Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer Lullaby By Paul Higgs and Pavane

 


Summer Lullaby

By

Paul Higgs and Pavane

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

I must admit it was a wonderful moment to be had when I discovered that an old presenter of ours in Paul Higgs, was about to release his latest album with his band Pavane, the name of his last release back in 2014, I just knew this was going to be a sublime twinkling of musical brilliance, and I was not to be disappointed as Summer Lullaby is by far one of the most explorative and charming Jazz albums I have had the pleasure this year to listen to.

The multi-instrumental flavours contained here are simply wonderful, they manifest a tone and vibrancy that will allow us to cross a multiple of musical borderlands, for instance take the very first track, the scene setting Lights of Canary Wharf, here lays a moody and reflective piece, so smooth and transient that one could transpose the title to the lights of any favoured city, this was indeed a classy start.

Paul has really allowed his muse free reign and brings into our reality some very interesting compositions, such as the classical and global vibe of pieces like Samba Baroque,  the classic Herb Alpert song This Guy's In Love With You, and the symbiotic presentation of Berceuse d'été with the guitar of Andy Watson reigning supreme.

Interestingly enough one of my personal favourites from the album would be the track nestled in the middle of the release called Icicles. The mournful qualities of this arrangement were simply idyllic and peacefully charming; this for me was one of the most ambient moments from this compilation of classy creations, Pauls trumpet was indeed the creator of a mindful instant of total peace.

Summer Lullaby is an 11 track album packed with all manner of flavours and is the perfect summer release; already here in the early June heat of Cyprus the tones of tracks like Seville, with its Latin vibe, or the heat of the night expressed for me in the piece Nocturne In Blue, were so redolent of the subject matter.

The concluding composition sealed the deal for me, Higgs is an outstanding brass performer, and the trumpet is his magical wand of pure beauty and magnificence, so for me Reflections of You was the perfect master stroke with which to conclude this superb new release, by the final boss Paul Higgs.

We must also pay our tributes to Pavane with quality performances all coming from one of the finest group presentations I have heard of some time, so its hats off to Natalie Rozario on Cello, Chris Ingham at the Piano, George Double in the engine room on Drums, the sublime fluency of Andy Watson on Guitar, and of course the very smooth tone and timbre from Jerome Davies with his Double Bass.

This is an album that Paul should be proud of, it may have been 10 years since his last release, but Summer Lullaby is a truly superb album that will enhance your summer and give you those easy vibrations to take you through any hot evening in August. Higgs has really created something here that should be recognised as a timeless collection of exquisiteness, and as such I can see this album becoming a real fan favourite across the globe with consummate ease.  


Monday, June 3, 2024

Lost there Found here By Masako

 


Lost there Found here

By

Masako

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

I have long loved the sublime gentle sounds of a Masako piano, it most certainly is feel good music, and today we have a real treat as we get to walk the realms of tranquillity with the artist, within her latest release called Lost there Found here.

The soft pastiche of a title called Spirit Forest gets our musical voyage underway, as Masako’s love for nature once more comes to the fore with this piece; this is a mystical slice of solo piano that is breath taking and serenely charming.

Masako’s album like others that have gone before, is produced by non-other than the legend that is Will Ackerman and you can hear his gentle guitar, along with Vin Downes on the track Walk Together. This is as chilled as a Sunday morning reverie in June, and bubbling full of bliss.

This 12 track collection of perfection has some beautiful moments contained within, one of them for me was Brooks and Cascades, Masako’s piano could easily be the ever moving stream, whilst the string sections of both Charlie Bisharat and Eugene Friesen added so much texture to the proceedings and gave us the ever eager listener a beautiful juxtaposition of tone to enjoy.

There are some equally impressive reflective moments as well, one of them for me personally was Mid-Hudson, this was a beautifully crafted presentation from the pianist, one that I enjoyed immensely, and those minor touches added a lush colour into the tapestry of the song, bringing further touches of grandeur was the accomplished percussion of Jeff Haynes.

The album is concluded with the track Into the Dusk, this is the end of our journey this time around and this final piece is such a textured and picturesque composition, that it leaves one with the energy of feeling fully satisfied by the journey hence taken.

Masako must be one of the genres finest painters of tonal sound, she pulls from the piano layer upon layer tranquil lush soundscapes, and manufactures some of the best musical portraits that could possibly be conceived, one must say that Lost there Found Here by Masako is one of her most comprehensive albums, she pinpoints such a tender refrain, and brings into the world a galaxy of the genres stars to aid her in her quest This is an album of natural outstanding beauty with ease. 


24 Impromptus By Pam Asberry

 


24 Impromptus

By

Pam Asberry

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

This new release entitled 24 Impromptus is the 10th in a vast series of piano based albums by renowned composer and performer Pam Asberry; here Pam explores a more classical leaning of compositional structure. Each musical configuration follows in the classical music tradition of writing set pieces in all the major and minor keys of the chromatic scale.

In essence this 24 track album of short form piano narratives is created on moods, feelings and emotions by the artist, is like a calendar of attitudes or temperaments with a musical soundtrack encompassed within. This is a truly clever idea, as when playing the album you can pick and choose which track or tracks you wish to listen to depending upon your disposition.

