Ajeet Kaur…on Love and Forgiveness

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art,…

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by Ajeet Kaur

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art, my art brings me closer and closer to the core of my being, to the real essence of who I am. As I see it, the only parts of ourselves that keep us from truly loving and forgiving are the places of fear within us. Art allows us to explore those more vulnerable parts of ourselves, to really go deep into the vast world within, and then to express from a place of real truth when we touch it. Art that doesn’t come from that place of truth doesn’t hold much power. For me, art comes from a place where love and forgiveness are natural and come with ease, and that’s why I like to visit that space as much as possible.

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Art and music represent unity

Art and music represent unity. They are languages that communicate through feeling, emotion, and devotion. As a world with so many different traditions, languages, and ways of living, we need art to remind us to live openly. By sharing our messages of hope and love through art and music we put them into a universal language. Art is a reminder of how beautiful it is to do things differently, to be individual. If every song or every painting was the same they would lose their magic. If every person or every culture was the same, the world would lose its beauty as well.

Let My Heart Be My Compass

My creative life changes me every day. BEING CREATIVE REQUIRES US TO BE REAL WITH OURSELVES FIRST. IF I AM LIVING IN A WAY THAT ISN’T TRUE FOR ME, THAT ISN’T ALIGNED, THEN THE
music I create carries that vibration. My CREATIVE LIFE INSPIRES ME TO KEEP OPENING MYSELF, KEEP EXPLORING MY DEPTHS, AND AS I CHANGE SO DOES WHAT I CREATE. AS I EMBRACE A MORE CREATIVE LIFE WITH ART AT THE CENTER OF IT, I HAVE JUST WATCHED THOSE PRESSURES FALL AWAY. NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IN MY LIFE IS TO LIVE IN A WAY THAT FEELS TOTALLY TRUE AND TO LET MY HEART BE MY COMPASS. MY PRAYER IS THAT BY BEING TRUE TO MYSELF IT WILL HELP OTHERS DO THE SAME. UPLIFTING EACH OTHER IS THE BEST GIFT.

“Art and music serve as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life.”
– Ajeet Kaur, Sacred Chant Artist, Flutist & Spiritual Teacher

AJEET KAUR is a sacred chant artist, flutist, and spiritual teacher based in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She released her debut album of meditation music, “Sacred Waters” in the Spring of 2013 and is now working on her second album, “At the Temple Door”. She is now traveling the world to offer music and yoga with Snatam Kaur and on her own. Inspired by the musical and spiritual atmosphere of her upbringing Ajeet began singing at a young age. Her love of music has lead her around the world to study traditional Indian and Irish music, along with folk traditions and western musical styles. Ajeet Kaur’s music is available from Spirit Voyage Records.

Website: www.ajeetkaurmusic.com
Photo: Spirit Voyage Recordsebook_cover_3D-fixed

Love Live Forgive features interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power oflove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

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Review: Masako: Call of the Mountains

Call of the Mountains is the second release from pianist/composer Masako. Equal in beauty to her debut,Masako, Call of the Mountains was…

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by Kathy Parsons

Call of the Mountains is the second release from pianist/composer Masako. Equal in beauty to her debut,Masako, Call of the Mountains was also recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont and features guest artists such as Premik, Noah Wilding, Jeff Oster, Will Ackerman, Eugene Friesen, Tony Levin, and Jeff Haynes on several tracks. Twelve of the sixteen tracks are elegant piano solos that showcase Masako’s poetic playing style as well as her graceful touch. There are many self-taught musicians whose work I dearly love, but when an artist such as Masako steps in with a lifetime of rigorous training, there is a palpable difference and often, at least for me, a much bigger “WOW!” factor. It has nothing to do with showmanship or playing speed (usually), but the effortless command of the instrument to successfully convey whatever that artist seeks to express.

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Tribute to Nature

In her liner notes, Masako explains the origins of this new music. Living in the northeastern mountains of the US, she often has reasons to drive south through the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains to New York City. The ongoing changes in the mountains, river, and sky keep the drive interesting, and Masako says that whenever she walks in the woods she encounters something special. “This album is a tribute to these mountains that I love.”

