off on a musical tangent as he does in this one. The next song is a Kollwitz original called A Pile of Presents. You can imagine the snow from the night before piled up outside the door, the tree decorated with care and love, and those gifts for all. The next track is one of my favorites. I Saw Three Ships is based on a 17th century English carol. Could they be three silver boats from Bohemia or three desert ships known as camels conveying worshippers to pay respect to the birth of Jesus Christ?
Snow Ride, another one of Michael’s own tunes, is happy and uplifting. The snow swirls all around, but the trek through the woods is a contrast of green pines and white drifts. It is a happy time for one and all. My absolute favorite on Santa Plays the Stick is his original tune called December Wedding. For me, the music represents “winter music” in where the artist transforms the beauty and quiet of winter into a marvelous, joyful tune. Kollwitz has done this and I hope he considers many more of these. And yes, any couple would be proud and pleased to walk down the aisle to this tune wintery tune.
We Three Kings is a sedate, but respectful song with just a tiny bit of swing in the tempo, but it comes out like a medieval piece for some reason. The familiar refrain, “Oh, star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright,” reminds us of many things greater than ourselves. We need only believe. The final tune on the album is appropriately Silent Night. Kollwitz’ intro has an almost Hawaiian slack key guitar intro and I liked it for that. There is no doubting the beauty and reverence of the rendition. All an all, a good album for wrapping the presents and building new Christmas memories. – R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews

Rating: Very Good
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