So this fascinating experience of tone, vibration and emotive character starts today for me personally with the grand opening offering of Impromptu No. 1 in C Major Journey; indeed I am about to take a journey that is thousands of miles, and this somewhat upbeat and excited manifestation reveals my thoughts on that, in an ever increasing an ever onward arrangement of utter class.

I am feeling a sense of bliss on this fine summer’s day so, I choose Impromptu No. 3 in G Major Bliss as my next go to offering. This cheer filled reverie was beautifully performed by Asberry and even had a few David Lanz moments contained within; whilst my next choice Impromptu No. 7 in A Major Clarity would for me be the backdrop of sound that would express my mood on completing my philosophy course, the piece has a sense of knowledge found, a further confidence that was located deep within, and yes a true sagacity and clarity, even though the length of this piece was just 1 minute and 43 seconds it spoke volumes for me.

So with that being said I truly believe that Pam Asberry has taken on a new project here that is quite revealing, it shows without doubt the vast progression she has made in the genre and within the music business as a whole, the utter confidence of her subject matter and of her overall performance was incredibly impressive, and I can see this album, 24 Impromptus, becoming a timeless hit with the listener, one that perhaps over the decades they will always turn to in times of confirmation or reflection.

24 Impromptus by Pam Asberry is an album that is akin a recipe of moods and feelings created within a technical piano based format, and it really does work beautifully, perhaps Asberry has found the magic key here to an ageless compilation of craft fully played chromatic piano pieces, it certainly seems to be so, and thus I predict a very big hit is on the cards for one of the most fluent of pianists on the globe today. 


Quest for the Runestone By David Arkenstone

 


Quest for the Runestone

By

David Arkenstone

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

There are albums nestled within each of our collections, those of us old enough to have known CD’s will know this to be true, those who are aged in time to remember actual vinyl albums with real art work will remember this feeling with a reflective lump in the throat, we remember those albums that once took pride and place on the top shelf, with easy access, that had worn covers from constant use and much love, and after listening to Quest for the Runestone by David Arkenstone today I know that this amazing release would have been one of them, perhaps this is the Holy Grail of instrumental albums?

The opening of our journey starts with the track Prophecy, now I usually like to create my own story, trace my trail through the musical narrative that manifests within my mind, but on this review that would be rather disingenuous as it already comes with a 48 page booklet of a tale so fascinating, one that I believe that you should read in your own time after purchasing it, and have your own immersive experience.

We shall clasp firmly to the hand of musical endeavours that this multi-talented, multi Grammy Award Nominated composer has brought upon this stage of musical plenitude. Prophecy itself is an opener that is grand and majestic, its kingly vibrations roll down the hillsides of tonal delight with a passionate power and an intensity that only David Arkenstone could provide us with.

The Soothsayer Speaks will take you to an even higher level of excitement, and also may well remind some of the works of Blackmore’s Night in its musical context. The vocalisations here were simply breath taking and reminded me of the series The Witcher. The vocals on this album were gifted to the project by Clara Sorace and Giulia Colantonio, and what a powerful force could be found here within this driving and all-consuming offering.

Quest for the Runestone is a 12 track album of great quality and precession; it also shows the love that Arkenstone has for Celtic and Nordic traditional music. On this specific track we can both feel and hear that to be true and called Ancient Magic Awakens. Within this piece one of the most delicate yet growing flute performances can be found and a progressive and all empowering percussion that drives the narrative home with utter power.

Réann is a wonderfully heart felt offering that contains the magical Uilleann pipes of Eric Rigler, I first heard these being used on an album some 25 years ago and that haunting feeling of mist filled days on the green hills and meadows never left me. The orchestration here is sublime and would fit into a Lord of the Rings style movie with ease, and in my view is one of the finest tracks off the album.

The next piece, Eyes Of Skata, had me travelling back in time to 2016 and Arkenstone’s Fairy Garden album, a release with much beauty contained within, here that same fluency and smoothness could be found, the strings within were akin to the very vibrations of the land itself, and the vocals, a reminder that we are still travelling along our musical path on this ever onward composition of wonderment.

The deeper realms of mystery now unfold upon us, could these be blown by the magical winds of time itself, here on this craft-fully created opus we are gifted a performance that is so stirring, yet delicate at the same time, one literally waits for something to manifest on the piece called Oceans Of Ice, yet the tone and timbre of this wondrous musical revelation are well contained, held within the minds of the master composer, to build a story so compelling that it drives us on further.

We now arrive at the midway point of the album and once there we find one of the most remarkable offerings on the album called Path of the Mountain's Bones. Bathed in Celtic nuances this is a track that will raise the energies and uplift the intensity of the moment in such a powerful yet fluent way. We can pay homage to a multitude of musicians here, but the artists imposing and exciting percussion reigns supreme, along with the legendary vocals of Clara Sorace reminding me so much of Sophia Brown’s performance on We are The Black Rose from the Witcher “Blood Origin”.

