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Winds of Change by Denise Young
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/8/2020
Denise's best work so far, a real bar raiser
I had to do it didn’t I, I just couldn’t resist taking a peak, and then with a sharp intake of breath, could it really be 6 years and some since my last Denise Young fix with the album Passionata, but it was and I am therefore absolutely delighted today to be reviewing her latest work Winds Of Change, so my fix has been satisfied.
The beauty of this album cannot be hidden and we will indeed explore every nook and cranny of this amazing new release, starting with the first offering entitled Under the Olive Tree, well this is something we have plenty of in Cyprus; this track flows like a summer afternoon sitting under one, tips of the musical hats must go to Germaine Booker (Cello) and the quite brilliant Tavi Jinariu on Classical Guitar, both of which manifest a total stand out track along with the skills of the maestro Denise Young, on this proud opener.
The following offering has a somewhat European flavour to it in my view; the smooth and flowing performance on piano by Young is breathtakingly beautiful, as is the quite emotive Cello presentation by Booker. Ballerina is a piece that dances to its own tune with a pristine sense of movement, one that indeed expresses feelings of great emotion and passion.
The following musical narrative has a sense of the mournful about its repose, but one that tugs delightfully at the emotions too, and called Moonlit Heart. The added vocalisations by Baraka May created a deeper dimension to get musically lost within; this was one very powerful performance by Young, a true moving opus of the heart, and one that also contained the Cello of Eugene Friesen as well.
This wonderful journey on piano is a pleasure to flow with, and we are going to do just that now with this next piece called Alegria. This is a beautifully bright and very organic offering from the artist, one that contains some wonderful instrumental work, hats off once more to Booker on Cello, but a classical performance by the wonderful Kevin Enstrom on guitar here sealed it, this track would become a personal favourite of mine, I’m guessing for a long time.
So we’re at the tipping point of the album where we find the title track, it is nestled comfortably at the midway point of the release. Winds of Change is another personal favourite, but almost anthem like in its construction; Young’s piano here is rich in texture and passion, and when you add the flute of David Weiss into the mix you bathe musically in genius, this is what music of this genre should be all about.
Teardrop Symphony is next, be prepared to be amazed, this is a wondrous work of art that truly needs to be admired, and given a hell of a lot of respect. Denise Young has such a deft touch on the piano within this graphic and moving composition, this creates a wide open canvas to allow a level of heart-felt orchestration like never before, please also pay close attention to the wonderful performance on French horn by Andre Bercellini.
The multi-dimensional nature of this track is simply transcendent, I have listened to it few times now and I am still noticing little nuances that I love more each time I do so. Reflections is such a clever track, it is almost like Young is playing in front of a looking glass mirror, and her reflection is playing right back at her.
We are now swimming into the deeper waters of the album and as we do so we come across a charming offering entitled Blue Violet. The melody here is delicious; it is one of those pieces you may well find yourself whistling to yourself later on without even realising you’re doing it. Note the consummate brilliance of Booker on Cello, and the sparkling performance of the one and only Charlie Bisharat on Violin is simply, and undeniably masterful.
Our penultimate musical gift is entitled Dannsa, a piece that in parts has a little almost folk styled ethic to its overall construction, one must applaud Young here, she plays with such energy and colour that it literally lights up the room, partner that with the radiating performance by Bisharat and you have a total winner of a track.
So six years has indeed flown by, but before Denise Young signs off this time, she has one more musical gift to allow us to take with us along on our way, and it is indeed the timeless Dandelions, listening to this offering would be like laying in a summer meadow and watching them dance in the winds of time; utterly captivating indeed, and the best possible way to leave the album with ease.
Winds of Change by Denise Young is an album that has been created by an artist who clearly is in-touch with her own musical muse; it is the tune that flies on the wings of a radiant butterfly, it is the harmonic vibration that lays with in each of our artistic souls, and it should be the very next album you purchase right after reading this review, trust me your heart will love you forever. For me personally I rate this to be the best work the artist has ever created, a real bar raiser, now please excuse me while I hit repeat once more.
Rating: Excellent
Impressions by Shoshana Michel
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/8/2020
Another step up the musical ladder for Shoshana
I have been in a very reflective mood recently, this mirror existence I now have to call home just doesn’t feel like the dimension I used to reside within, so what better place to go than to seek sanctuary, and to do so in music. For me this has become a little easier today thanks to this brand new release by pianist Shoshana Michel and her latest offering Impressions.
The first foot falls take us on the perfect ambience of reflection, in the piece Imagination. The performance here is moving, but also deeply reflective, for me, this is one of those tracks that you might watch the rain trickling down the window pane on a cruel winter’s day, and your thoughts are of times when things were much brighter.
As we move into the next room of music opened by the artist, we come across a piece called Dancing in the Shadows. Firstly I adore the title; it is graphic and allows the mind to create images and day dreams, with this being so, perhaps the piano tells the tale of a lonely ballerina, she glides around the room as if in remembrance of a time long gone. Yes, a piece with a real sense of loneliness and almost mournful in its overall manifestation, which in its self makes it utterly brilliant.
On Quietly, Gently, Peacefully we have a handsome composition that is so beautifully played it is an honour to listen to it, at times almost classical, but on all occasions wonderfully transcendent, and performed with such a classy sense of warmth.
We mentioned the feeling of Loneliness a moment ago, now we can hear the actual sound track for this deeply reflective emotion. From the despair comes a strange beauty, this is called artistic genius, and once more we can hear that within this most mournful of arrangements.
So let’s flip that coin and gaze into Alice’s musical looking glass, where if we look in all the right corners and deep pockets of time, we can see happiness and cheer flowing in abundance. On Joyful Moments Michel has created something quite clever, she has manifested an up-tempo and positive piece, but one that retains the overall energy of the album, and all done with such a cleverly crafted performance on the piano.
There is a place on the album called the fulcrum; we have now reached that point as we touch the half way marker of the release, and as we do so we come across this mysterious yet incredibly colourful opus called Pierrot. Here is a delightful composition, one played with such charm and sensitivity; it’s the perfect segue into the latter half of the album.
Slowly we descend into the deeper realms of this moving release, and as we do so there is a reflective arrangement called Prelude in E Minor that literally demands to be listened to. The fluency here on this piece is so wonderful to listen to, one that flows with such grace into our next offering entitled In My Dreams, one of many favourites of mine from the album, this is a real memory palace of a track, a performance so sublime that is seemed to create a myriad of musical pathways as it progressed.
A peace filled refrain can be found on this next offering entitled Nocturne in E Flat. A 2am in the morning composition, a time when you gaze out at the inky black night sky and wonder at the sheer beauty of the sky above in all its transcendent glory, this is the soundtrack for this moment of magic with ease.
From one moment of time into another, from the mood of the warm days into the realm of mists, as we now listen to the track Summer into Fall. Once more perfectly played to give us the ever eager listener a track of memory, but also of hope, and followed by another magnificent opus called Yearning, a song of a different colour maybe, but the performance on piano is so good, it is like you are being told a tale of an unrequited need by the artist, musical story telling at its best here.
Elegy is our penultimate offering, one played with such respect and professionalism, a piece that borders the dimensions of the classical; it is a requiem to the past, a poem of a heart felt truth, one performed with such delicacy.
So we now have arrived at the final point of departure from the album, this last gift from the artist is entitled Long Ago and Far Away. Any artist will always look for the perfect departing composition for an album, and this is it with ease. There is an anthem like energy about the piece, one that reminds me in compositional style as well to the master David Lanz, and that can’t be a bad way to finish.
Impressions by Shoshana Michel is a collection of memory packed piano arrangements, each one personal to whoever listens to it. Her performances over the years have increased in texture and presentational style, this album is another step up the ladder for her and is an album that will allow each and every listener several moments of reflection and remembrance along the way, a colourful, moving and delightfully enjoyable release to listen to indeed.
Rating: Excellent
Blue Landscapes III: Frontiers by Robert Thies
- posted by Robin James on 2/21/2020
Blue Landscapes III Serene Sublime Earth and Sky
A review of Blue Landscapes III: Frontiers by Robert Thies (piano) and Damjan Krajacic (flutes)