Peaceful Contentment Express to Perfection

Call of the Mountains begins with “Dawn,” a lovely piano solo meant to be both powerful and sensitive and to convey a sense of hope. Masako is successful on all accounts. “Kindness from Strangers” has a graceful flow that expresses “trail magic,” unexpected kindness from total strangers – a favorite! The dreamy “Watching the Clouds” begins as a piano solo and becomes a gentle quartet for piano, wind synthesizer (Premik), guitar (Ackerman), and percussion (Jeff Haynes). I really like this one, too! Masako says that “Reflections” is one of her own favorites and I can see why. Inspired the colors of fall foliage reflected in a pond or lake, the piece is mostly silky smooth with occasional bursts of sparkling color – gorgeous! “Purple Indulgence” was named for the Purple Loosestrife, a beautiful flowering plant that is an invasive plant species that can disrupt native vegetation. Nevertheless, the piece is a tranquil and leisurely flowing quartet for piano, bass (Levin), wind synth, and cello (Friesen). “Wildflowers” is a piano solo with  the simple beauty and grace of its inspiration. “Blue Blaze” picks up the rhythm and tempo a bit. Named for the trail markers that help to keep hikers from getting lost on the Appalachian Trail, the piece expresses freedom and a soul-satisfied joy – also a favorite.  “Smoky Rain” is more free-form, painting a peaceful aural picture in shades of blue-gray.  “Lullaby for the Hills” brings the album to a close with an enchanting trio for flugelhorn (Oster), cello, and piano. Saying that if she had to choose between an urban life always surrounded by friends or an often lonely life in the mountains, she’d choose the latter, the peaceful contentment of this music is expressed to perfection.

Masako is on her way to becoming a leader in the new age piano/contemporary classical genres.  Call of the Mountains is very highly recommended!

Masako’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Kelly Andrew: Journey

There is very little not to like about Journey that concludes with the uplifting “Sail Away” making you realize that from contemporary instrumental to electronic to orchestral musical genres Kelly Andrew is a master of all three. And from that aspect alone Journey is a complete success of not only high class entertainment but one that allows you to see the inner working of a wonderful artist as you traveling through the creative musical mind of Kelly Andrew.

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by Michael Debbage

Released right around the same time in physical formats as the epic and bodacious Epoch Dawn, the more subdued Journey is Kelly Andrew’s most current release. Fortunately, the recording was finally made available in the cd format. Though somewhat more restrained than Epoch Dawn, Journey suffered a somewhat comparison complex but when measured and evaluated upon its own merits Journey reflects an artist that is capable of moving through multiple instrumental genres with the ease of a chameleon lizard adjusting to his own surroundings.

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Musical Journeys to be Discovered

Even within the recordings of Journey though it is a more mainstream effort there are multiple musical journeys and scenic routes to be discovered. The album opens with the highly accessible and super smooth “World Of Discovery” that brings to mind a typical David Arkenstone composition you would have found on his highly accessible 2002 Sketches From An American Journey. Keeping in mind to be compared with Mr. Arkenstone is the ultimate compliment. Equally impressive is the slower but highly melodic “Glistening Waters” and Celtic influenced “Expedition”.

Striking Musical Lanscapes

But no journey is status quo as your sceneries continually change and so does Kelly with the percussion and wordless driven exotica found on “Rainforest” that will have you gently swinging, swaying and moving. Additional striking musical landscapes can be found on the Middle Eastern influences discovered on “Into The Sun” or the even more mystical “Dancing Dunes”.

High Class Entertainment

Frankly there is very little not to like about Journey that concludes with the uplifting “Sail Away” making you realize that from contemporary instrumental to electronic to orchestral musical genres Kelly Andrew is a master of all three.  And from that aspect alone Journey is a complete success of not only high class entertainment but one that allows you to see the inner working of a wonderful artist as you traveling through the creative musical mind of Kelly Andrew.

Kelly’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Halpern and Diamond: Ambient Alchemy

Ambient Alchemy is a fourteen-piece collaboration by new age “superstar” Steven Halpern and “rising star” Michael Diamond with special…

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by Kathy Parsons

Ambient Alchemy is a fourteen-piece collaboration by new age “superstar” Steven Halpern and “rising star” Michael Diamond with special guest Michael Manring who appears on six tracks.

Sound Healing

The Grammy-nominated Halpern has had a very long career in the field of sound healing and composed the music for four of the tracks; he plays Rhodes piano, keyboards, and crystal bowls on this album. Michael Diamond has also had a very impressive career thus far as a musician, producer, and music journalist; he composed the other ten tracks and plays guitar, guitar synth, and keyboards. Manring is widely considered to be the best fretless bass player on the planet.