So deeper we go and as we do so, we find a true gem now called Stars Without Light, by some contrast we are gifted an almost ethereal arrangement, with angelic like vocalisations and a very careful early compositional structure, the traditional Arkenstone build and progression is here, but in a way that manifests even more musical flavour to enjoy, the juxtaposition of keyboards and strings made this one for me a very compelling composition indeed.

The Arbos Stirs, and as it does a numinous realm if forever opened, this reminds me of Arkenstone’s earlier works on his Music Inspired By Middle Earth albums, overall the masters creational structures are sublime. David Arkenstone is in my view one of, if not the finest multi-instrumentalist around.  This very track is an exercise in build and progression, one that all budding musicians could learn from, and all listeners simply marvel at.

The weave of our musical carpet is vast and we have shifted course now to a knot of tonal delight entitled Inscriptions. There is an outer worldly and kindly mystique to this piece that is so appealing, the arrangement is carefully depicted and manifested with utter perfection. The deep guttural male vocalisations are scene setters on their own, but the transcendent strings sections doubly so.

Those darker waters have been found, from the foothills of ancient energies to the shadow of the grey monolithic mountains of musical genius, Secrets Of The Runestone is also a piece that is as vigorous as it is glorious, here is a stylish composition packed full of dynamics and splendid crescendos, and as such a film score waiting to happen.

Our journey concludes with the reflective and symphonic Keeper Of The Flame. A respectful and magnificent creation that has a sense of regal and ceremonial ambience about its construction, the slow build and character of this song is simply breath taking, and as such Arkenstone has once more produced a striking and colourful offering that could grace any fantasy movie.

Quest for the Runestone by David Arkenstone has to be the artist’s best work to date, how can it not be, it contains a lush list of luminaries that deserve a mention in Luanne Homzy on violin, Hardanger fiddle, the aforementioned Eric Rigler with his Uilleann pipes, Kimberly Zaleski on flute, piccolo and bass flute, Carlyn Kessler on cello, Clara Sorace and her stunning vocals, Sergio González Prats on hurdy gurdy, Dov on violin, viola and the vocals of Giulia Colantonio. Please when you buy this album and I know you will have the sense to do so, please take some time and read of the booklet inside created by Dashiell Han Arkenstone, it will complete your experience.

Quest for the Runestone by David Arkenstone is a soundtrack masterwork that takes the listener on a journey so vast and all-encompassing it is utterly breath taking, it is an emotionally charged ride over the hills and valleys of stunning neo classical empowered arrangements that the listener will never ever forget, in my view Arkenstone has produced an album of a life time here on Quest for the Runestone.

Quest for the Runestone releases 1st July 2024.


Friday, May 31, 2024

Beautiful One by David Lanz & Kristin Amarie

 


Beautiful One ft Cameron Stone

By

David Lanz & Kristin Amarie

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The sensual realities of a new David Lanz single is something to always be in awe of, it’s a thing that gives one great expectations, it’s a gift so vast and all encompassing. Musically Lanz has to be the finest artiste of his multiple genres, and when teamed with his wife Kristin Amarie they have quickly become two of the super powers of the neo-classical category.

On this brand new single entitled Beautiful One, they have brought into the fold a cellist of supreme ability, in Game of Thrones Cellist Cameron Stone, a cello is a mournful and reflective instrument, so combine that with the piano of David Lanz, and the air will crackle with mystical expectation as magic is made.

The moodiness and powerful textures of this amazing creation will bring a tear of emotive passion to the eyes of any listener; it will bring a sigh of unadulterated pleasure from the heart of any music purist, and offer a warm hug to those who miss the tone and timbre of a truly magnificent musical performances.

Beautiful One ft Cameron Stone by David Lanz & Kristin Amarie is most certainly a song that utterly deserves its title; it is an arrangement of utter beauty, its compositional structures have been birthed by the creative and sensitive endeavours of a partnership that is so very musically aware of every subtle nuance required to manifest something of such a high and breath taking quality, and as such this new single deserves all the plaudits it most certainly will get, winter may not yet be coming, but a huge hit most surely is!


The Blue Horizon: Suite #2 - The Experience By Richard Goldsworthy

 


The Blue Horizon: Suite #2 - The Experience

By

Richard Goldsworthy

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

I have enjoyed these moments of solitude within the realms of a Richard Goldsworthy piano, for me his music is a timeless reverie of peace, tranquillity and reflective calm, and on this new album we will explore a 6 track release that is as beautiful as a coastal sunset in autumn, and called The Blue Horizon: Suite #2 - The Experience.

Goldsworthy has a sensitivity that few can find on the piano; he manifests ambient structures and breathes life into each pictorial composition, on the opening offering The Experience, this is achieved wondrously with a truly emotive resonance, I could literally feel this piece float towards my reflective senses; I could picture myself down on our coast, and being eternally grateful for the view experienced.

I have been critical of short form piano narratives lately, but those who have come under my musical judicious analysis produce nothing more than compositions that are simply soulless and void of any beauty, here on this album, most of the tracks are in the shorter style, but thankfully many are over three minutes, and I must state that every one of them is a picture of the most perfectly stunning piano you are ever likely to listen to, this is the apex of ambient piano, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Tracks like The Endlessness of Starlight and Finding Home bring a warmth and a compassionate touch into the proceedings; they bring a scene of impressive eye catching vistas, a plethora of heart-warming melodies in such a dazzling and spectacular way, for me personally this is what solo piano compositions should be all about.

