Review: Doug Hammer: Haiku

Haiku is the eighth solo release by pianist/composer Doug Hammer (not counting his 2014 duet with Amethyste, Secret World, or his inclusion in several …

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by Kathy Parsons

Haiku is the eighth solo release by pianist/composer Doug Hammer (not counting his 2014 duet with Amethyste, Secret World,  or his inclusion in several compilations). In the crowded field of contemporary pianists, Hammer stands out as one of the best, whether he is playing a gentle, ethereal piece or letting loose in a honky-tonk or gospel  style – Doug Hammer can do it all! As its title suggests, Haiku is mostly gently understated solo piano plus one piano and cello duet.

Perfect In Simplicity

Most of the fifteen original pieces are relatively short (2-4 minutes), perfect in their simplicity, expressing a wide variety of emotions and experiences. The piano sound is gorgeous, crystal clear and ringing in the upper registers with deep, rich bass in the lower end. This is wonderful music for relaxation, inspiration, and exceptional musical enjoyment! Pianists will be happy to know that there is a companion sheet music book for Haiku in both printed and PDF formats, available from Doug’s site.

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Haiku begins with “Possibility,” a lovely piece that expresses optimism and anticipation – and then trails off at the dreamy end. “Flight” is fascinating. It starts out very simply with slowly repeated intervals, very gradually picking up speed as it continues to repeat the intervals. The simple melody weaves in and out as the intervals suggest the flapping of birds’ wings (there must be several birds flying together!). Near the end, the piece returns to the slower rhythm, ending with a gentle broken chord. “Wind” expresses a different kind of movement, swirling and dancing as it goes. “Glorious” has a quiet majesty that is punctuated by notes in the deep bass of the piano – a favorite.

Expressing Inner Peace

I also really like the poignant grace of “Dancing.” “Sway” is a bit of a surprise (a welcome one!) with its rhythmic funkiness. This isn’t a fast piece, but the joyful energy is infectious – love those deep bass notes! The title track has a Japanese flavor in its harmonies and simplicity. Very quiet and peaceful, it’s a beauty! “Heartstring” is an elegant and stirring duet for piano and cello (Velleda Miragias). Expressing inner peace as well as passionate emotion, piano and cello is one of my very favorite combinations! “Rise” is the longest track on the album, and also the most ambient. Very open and spacious, the easy flow gives the piece plenty of room to breathe. “Neverending” brings this excellent album to a quiet and tranquil close, leaving the listener feeling refreshed and uplifted.

Doug Hammer has created another truly exceptional piano album with Haiku! It is available from www.DougHammer.net, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Doug’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

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Review: Kori Linae Carothers: Fire in the Rainstorm

Fire in the Rainstorm is Kori Linae Carothers’ second project with Will Ackerman producing, and her first solo piano album. It is her fourth album to date and contains twelve original…

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by Kathy Parsons

Fire in the Rainstorm is Kori Linae Carothers’ second project with Will Ackerman producing, and her first solo piano album. It is her fourth album to date and contains twelve original pieces. With one of the more dramatic album covers of the year, the music is both eloquent and beautiful, fueled by grace and passionate emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed Kori’s first recording with Ackerman, Trillium, but it is amazing the depth and honesty that is often revealed when an artist goes it alone with just the piano. Such is the case here. It is interesting to note from her bio, that Kori is deaf in one ear and was told as a child that she would never be a musician. She continued her music studies through high school and college, proving the naysayers to be completely wrong. In a way, she has come full circle and is now donating a percentage of the sales from Fire in the Rainstorm to Hearing Health Foundation.

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Poignant and Tender

The album opens with “A Day Like No Other,” a dreamy and slightly melancholy piece that also expresses determination and hope – a lovely way to begin. Flowing and lyrical, it grabbed my attention right away! “Nunu’s Sunrise” was composed as a loving tribute with warmth and strong emotions. It’s really interesting how the piece starts to slow near the end and then just fades out, unresolved – kind of like life does sometimes. “Meadow” is a favorite with its relaxed, carefree mood and easy grace. “Tidal Rift” is a beautiful, heartfelt piece inspired by the ups and downs in relationships – another favorite. The title track is a passionate piece written for a friend whose life has been full of turbulence. The piece begins calmly, gradually building in intensity and drama – very powerful! “The Day” is a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11. Originally recorded as an electronic piece on Kori’s first album, The Road Less Traveled,it’s a poignant and tender piano solo – another favorite. “The Kindly Beast” is especially touching, knowing that Marvin, Kori’s beloved dog, died recently. He followed her everywhere and liked to get in the way of her hands when she was playing the piano (I’ve had the same problem with my cats!). Marvin’s playful antics will live forever in this song. “Whispers of the Heart” is a stirring tribute to friends and family who stand by through life’s trials and joys. Buoyant yet deeply emotional, it’s a beauty! “When the Trees Fell” mourns the loss of a giant tree with five trunks that was taken down by a huge storm. Grief and loss flow throughout this gorgeous piece, ending the album with a sigh and a tear.

Kori Linae Carothers has really come into her own with Fire in the Rainstorm. I hope it brings her the fans and recognition she so deserves! It is available from www.KoriTunes.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Kori’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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