Delicate, like two wise birds heard singing on a breeze -- piano and flute, bringing unhurried and relaxed, melodic instrumental wonderment. Consistently contemplative serene movements, weaving a diaphanous kaleidoscopic silk tapestry. Nothing is even remotely fast or moderately hasty, the entire album (74:55) is a perfect daydream with clouds and in my mind’s eye some mystical starfish are slow-stepping in the sky. Thies and Krajacic create soundscapes that leave enough space in the music for the listener to fill with their own thoughts. It is about life. It is about freedom. It is about taking the time to truly enjoy the fine art of listening.

All the sounds one hears on this album were acoustically created on flute and piano, and sometimes using extended techniques not commonly associated with the instruments, creating a well grounded acoustic music that reflects the natural vibrations of this planet and humanity. What I hear is a collection of honest, spontaneous musical conversations that capture a moment in time. The challenge and beauty of improvisation is to attentively listen and react to what you are hearing, discovering a story in the process. It stops becoming intellectual and becomes more emotional and spiritual. Perhaps that is really what this is about.

Thies and Krajacic, inspired by friendship, are each celebrated exquisite virtuosos, adding occasional unusual percussive instrumental textures, such as recording the sound of tapping rhythmically on the flute valves or thumping the piano while holding down the foot pedal, or applying putty to the strings, all to pull a lot more from those two instruments than what comes from a traditional color palette. And that is the true inspiration, just let it be what it is at that moment.