On offerings like The Spaces Within we have a delicious narrative that is exploratory and intriguing, this piece had me replaying it over three times, if nothing else to catch all the nuances and tonal structures that I found so very appealing, whilst Your Tenderness, released as single earlier on this year, is still as beautiful now as it was on its initial birth.

The concluding track is the breath taking opus of Spoken Without Words, the gentle soothing performance by the artist gives us the perfect round up offering, a composition that exudes sincerity and kind-heartedness with each passing phrase and measure, its fading coda the sublime finale of crafted mastery.

The Blue Horizon: Suite #2 - The Experience by Richard Goldsworthy is an album to be treasured; it is a compilation of classy compositions to be loved for eternity, a go to album when you need reassurance that all will be well and that all is as it should be.

Goldsworthy’s performances as a pianist on this album are some of the best I have heard for years; simply put, in my view this album is the breath of fresh air and utter beauty that the genre of solo piano music desperately needed and a must buy at all costs release.  


Close to Home By Ryan Judd

 


Close to Home

By

Ryan Judd

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The soft palate of a guitar arrangement is one of the most creative and a blissful expression of music and as such the following artist in Ryan Judd is fast becoming known as one of the greats with regard to ambient meditative acoustic guitar music. Ryan has a new album to place on our table of tranquillity, it’s called Close to Home and this is the musical road we must travel on today.

This entire 11 track album is peace personified, if anyone told me about the stress in their lives and asked me if I was aware of any music that would help calm their furrowed brow, without hesitation I would point to Close To Home, just listen to the opening track called Holding This Moment as an example of serene perfection.

The previous track was indeed a single from last year as is this one too and called Dawn’s First Breath, please note the gentleness of performance and the quietening synth pad in the background, both not only redolent of the subject matter, but also of a meditative quality that is utterly sublime.

Close To Home is of course the title track and an original first time offering, I found the musical narrative heart-warming and gentle in its tonal posture. This track alone is like a warm hug from a good friend and never wanting it to end.

Released earlier on this year Space to Breathe was one of, and still is a favourite single of mine, the slow careful floating vibration that comes from its soothing keyboard backdrop, to its wonderfully picked notes make this one of the top quality delights from Ryan’s catalogue.

Now we find ourselves at the mid-way point of the album and as we arrive at this juncture we come across a true gem called Letting Go. This is probably the most important thing one must do in order to be able to move on in life, especially after trauma, and Ryan’s sensitive acoustic performance for me created a reflective and emotive moment of musical delights, one that I am sure to visit many times over in the future.

Silent Horizons is another new piece to me, this has a slight classical feel to its construction, and the harmonics contained within were simply delicious. This is one of those offerings, that you could with ease just drift away to and float into a new realm of utter tranquillity with, I would also rate this as one of the more ambient arrangements from the album as well.

Back in 2023 Ryan released Alone Inside as a single, I remember it well, this composition has a certain rhythm to its progression, and still to this day one that I find most appealing. The softly, softly approach here by the artist is well crafted and leads us perfectly into the next track called A Look in the Mirror, the slight Latin motifs garnered by a single strum add layers to the composition, creating a well of honesty in a piece that is deeply thought provoking and real.

We have now arrived at the penultimate offering of the album and this last but one song is called Radiant Gratitude, the elevated synth and keyboard backdrop here makes a soothing pastiche of colours and textures, and would turn out to be one of my favourites from the release, whilst the final parting gift and the concluding track in Precious Moments presents us eager listeners another former single to end the album with, it’s almost lullaby styled manifestation is idyllic and a perfect piece to part ways with this most beautiful of releases with.

Close to Home by Ryan Judd in my view is a musical panacea to cure all ills, its meditative qualities make this voyage of tone and splendour a cathartic journey for us all to travel on, there can be no doubt that Judd must be regarded as one of the finest ambient acoustic guitarists around today, and as such I firmly believe that Close to Home will seal the deal for many, and make this album a deserved huge hit for the artist.


Thursday, May 30, 2024

Koto Banjai By Fred Grenot

 


Koto Banjai

By

Fred Grenot

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Fred Grenot in a short time has become known as one of the finest New Age instrumentalists of his kind, I personally have much respect for him; his travels and his progression in all things and here in the realm of music are remarkable, as he excels once more with this his latest single Koto Banjai.

It’s been quite a journey for Fred, and this new song is I believe a seminal moment in his career, a time when the gears shift upwards and onwards to ever wondrous heights of musical excellence yet to come.

This new release also marks for us the first time we have ever heard the singing voice of Fred Grenot, and one must say what a good voice that is too. This new composition contains an eastern flavour of multi-instrumental meditative and contemplative energies, it flows so beautifully with organic instrumentation and natural sounds of peace and tranquillity, perhaps to emphasise the message in the song, of a oneness for all, of a peace that is just a heartbeat away.