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“Space Music”

Most of the music on Ambient Alchemy can be classified as “space music,” with ethereal, floating sounds and the feeling of vast openness. It is music that can provide an unobtrusive background for working or quiet activities, and yet is rich enough for active listening – especially for the healing arts and deep relaxation.

Outstanding Production Quality

The production quality is outstanding, with clear sound that is never too bright or jarring and that has tremendous depth. It is very easy to let go while listening to this album, allowing your mind take you on a journey limited only by your own imagination.

Pure Enjoyment

Very peaceful and transporting, Ambient Alchemy is music with a purpose that can also be savored for pure enjoyment. 

Steven’s Website     Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Kater and DeMaria: Heart of Silence

Heart of Silence is the first collaboration by pianist Peter Kater and Native American flutist Michael Brant DeMaria…

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by Kathy Parsons

Heart of Silence is the first collaboration by pianist Peter Kater and Native American flutist Michael Brant DeMaria. With fourteen Grammy nominations between them, this album seems very likely to place both artists firmly inside the Winners Circle for 2015. Both are widely-known for their deeply spiritual improvisations and the music for this album was created during meditative sessions. Each track is a free improvisation performed without any rehearsals or pre-planning. Kater and DeMaria chose which key they were going to play in and started recording. In turn, the intention is for the eight tracks to be listened to as meditations.

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A Masterpiece of Simplicity

The inspiration for Heart of Silence was DeMaria’s experience of having his mother die in his arms only to be revived by emergency cardiac surgery. Profoundly touched and changed by the experience, DeMaria wanted to find a way to express that experience musically – the mix of grief, connection, and love that was both ominous and comforting at the same time. He had three custom deep bass flutes made for this project, searching for the lowest sound he could find. The flute with the lowest tone used on this recording is five feet in length – a sub-bass A minor flute – and only one other such flute exists. It becomes a voice from the depths and a drone instrument to express the inexpressible. DeMaria says that his whole body vibrates when he plays this flute. Blended with Kater’s soulful piano, the duo has created a masterpiece of simplicity and profound meaning that should touch the spirit of anyone who experiences it.

Open, Free and Deeply Emotional

The music itself is very open, free, and deeply emotional. The sound of the deep bass flute is dark but also very warm and comforting. The percussive quality of the piano contrasts beautifully with the more rounded tones of the bass flute. Kater has often recorded and performed with Native American flutists, so it is no surprise that this album works so well. However, this is far from a duplication of previous work – DeMaria has his own musical style and message to convey – and the duo has created an album that is  unique and very personal. Although there are short breaks between the tracks, the album plays as a cohesive one hour listening/meditating experience and yet each piece stands alone as well.

Sure to be one of my Favorites for 2015, Heart of Silence is available from SoundsTrue.com, Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Sounds True     Peter’s Website     Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Paul Avgerinos: “Bhakti”

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting – Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist…

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Paul-Avgerinos

by Kathy Parsons

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting

Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos’ nineteenth album to date. Best-known for his ambient music, Avgerinos goes in a different direction with Bhakti (a Sanskrit word that means love and devotion). Avgerinos has practiced yoga, meditation, chanting and devotional singing all of his life and became a student of a Bhakti yoga guru from India when he was sixteen. He has been very active in a small Christian church for the past twenty years although he was raised in the Greek Orthodox church. Using a combination of Eastern and Western musical traditions and instruments as well as chanting and singing, Avgerinos has brought all of those influences together into a musical celebration of love and devotion. Calling it a “must have for energizing any yoga practice,” Bhakti is very calming, joyful, and uplifting. Avgerinos sings several of the tracks – a first in almost ten years – and also plays bass, a variety of guitars, keyboards, and did the sound design. Guest artists appear on sarod, EWI, “angelic” vocals, sitar, and violin. All of this is backed by “Bollywood” beats and Christian Sanskrit mantras. Warm and accessible, this is music that should appeal to a broad audience for both its spiritual and musical offerings. Six of the eleven tracks are primarily instrumental although most of those have wordless vocals. All have a strong Indian influence.