This is truly music from a quieter place, it is just really very, very sparse. You will hear peaceful intricate layers with no technical studio fireworks. Listen to delicate moments of fresh improvisations, each track feels new and one-of-a-kind, the performances are perfect magic, with haunting melodies, all gorgeous, no darkness or thunder, no hurry, no worry.

Some insights of les musiciens from the album notes:

“The music of Blue Landscapes is inspired and grounded by our love for Earth’s beauty and all of her natural wonders. Whether it be the motion of the seas, the majesty of the mountains, the rhythmic flow of the rivers and streams, the migrations of her creatures, or the mysteries of the forests, all feed the imagination.

“May we cherish and protect our planet for all the generations that follow.

“And as always, it is our hope that this music will take you to a quiet and reflective space.”

~ Robert & Damjan

Deeper Into the Frontier

The album begins with and maintains a consistently delicate slow levitating feeling created by the piano accompanied by flute, “Drifting” (3:37) explores sounds and colors, you feel like you might be blissfully sitting next to a stream for hours, just listening and watching the flowing water. Exploring moments of spirituality in music and in nature, “Forest Path” (6:56) presents detailed percussive flute fingering providing the path and tempo of the journey, melodic flute soaring and decorated with tiny piano embellishments. Nature has always been an inspiration for fine art and for sacred healing experiences. “The Abandoned Monastery” (5:42) with peaceful flute layers slow and stately, a single flute’s voice takes the focus over the slow layers exploring the potential with what the flute could do, the piano joins in, understated and keeping the slow stately pace, exploring the old monastery’s ruined stones overgrown with brush and raked by the wind, here is where the altar once was, there is where the monks once worshiped, they are now long gone...

Piano sketches, telling a story in music, perhaps about a quiet afternoon, slowly the flute joins in, matching the melody side by side, turning and gliding in perfect synchronicity, there is a sweet tiny chime hidden in the framework. “Le Musicien” (3:34) has a sound that is organic, pure, and ethereal. Next, you can see the lighthouse in the distance, and now you are on top of the lighthouse and looking into the horizon, feeling the magical slow pace, describing the sea on a still day, surveying infinity: “The Lighthouse” (3:46) stirring the heart and awakening the mind, it’s magical.

Flowing piano with a shadowy flute chiffon, evoking raw, human emotion, memories long faded and treasured, “Goodbye” (6:42) light and dark speaking to the experience of life, that’s really what the music is about. Improvisation is, like life, magical and unpredictable. “Frontiers” (6:09), geometric patterns of piano thistledown with a breezy flute sweeping overhead, some percussive tapping on the instrument to create more depth in places, very delicate. As the song progresses, the sparse fingering of the piano becomes more bold on top of the constantly repeating geometric patterns, calming and transforming. The uncertainty that comes with improvisation allows us, listeners and musicians, all to reach deep and let go, unifying us musically and spiritually and with everything around us at the same time.

For the next track the piano is disguised as a harpsichord, slow and diaphanous, the flute is dry and whispery, joined by another layer of piano, all understated and delicately stunning, gorgeous, a love for other kinds of music coming from a different place, “Tranquility” (4:24). With an elegant symphonic sound from just one pianist and one flutist, waking with no memories, just the fascinating new day ahead, thinking: “Take My Hand” (3:49). Absolutely authentic, heartfelt, thoughtful and comforting. Fine silken piano fields under a sky that has no horizon, it just goes forever, the flute brings punctuation and textures, punching a playful breeze, percussive touches to complete the portrait of “Infinity” (6:41). Thoughtful, moving, healing. Graceful -- a rich palette of colors, sounds and percussive effects not commonly associated with the flute.

Nature is a muse for many composers, it’s no different with this music. The piano creates a cascading liquid flowing feeling, the flute provides the breeze and all you can do is float along, on a perfect afternoon. “The Distant Waterfall” (3:42), shape shifting, playing the flute and creating a deep connection to our natural world, allowing for more soul searching. Melodic tides bring the sand endless treasures, fine details sent by ocean currents, a night of warm breezes and “Waves on a Moonlit Sea” (4:28) gently clearing the heart very deeply, inspired by our beautiful natural world.

In this collection of sonic jewels there is more than one miniature journey, this next track is a mystical cavalcade, a caravan of free spirited wanderers. Here you can find solemn nomads who pass through “The Valley of Echoes” (4:35) reaching forefronts of beauty and visions of nature, reinforcing a feeling of connection to our planet. Gossamer thin and timeless, “Forgotten Memories” (6:28), the piano draws pictures of incredibly beautiful visual landscapes, an extremely beautiful sonically elegant little pattern that in your mind is going to play on and on, long after the recording has stopped. Floating and “Letting Go” (4:38) is an improvisational musical dialogue, the musicians are so tuned in to each other, providing a very deep listening experience, kind of like life, with situations where you have no idea of what’s going to happen next.
Rating: Excellent
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