Koto Banjai by Fred Grenot is one very beautiful song; it is I believe his most sincere and most loving composition as of yet, and in my view this matches perfectly his instrumental works of great healing and calm, and I thoroughly believe that this new single can be a whole new launching point for the artist and one creation that you must at all costs have in your collections.


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Time Traveler By 2002

 


Time Traveler

By

2002

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

There are some things in life that are inherently beautiful, their fundamental exquisiteness radiates across a vast landscape of tone and timbre, this is then known as a new 2002 album release, I kid you not, this voyage of musical plenitude is some of the finest work that the band have ever created, and in my opinion easily the most ambient.

Time Traveler is a 10 track collection of breath taking compositions, all lovingly created by the Copus family known as 2002. The very initial stages of this utterly sublime album are totally classic 2002, with its lush melodies and its colourful string sections, a tip of the hat there to stalwart James Song on violin. This opening song called The Morning Breeze could be from any era that the band has evolved through, and it’s a great place for us as listeners to start.

However when we arrive at Falling Stars we find a composition that has a delicacy all of its own, the harp and piano here are particularly effective at delivering a tasteful sense of bliss and happiness. The uplifting arrangements and segments add a gentle energy into the overall proceedings.

There is a now a moment of reflection that is so poignant and called Seasons Fade. I find this to be so more in the late autumn or late summer, when the changes bring an alteration of moods and musings. Sarah Copus has matured into becoming a fine musician on her own right, and here on the piano she composes something so moving and textured.

At times one can behold a piece of music, and name it as a transcendent creation that was almost outer worldly to listen to, Love Of My Life would be one track I would point to straight away, please take time to listen to a memory filled cello, played by the amazing Dan Totan on this piece, a delicate flute from Pamela Copus and the flowing tonal structures that drift across our musical horizon like a mist in late summer, the ethereal harmonisations are simply divine and unequalled.

So here we are, we have arrived at the way marker named the title track, and as such Time Traveler is a quality place with which to rest for a while. The opening of the track creates a somewhat mystical scene, a crossroads where time coalesces into a dimension of infinite possibilities. Time Traveler is probably one of the most ambient creations I think I have heard from the band in some years, but one that manifests something so intoxicatingly beautiful and attractive, that it is flawless in its overall arrangement.

As we step into the latter half of the album we have a question to be answered, is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, and with this next composition called The End Of The Journey it’s up to you to decide,. This is 2002 at their best, perfectly time crescendo’s, melodies from heaven, and a soft palate of sound that is literally both healing and serenely comforting, all topped off with Pamela Copus on an albisiphone.

Beyond the Veil truly does what it says on the can, here lays a journey of an ambient construct that manifests, builds and drifts back in time like a soft August ocean wave. Here is a lush offering that is a multi-instrumental haven of stunning flavours and tastes, one to simply bathe within and enjoy.

The Essence of a Dream is our next musical portal, Randy’s expertise on guitar comes to the fore here on a classic 2002 offering, the ethereal vocalisations drift over the lands of tomorrow, while yesterday’s echoes hover into a peace filled oblivion. Something about this track has film score written all over it; here is a piece that has a lush cinematic quality that is totally undeniable.

The penultimate piece can often be overlooked as an arrangement, at this stage the listener can be readied for the completion of the project, and if it’s done with style and grace, you have won the day, here 2002 have done that and much more on the Adrift in a Memory, the pristine production and delicacy of touch here on this composition is utter perfection, and sublime in its tranquilly harbour of tenderness and calm.

So we have finally reached the parting gift of Where You Are, we have been lulled into a bliss filled reverie thanks to the last offering, now with an hypnotic tone, supplied by the Theremin of Randy Copus, we can ride off into a fantastical dream like world of gorgeous textures and handsome tapestries of tone and vibration, with what in my view is one of the most unique conclusions of an album ever, and brilliantly done so too.

Time Traveler by 2002 is another new age classic of sublime quality, from one of the best known new age artists on the globe; year after year they give us, the ever eager listener, exactly what we ask for and what we expect, on Time Traveler they have fulfilled both our dreams and expectations in abundance. This is the album that the industry has waited patiently for in the garden of many musical colours for decades, and now it has bloomed exquisitely, and as it must now be at the top of everyone’s musical wish list right away.


Friday, May 24, 2024

Watercolor Sky By Michael Whalen

 


Watercolor Sky

By

Michael Whalen

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The enteral musical fire that is Michael Whalen burns on brightly across this compositional sky of tone and timbre, the artist is currently in full flow and his muse creates some of the most compelling music we have seen alight in the various instrumental genres across our business, today Michael gives to the world another guaranteed compilation of brilliance called Watercolor Sky, and it’s a breath-taking ride you will never want to end.

This 9 track creation contains some sublime musicianship aside of the artist himself, of which we will highlight as we travel through the Whalen realm of musical mastery. Our journey starts with something we have here in Cyprus every year, The Endless Summer, ours lasts at least 5 months and for me this soothing opener manifests a shadowy spot with which to gaze out upon the ocean with, the illustrious majesty of a Charlie Bisharat violin adds layer upon layer to this most scenic of compositions. 

