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Northern Seas by Al Conti
- posted by Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano on 2/28/2011
Vibrant, cinematic tour of ancient times and place
Northern Seas is Al Conti’s follow-up to his award-winning 2008 release, Scheherazade. Two years in the making, the eleven original tracks are based on Norse mythology from the time of the Vikings. A multi-instrumentalist who plays piano, acoustic guitar, violin, electronic keyboards and percussion, Conti has created a vibrant, cinematic tour of ancient times and places. Additional musicians add wordless vocals, guitars, fiddles, Uilleann pipes, and Celtic whistles. Also an actor and world-traveler, Conti brings a wealth of life experience to his music, giving it plenty of substance tempered with the wisdom to keep the music accessible. The music ranges from dark and stormy to absolutely buoyant and carefree - all of it paints vivid pictures of mythological characters and their fabled lives. In addition, the colorful liner notes summarize some of these tales and explain how the music was conceived - a beautiful package well worth the few extra dollars more than a download.

We begin our journey on Northern Seas with “Veil of Mist,” a dark, exotic, and very mysterious piece that evokes fear of the unknown as well as the thrill of a new adventure. “Northern Seas” has a strong rhythm that moves it forward while keyboard, voices, guitar, and various other background sounds convey a spirited optimism. “Song of Rig” becomes more dancelike with a catchy beat and a simple, lively melody. I love “Dans For Loki (Loki’s Jig),” the most carefree piece on the album. In mythology, Loki was known as a trickster, but this jig focuses on his playful, fun-loving side. Complete with Uilleann pipes, fiddles, and many other instruments, it’s a dance of joyous celebration. Delightful! “Odin The Wanderer” tells of the father of the gods and his quest for wisdom. Darker in mood and conveying the feeling of searching, it’s another beauty. “Valkyrja” was a group of goddesses whose task it was to choose warriors lost in battle and take them to the afterworld. The majestic sweep of the piece suggests strength and honor - gorgeous! “Ragnarok” is the name for the demise of the gods and the ultimate battle between good and evil. Haunting and almost without hope, the feeling of loss is heartbreaking. Our journey ends with “The Rainbow Bridge,” a bridge that unites our world with the realm of the gods, offering hope to all.
Rating: Excellent
Doorway to a Dream by Ann Licater
- posted by Kathy Parsons on 1/25/2011
Doorway To a Dream
Doorway To a Dream is Native American and World flutist Ann Licater’s follow-up to her award-winning 2007 debut, Following the Call. The album is an invitation to embark on “a healing dream journey to the infinite expanses of your imagination and the sacred spaces within.” Licater is joined by an impressive ensemble of musicians that includes Jose Neto, Jeff Oster, Peter Phippen, and Shambhu. Licater performs on six different types of flutes, including wood and clay instruments and silver alto flute. She studied Native American flute with R. Carlos Nakai and facilitates “Flute For the Soul” workshops where participants explore how contemporary replicas of ancient wood and clay flutes can be used as tools for personal discovery, spiritual practice, and relaxation. Each of the fourteen tracks has its own special meaning along the dream journey, and it is recommended that Doorway To a Dream be listened to from beginning to end for an inspirational meditation for unwinding and escaping into the dream.
Doorway To a Dream begins with the title track, which offers a seductive invitation to relax and surrender to the music. Flute, ambient sounds, and delicate windchimes begin our journey. “Shades of Light” is a gentle flute duet that takes us through the “doorway.” “Into the Heart” is a favorite. Light percussion creates a rhythmic backdrop for the haunting and almost mournful flute. “Xiao Garden” is a gorgeous flute solo that takes the listener deeper into a dream state. “Angel Bird” is another favorite, and features Shambhu on acoustic guitar - very light and carefree. I also really like “Bridges In Time,” with slow, graceful flute backed by ambient sounds - very dreamy and flowing. Jose Neto joins Licater on “Earth to Sky” playing Coral electric sitar which has a fascinating sound. Troy Arnett adds some lovely piano as well. “Divine Love” is a rapturous flute duet that has background keyboard washes for additional color. Jeff Oster appears on “Radiance” with his distinctive flugelhorn - a very unusual but beautiful combination of instruments. “Floating” brings us to the end of our dream journey, bathed in light and deeply refreshed. Piano (William Hoshal) and ethereal keyboard washes create a dreamscape for Licater’s delicate flute.
Doorway To a Dream offers the listener a very soothing hour of musical tranquility. It’s available from, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!
Kathy Parsons
Rating: Very Good +
Forget-Me-Not, Blue by Evan Wish
- posted by John Iverson - CKUW on 12/21/2010
Not Soon to be Forgotten
Only on rare occasions do you find a new recording of solo piano music that not only is satisfying to listen to, but also can tug at your heartstrings. This is certainly the case with the latest album, Forget-me-not, blue, by pianist Evan Wish, a Canadian artist now residing in California.
Evan writes music based on life experiences, and the result is nothing short of stunning! The melodies are beautifully crafted and inspiring, and the playing is deep-rooted in the heartfelt tradition of pianists like David Lanz and Rolf Lovland. Evan plays his instrument with an obvious passion, soft and tender when called for, but also strong and spirited. And he is beautifully accompanied by a trio of string players on half of the tracks on this recording, and they provide an exceptional backdrop of musical colour to compliment his solo piano playing. This is music that is both passionate and sentimental, and Evan uses the instrument to his full advantage to parlay the many emotions that one experiences during the course of daily living.
Of particular note on this recording is the opening track "Tara", brimming with sweet melancholy, the emotional pieces "When do miracles happen?" and "I love you or something like that", the tender piece "Angels are near", and the sentimental title track. The piece "Quietly I say, all things happen" runs the full gauntlet of feelings, and "What will man's legacy be?", with its numerous recounted quotes, makes a real statement!
All in all this is a tremendous album from an exceptionally talented artist, and I highly recommend it to all lovers of new age piano music. If you want great music, but also want music that you can feel deeply, than this is a recording you will want in your collection, and you will definitely not forget it!
Rating: Excellent
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