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Ambient and Meditative

Appropriately, Bhakti begins with “Invocation,” a very peaceful opening that sets the spiritual tone of the album. “Shanti Om” is more of a chant sung by beautiful, ethereal voices with a simple but very rhythmic background that becomes more complex as the piece evolves. “Love and Devotion” combines Sanskrit and English lyrics in an upbeat, joyful song with jazz flute passages and a catchy beat. “Om Namah Christaya” is a favorite. Voices are layered (including Avgerinos’) in a very peaceful chant/song backed with a strong rhythm that gives the song a quality that is very serene as well as invigorating. “A Path with Heart” is my favorite of the instrumentals. A bit more Western in its approach, Eastern instrumentation combines beautifully with ambient keyboard sounds – very soothing. “Hare Jesu” again puts Avergerinos’ voice in the forefront in a chant that is both Christian and Hindu – fascinating! Although angelic voices are utilized, “Joy of Being” is primarily an instrumental that is sometimes melodic and sometimes ambient. “Forgiveness and Healing” is a 9-minute track that goes even more ambient and meditative. The closing track, “Peaceful Contentment” provides well over ten minutes of tranquility – gentle and blissful throughout.

Enlightening Listening Experience

Bhakti is quite an unusual but very enlightening listening experience. Paul Avgerinos is likely to garner a great deal of attention and probably another round of awards with this one! It is available from Amazon and iTunes.

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Fiona Joy: Signature – Solo

Breathtaking ClaritySignature – Solo is Fiona Joy’s long-awaited (by me, anyway!) first solo piano album, and what a beautiful surprise…

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Breathtaking Clarity

Signature – Solo is Fiona Joy’s long-awaited (by me, anyway!) first solo piano album, and what a beautiful surprise it is! phoca_thumb_l_fionataamp3_500Produced and recorded by Cookie Marenco, founder of Blue Coast Records, Signature is being released in several formats, including audiophile SACD and high resolution downloads. (My review copy is a “standard” CD, but the sound quality is still amazing!) A classically-trained pianist from Australia, Fiona Joy has created an impressive collection of recordings beginning with her 2004 release, Portrait of a Waterfall as Fiona Joy Hawkins. Some of her more recent albums were recorded at Imaginary Road Studio and co-produced with Will Ackerman, who refers to Fiona Joy as “one of the brightest lights in contemporary instrumental music.”Signature was recorded on an 1885 Steinway piano, and every nuance comes through in breathtaking clarity. The album features a solo version of “Grace,” which was included in the 2014 Grammy winning Winds of Samsara by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman, and a duet version of “Once Upon Impossible” that features Lawrence Blatt on acoustic guitar as well as Fiona’s ethereal vocals. Nine of the ten tracks are purely solo piano at its colorful, expressive best.

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No Ordinary Solo Piano Album

Signature – Solo begins with “Ceremony,” a lively, upbeat piece that sets the tone of the album and tips listeners off that this is no ordinary solo piano album. “Grace” is likely to become one of Fiona Joy’s “signature” pieces, as it occasionally refers to some of her earlier pieces that haven’t been as widely heard as her more recent work. It’s a wonderful piece as either a piano solo or an ensemble piece, but I really love the solo version. The melancholy “Fair Not” has a flowing left hand that gives it a subtle energy. Dark and very expressive, this is somewhat different from much of Fiona’s other music. There are two versions of “Once Upon Impossible” – a piano solo that is poignant and heartfelt, and the second that includes Fiona’s vocals and light guitar accompaniment by Lawrence Blatt, a fine artist/composer in his own right. Both are exceptional. “Calling Earth” is a somewhat shortened version of “Earthbound” from 600 Years in a Moment.“Invisible Train” is my favorite track. High energy and very spirited, I hope sheet music is planned for this one! The elegant title track is slow, pensive and very heartfelt – gorgeous! As its title suggests, “From the Mist” is cool and has no hard edges – very fluid and free, colored in muted shades of gray and blue. “Little Star” concludes this very special album with a sweet and tender piece that tells its story simply and without a lot of embellishment.

Elegant Touch and Soulful Playing

I truly hope this is just the first in a series of solo piano albums from Fiona Joy. Her elegant touch and soulful playing have always made her one of my favorites. I have been fortunate to have Fiona Joy perform two house concerts in my home, so I have been able to watch her play several times – always a treat that needs to be shared! The “normal” CD and downloads are available from Amazon and iTunes. The audiophile recordings are available from Blue Coast Records. Very highly recommended!