We can now turn to another track with a deep meaning for us here in the offering Ode To A Perfect Sunset, each day for most days of the year we have just this, it is something to adore and be grateful for. The down tempo textures of this composition are utterly sublime and so very redolent of the subject matter; Whalen’s gentle piano is extremely respectful of the topic, whilst we can also be incredibly happy to feel the softness of this multi-instrumental delight, for me personally hearing a Will Ackerman guitar here was a guilty pleasure of great contentment.

The energy picks up for this next arrangement called The Road Not Taken, and we are off on a trek, a new direction as of yet unexplored, that is always fun, here the keyboards of Whalen emphasise this beautifully, whilst the delicious bass of Michael Manring, give us an added depth and passion, and the trumpet of one Mark Isham just seals the deal on yet another exploratory and stunning musical reverie.

It is always an exciting moment when one arrives at the title track, so here we are at the very expectant Watercolor Sky. This bright and exciting offering gifts us an opportunity to embrace a new day in conditions that are appeasing to our hopes and dreams of the hours that lay ahead. Whalen’s delicate percussive nuance adds another layer of excitement and expectation upon this vibrant title header of a composition.

So let’s take a bold step into the last half of the album, and as we do so we come across the almost regal sounding opus of Dancing in the Wind, there is a rhythmic vibrancy to this fascinating piece that makes it sound so appealing, the multi instrumental magic performed upon this offering is incredibly well crafted, and gives a certain weight and depth to the composition, one that manifests an arrangement that is deeply addictive.

Our musical perambulations now take us along the high sea wall and it is here we now gaze down upon The Flood at High Tide; this offering reminds me greatly of Kevin Kendle’s Travelling from his ebullient Summer album. The piano of Whalen here creates some of the most moving tones on the release and the combination of brass and strings added to it, make it for me my personal favourite from this book of musical magic.

Now in the early morning light we can see The First Frost, this crisp moment of nature’s brush stroke of majesty is now before us, the mournful quality here is delightful and at this point I am reminded to tip the hat and applaud Whalen’s inclusion of both Nancy Rumble and Mark Isham on this fine album, I always think that brass instrumentation is not used anywhere nearly enough, and it adds such a moving quality to instrumental music as a whole, in the case of The First Frost doubly so.

The penultimate creation is called Golden Hour and is indeed a master class on how to manifest perfect build and progression within a composition, one so good that it becomes almost anthem like in its inevitable conclusion, this must be said about this arrangement, which of course is another personal favourite of mine too, Whalen and his collective of musical charm, manifest one of the most amazing symbiotic pieces of instrumental perfection with this stunning reverie.

We can conclude with one of my favourite things to do, walk along the beach in January, here on Winter Beach the artist includes the natural sounds of the ocean kissing the coast line, and we are literally taken there by this glorious offering, the trumpet of Isham once again the final brush stroke to this breath taking composition of utter beauty. So when the beaches are bare and there is no one around, that’s where I can be found, and more than likely doing so listening to this emotional manifestation of such style and grace.

Watercolor Sky by Michael Whalen is what any artist who dreams of creating the perfect contemporary instrumental album would be exultant to have accomplished, for me this album is the apex of the aforementioned genre, and as such Whalen must be overjoyed at end product.

Music with a story, tales told with tone, and a narrative manifested by some of the most pin point artistry can be found on Watercolor Sky, this is the album that the industry has been eager to find for ages, an absolutely must buy at all costs release is now before you.


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fragile By Jim Kimo West & David Vito Gregoli

 


Fragile

By

Jim Kimo West & David Vito Gregoli

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

Combing the talents of Jim Kimo West & David Vito Gregoli is a recipe for something magical to happen, adding to that a new version of the Sting classic Fragile doubly so. This pairing could be described as two of the finest instrumentalists around within their respective genre of instrumental music, but on this new release, they push the musical envelope and go even further, on one of the most exciting guitar based segments this year.

The Latin aspects of this new single from the pairing are simply idyllic, especially as we head into another long hot summer, but the symbiotic styles and methodology created here is utterly intoxicating, and both guitarists give there all on an incredibly passionate offering.

Jim Kimo West is a legend in the field of laid back slack key music; in fact he is a Grammy winner, matching him up with David Vito Gregoli, a sublime guitarist himself, an excellent all round multi-instrumentalist, and with ease one of the best producers of instrumental new age music on the globe, was always going to be an exciting happening.

The mixture of vibrancy textures and rhythmic flow must surely create a huge chart hit for the duet and as such make Fragile by Jim Kimo West & David Vito Gregoli a summer hit we will never ever forget.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Euphorical by LMI

 


Euphorical

by LMI

Written by

Andy Rogers

 

It’s always great when you receive a track from an artist you have never heard of, which then turns out to be something a little bit special! LMI is a new name to me, indeed I believe this is possibly their debut release.

If like me you have always loved those classic early Café Del Mar chillout albums that were released before “chillout” albums became a tired cliché, you’re going to love this single. In my opinion it would sit comfortably on one of those wonderful early Café Del Mar albums.