Fiona’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     Blue Coast Records     Fiona’s Artist Page

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Jeff Oster: “Next”

A Masterful Collection – Jeff Oster’s Next (as in “the next big thing”) is a masterful collection of tunes that blurs the lines…

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Jeff OsterA Masterful Collection

Jeff Oster’s Next (as in “the next big thing”) is a masterful collection of tunes that blurs the lines between jazz, chill, funk and ambient/new age as if boundaries simply didn’t exist. It is certainly one of the most entertaining albums of recent years, one that is polished to a chromium sheen by the ace production/engineering team of Ackerman and Eaton (I shouldn’t have to give you their first names at this point), suffused with genuine warmth and humanity, and overflowing with a sense that the many musicians on the album had a great time recording it. And what a cast of players Oster assembled for Next! A huge tip of my hat to all of ’em: Chuck Rainey (bass), Tony Levin (bass), Michael Manring (fretless bass), Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums), Philip Aaberg (piano), Catherine Marie Charlton (piano), Ricky Kej (keyboards and bass), Vanil Veigas (sarangi), Nile Rodgers (guitar), Todd Boston (guitar), Taylor Barefoot (guitar), Scott Tarulli (guitar), Carl Weingarten (slide guitar), Shambhu Vineberg (guitar), Britt Thomas Brady (Fender Rhodes, guitar and keyboards), Melissa Kaplan (vocals), Jeff Taboloff (tenor sax), Noah Wilding (vocals), and Ackerman (guitar) and Eaton (keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion). Whew!

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Almost Eerily Perfect

Even with all these sterling talents on Next, the unifying factor throughout the album’s twelve tracks is Oster’s flugelhorn and trumpet playing which, frankly, has never been better. Oster’s control of nuance and tone is almost eerily perfect, it’s just so sublime and fluid. It doesn’t matter what the music calls for, be it funky licks, soothing ambientish soundscapes, or blues-tinted jazz runs, he is not just up to the task but excels at it. Other than a very solid cover of the classic tune “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (made famous by Bonnie Raitt) and two other tracks (“And We Dance,” co-written by the artist and Will Ackerman and “On Mother’s Day,” a compositional collaboration between Oster and Shambhu) Oster penned the remaining nine tunes which makes Next even more of an accomplishment.

Laid-Back Relaxation

For me, Next excels at one thing more than anything else—creating an atmosphere of laid-back relaxation without resorting to “relaxation music” clichés. Even when Oster and crew “kick it” in the funky opening title track, the expert way the song is mixed (spot-on laying of the drums and bass in the mix) brings the tune in as nicely chilled funk as opposed to a “tear the roof off the sucka” funk a la George Clinton. “Night Train to Sofia” washes over the listener with a flowing jazziness laced with a sense of bluesy longing. The drums and bass impart a noticeable rhythm which ties in nicely with the titular reference without directly aping the sound of steel wheels on rails. Kaplan’s vocals cry out in muted fashion like a distant siren song, calling to her lover. Superb stuff! “Gardens of Varanasi” features Veigas’ sarangi playing (an Asian string instrument) which casts a subtle world fusion shadow but the mood of the cut is more jazz-oriented by the ending with a mellow beat and Oster’s fluid lead melody. Eaton’s Fender Rhodes that kicks off “Turn Left at San Pancho” places the cut in a fantastic slightly-retro jazz vein (think vintage era Bob James) and once again, the solid drum/bass rhythm section lays down a solid groove over which Oster plays one of the album’s catchiest refrains.

Outstanding Musicianship, Sterling Production

Track after track, Next delights with outstanding musicianship, sterling production, and some of the tastiest horn licks that Oster has ever committed to a recording.  “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is every bit as soulful and sorrowfully romantic as Raitt’s version while “Ibiza Sunrise” sounds like you would think it would, unfurling slowly over a downtempo groove with layers of synthesizers, guitar and vocals and Oster’s flugelhorn circling above it all like a graceful bird gliding over the titular island’s coastline. “Avenue D” pulses with one of the more uptempo beats on the album, set aglow with Eaton’s twinkling Fender Rhodes’ keys while Oster’s trumpet and flugelhorn intertwine with a graceful sense of subdued joy. Carefully placed environmental sound effects enhance the carefree nature of the song and Todd Boston’s tasty guitar solo in the bridge adds yet another playful dash of spice. “The Mystery of B” slows way down with an ambient-like sensibility, an atmospheric blending of flugelhorn, bass, guitar, piano, and assorted keyboards that flows ever so patiently, slowly building to a mild elevation of drama. “Heroes” is the most dynamic track on the album with Charlton’s piano and Taboloff’s sax providing the opening mellow passage before the song comes to life with a more pronounced bass-heavy beat and percolating synthesizers over which Oster and guitarist Taylor Barefoot set things afire, eventually joined by Taboloff before the track ends. Next comes to a perfect ending with the restrained “And We Dance,” a beautiful duet with Ackerman playing his trademark warm, introspective acoustic guitar and Oster blissing out on flugelhorn.