The chilled mood is set from the off as the track starts with a dreamy female voice layered over gentle synths before a chilled almost hip-hop rhythm is added to the mix. Drums and a guitar pattern move the track along in this chillout groove before more vocals take it up a notch. The overall feel is very much Ibiza sunset Beach Bar, it’s easy to imagine this playing as you sip a cold beer watching a Mediterranean sunset! The single fades gently after 3 minutes and ends with one last vocal sample that leaves you longing to hear more.  

This is an excellent new single and it’s really good to hear young new artists working in the field of chillout music, to produce something that acknowledges the past, while at the same time bringing something new to the genre. All in all, I love this track, hope it does well and really hope to hear more from LMI in the very near future.


When April Flowers By James Michael Stevens

 


When April Flowers

By

James Michael Stevens

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

There are few things in life that are given as a certainty, but one of them is a musical gift that keeps on giving moments of utter peace and tranquillity, that moment of course is the release of a James Michael Stevens album, his is one of a very few pianists who I could just sit and listen to with ease all day long, one can get lost in his solo piano reveries, and those moments of calm will transfigure into a tranquillity that is always flowing in abundant beauty.

The good news is that James has another new album for us to bathe in and it’s called When April Flowers, this topical set of compositions are as beautiful and full flowing as the title suggest, simply take a listen to the proud title track that opens the album, When April Flowers is a piano panacea of utter perfection.

We can then drift into the welcome arms of Softly the Petals of the Rose Fall, a track of observation and composition, the soft pastels of colour that drift with its heady scent from Stevens piano on this piece are quite intoxicating, the gentle caress of the keys is one of the pianists best attributes, and on this track specifically, it is done with great skill and style.

This album has textures to be desired, track 3 is special in that aspect, a slight minor context is drawn into a composition that is deeply touching and called Reflection in a Ripple. Steven’s soothing narrative is a total pleasure, but his added reflective nuances give us as listeners that extra dimension to embrace, this one could also be used as a theme for a movie love segment with ease too.

This next piece is one of my personal favourites; the structures that Stevens uses to manifest this offering are dreamlike and memory filled, one could easily sit atop of a lush hillside and blissfully drift away in pleasant memories shared to this piece called Forever Lavender, whilst on Among the Daffodils an almost waltz like movement can be heard, one that sways like the flowers in a warming spring breeze.

Serenade Dulce is our first footfall in the second half of the album, this charming offering is a heart-warming composition that manifests a serene mood, and the loving touch on the piano by the artist, is that final piece of the jigsaw that gives us an almost meditative reverie to completely enjoy.

Interestingly enough the shortest track off the album is up now and called Silent Highway, in just 139 seconds James Michael Steven’s creates a piece that is both mysterious and compelling, you are alone on the Silent Highway perhaps heading for a town not marked on any map, and this music is the soundtrack for that very event.

We step into the deeper waters of the release now with the track Serenity Sunset as our present for doing so, a delicate but pronounced arrangement is here to greet us, and its confidence is a pleasure to be close to. Steven’s careful progression through this composition is well worth a listen to, there are many nuances to behold and enjoy.

The penultimate offering from the album is called Elegy at Dusk; its sombre refrains are deeply touching. This is a truly beautiful and emotive composition; there is an alternating element of reflectiveness and of compassion built within the weave of this track that is so very moving.

So we arrive at the last piece off the release, this concluding composition is entitled Dreaming 'neath the Moonlight. In full piano bar mode Steven’s delivers his final parting gift with such warmth and tenderness, and thus manufactures easily the most romantic offering from the album.

When April Flowers by James Michael Stevens is another album in a long line of brilliant releases from the artist, if you are new to the solo piano genre, then purchasing a copy of this album will be the best thing you will ever do, it is stunningly beautiful, at times deeply moving, and always lovingly performed, a more soothing solo piano narrative you would not find. 


Friday, May 17, 2024

Montauk to Mexico By Shambhu and Jeff Oster

 


Montauk to Mexico

By

Shambhu and Jeff Oster

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

This new single by two of the premiere instrumental artists in the new age genre is a true panacea to cure all ills. Shambhu and Jeff Oster combine their skill sets and come up with a stunning new release called Montauk to Mexico, a truly beautiful creation of calm and soul.

Many images of travelling can be drawn upon from this new offering, the sweet tones of Shambhu’s acoustic guitar are matched perfectly by the chilled refrain of Oster’s Flugel Horn, the tale of a long journey of magical grace can be drawn from the picturesque musical narrative created here by this amazing duet of top class musicians.

There are many sublime instrumental singles around at the moment, but I have to be honest, this is one of the best and indeed one of the smoothest creations I have had the pleasure to listen to for absolutely years. There is a sumptuous delicacy about Shambhu’s guitar presentation that makes one tingle; those delicious minor structures are a delight, and Oster’s horn is the mana that would even pacify the Gods of Olympus.

Montauk to Mexico by Shambhu and Jeff Oster is a remarkable composition, and a single that any serious instrumental fusion fan should have in their personal collections at all costs and as such this I believe should sail up the charts on the winds of harmonious tone and vibration.


Just Be By Liz Fawcett

 


Just Be

By

Liz Fawcett

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

A new name to me, but one that I will certainly remember in Liz Fawcett, she has a new single out called Just Be and it is possibly the breath of fresh air this genre needed right now. Fawcett’s vocals caress the subject matter and deliver a pitch perfect reverie to thoroughly enjoy.

Just Be is a powerful message, an insightful song of advice we should all take, when all gets too much to bear, just let it go, drop the baggage and, just be! Here on this stunning new song the voice of Liz is the panacea to smooth the ride, the climatic percussion and onward drive to an inevitable crescendo is so very well done, it is no wonder that the new age pop genre is now a thriving entity.

Very empowering songs are making their way through and past the banality of modern day pop music now; this is most certainly one of them, and what the artist has created here will have longevity throughout the years, and a reflective essence to the composition that will quickly become a fan favourite with many listeners across the globe.

Just Be by Liz Fawcett has an edge to it that will see it attain greatness and its plaudits will be well deserved, it’s a song that should take flight into the higher echelons of the charts and remain in the hearts and minds of the willing listener as they begin to let go and, Just Be.


Thursday, May 16, 2024

New Beginnings By Keith Fiala

 


New Beginnings

By

Keith Fiala

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The smooth refrains of a smooth Jazz album float over my senses and bath my mind with a soothing pastiche of a great vibrancy of colours, textures and rhythms, and I am glad to say that has all been provided by one of the finest trumpet performers in the business in Keith Fiela, and his brand new album New Beginnings.

This is first full album of his own work and it is stunning, a light funky beat can be found on tracks like Hollywood & Vine and Cityscape, both tracks so very redolent of the subject matter and Fiala’s bliss filled trumpet stands supreme on both very sweet offerings, it’s like a monolith of brilliance in a Jazz filled sky of utter quality.

Fiala’s album is packed with sumptuous classy pieces, oozing luxurious textures and tones, just listen to songs like the latest single on She's So Sweet, a rhythmic pastiche of a light funky nature with some purely pristine percussion contained within, and then with a sublime wave of the brass instrument of opulence, we are gifted a welcome moment in a thunderstorm as we walk on the musical road called How Long Can I Wait, the repeating motifs and Fila’s subtle trumpet manifests something very special here indeed.

This is street wise jazz, bathed in the musical bath tub of magnificent vibrational melodies and stylish compositional structures, take in the magic of pieces like Beyond Infinity, a soul driven piece that reminded me of the Isley Brothers when it first opened, but dropped into a fluency so tranquil and cadenced, it is a simple delicacy that is undeniable.

Hats off must go to his band of musical merry men with sterling efforts of grandeur by Johnny Friday on drums, bass from both Tyler Honsel and Lannie Hilboldt, keyboardists Jamie Hilboldt and Arturo Sandoval, and also Dr. Ben Irom, whilst concluding the album we can also give praise to guitarists Marc Lionetti and Ken Berr, who are simply amazing.

The final offering Wits End, has a symbiotic merging of a multi-instrumental nature that is the finest I have heard on any album for many years, it’s a track that crosses genres, and ticks every single musical box along the way, and is utterly delicious whilst doing it

The artist states that this album took 4 years of incredibly hard work and dedication to bring together, and I for one say, Keith it was most certainly worth it brother, New Beginnings is not only a good place to start, it is a superb album, and without doubt the most chilled and fluent compilation of 10 jazz tracks in one place you are ever likely to hear. 


Send Love to Everyone (Heal the Divide) By The Song Gardeners

 


Send Love to Everyone (Heal the Divide)

By

The Song Gardeners

Written by

Steve Sheppard

 

The Song Gardeners are a prolific band; some may call their music new age, some new age pop, personally I think they are one of the most inventive and artistic bands around in both of those genres, and with this new single Send Love to Everyone (Heal the Divide), they have trod a path that could well take some of us back to the 60’s.

In a world riddled with war, fear, miss information and ignorance, we need an anthem, and I truly believe that this maybe it, as always on this planet it’s a minority that are spoiling the fruits and glory of life for the majority of us, so yes, lets drop the baggage and send love to everyone.

This new single therefore should be a universal panacea to bring a global truism to Gaia, the flow and energy of the song takes us back to the hippy era with some sublime musicianship, and is the closest that The Song Gardeners have thus far got towards a rock song.

Quality performances can be heard on this mantra of peace and love by Zach Gospe (Mary’s Son) with sublime harmonic vocals; Mike Gospe (Mary’s Husband) on Mandolin, James Butler in the rhythm section, and the guitar from David Scheibner was simply lush and so redolent of the subject matter, and the inter changeable magic that both Gospe and Dunn bring to the table on vocals is of the highest order.

I am totally enamoured with this track and I’m going to play the socks off of it, perhaps we need to hire The Song Gardeners to start a global like event in the same way Geldof did with Band Aid, I’d put my hand up right away to sing on the song, and I am sure Chrissie would too, so please make sure you add this song to a playlist of your choice, better still go online and buy it, it is truly awesome, so make Send Love to Everyone (Heal the Divide) by The Song Gardeners a massive global sensation, it certainly deserves it, and the world needs it now more than ever, this creation needs to be a viral sensation today!