A Landmark Album

When I have to review an album as outstanding as Next, I worry that my praise will come off as gushing hyperbole, or even worse, sycophantic ramblings. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t state thatNext is flat-out amazing. Certainly this is Jeff Oster’s best recording to date (which is no small thing in and of itself). But it’s more than that. It is a landmark album that should hold almost universal appeal to anyone who has even a mild love for jazz or chill, as well as groove-oriented instrumental music. Next truly is the “next big thing.” I wouldn’t want to be Jeff Oster, though, ’cause I have no idea how he will top this! It’s hard to improve on perfection!

Next is available at Amazon, iTunes, and CDBaby.

The music: http://music.jeffoster.com

NEXT Video Trailer : https://youtu.be/aZH7QiqolR0

Soundcloud Playlist: https://soundcloud.com/jeffosternext

Thanks to Bill Binkleman who writes for Wind and Wire.  Bill has been writing ambient, New Age and instrumental music reviews since 1997. 

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Review: Heidi Breyer: “Letters from Far Away”

Only another two year lapse and once again we are invited to another recording from the delightful and adventurous pianist Heidi Breyer.

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Reviewed by Michael Debbage

heidibreyerOnly another two year lapse and once again we are invited to another recording from the delightful and adventurous pianist Heidi Breyer. Last time around Breyer pushed the envelope with the addition of a few vocal performances. This time out she wanted to strip it down to create her first solo piano album however decided to make it a double album concept with the second disc presenting the same songs fleshed out with various instrumentation. The results are magical.

Velvety and Elegant

While the discs are not labeled as disc one and two clearly the initial concept was to go it alone and while the performances are velvety and elegant, when accompanied with varying instrumentation the emotional factor though still reserved is nevertheless moving. With Breyer co-producing with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton the performances themselves though not limited to Ackerman’s A Team session players include the usual suspects of Jill Haley on the English Horn, Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Noah Wilding on vocals and even Ackerman on guitar.

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Not One Weak Moment

Haley and Friesen are the first to appear on the slow rhythmically delicious opening track entitled “All The Good Things” as they combined effortless with Breyer’s simple but emotive piano work. Frankly, “All The Good Things” could easily have referred to the stellar compositions that follow as there is not one weak moment found as it appears Breyer has completely outdone herself. This review would get hideously long speaking about the high points that pictorially would look  like the Alps. So skipping forward just inhale the quiet moments of Breyer’s piano work as she brings the emotive factor up slowly but gradually in complete harmony with Noah Wilding’s wordless vocals on “First Impressions”. At one point there are two voices which would likely be Breyer herself harmonizing with Wilding. Another more than stellar moment can be found on “Touchstone” where Breyer’s playing is more vibrant and progressive than usual. With the album concept focused on the story of two lovers it is this song that strongly suggests the meeting of their heart, mind and soul. Equally as energetic is “Welton” with the album coming to a close with highly reflective “Starry Pond”.

Nothing Short of Astonishing

Breyer’s latest ambitious creation shy of the cardboard packaging is nothing short of astonishing and is without a doubt her most impressive recording to date. When you consider the fact that her discography to date is already a treasure chest, speaking this highly of Letters From Far Away only makes this her crown jewel until she outdoes herself again. Considering the bravado of Breyer’s track record there should never be a doubt.

Heidi’s Website    Amazon    iTunes    CD Baby    Heidi’s Artist Page

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com, a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga blog.

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Review: Ann Licater: “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.

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Ann Licater_World Flutist_Photoby_DArcy Allison_TeasleyA Healing 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.

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Relax and Surrender

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 wind chimes 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.

Musical Tranquility

Doorway To a Dream offers the listener a very soothing hour of musical tranquility. It’s available from www.annlicater.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!

Ann’s Website   Amazon    iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga blog.

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