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All the Days of My Life: The Wedding Album by Vicente Avella
- posted by Steve Sheppard, One World Music on 4/4/2014
A Fresh Romantic Album
It’s been a while since I have reviewed an album to do with Wedding’s, in fact back to Stuart Jones release “Loves Dream” way back in 1996, that album at the time was as light and as fresh as this one is today.
Avella treats us to a light and at times emotional performance with the Johann Sebastian Bach classic Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, there is something a little extra about the way Avella plays this, it has an almost haunting quality about it, a sense of remembrance, the careful and light style, make this rendition a rather special start to an album filled with sparkling tracks, for that day, that those of us who are married will remember forever.
As many of you may know, I got married for the second time this June, so this as a subject matter that is still close to my heart, when you get it right, that union, that bonding of two who make a lifelong commitment is a very deeply special one. I remember seeing Chrissie on our wedding day and she looked amazing, Dressed In White has it all for that moment, it has that tinge of emotion, that lump in your throat feel and that happiness that reverberates across the universe that shouts, how lucky am I to be marrying this woman and like this track, she is and was beautiful, Dressed In White, track two off the album. This is a composition that transcends both light and dark in the myriad emotional whirlpool of marriage.
Romance (Cannon in D), this was one of my favourite compositions off the album, I love Pachelbel anyway, but here Avella seems to go above and beyond even that and there is so much in this track I found myself at times expecting it to burst towards Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters and The Hollies “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My brother”. This is a very cleverly played piece and Avella should be applauded for bringing us so much in the five plus minutes of this composition.
Track four and that heart in mouth time that most brides and grooms go through, The Bridal March. Here and once again Vicente Avella, places his own stamp upon this well know composition which of course can be taken back to Felix Mendelssohn and the year of 1842.
Here the artist brings his own fresh interpretation upon this work; there is a musical heart flutter within the latter part of this piece and a pause that makes this well known masterpiece become much more personal for the listener.
I remember hearing and reading about the Ode To Joy many years ago, but here Avella has once more made something amazing happen to almost time stamp his signature into the annals of time. I am sure that somewhere Beethoven is looking through the mists of time and smiling! This also for me has the feeling of travelling, the melody and pace gives us, the constant listener and reader a sense of perhaps a new journey through life?
All The Days Of My Life is a track that I eagerly awaited to hear, for one there is something about the title and yes I am one of those people who still think titles are important, for me they reflect the possible emotions of the person writing the music and give us a little insight into what might be coming next. Here the artist does not let us down, but a soft and gentle start leads us, hand in hand along the path of the life. I liked the light passages, a kindly reminder of where we have come from and the more assertive playing brings us to the now. This composition I found myself singing a lyric, it is one of those rare pieces of music that I think I could actually write a song to. You can imagine a couple sharing a moment here within this piece, which is an opportunity of reflection, consideration and contemplation.
After a brief and well played Romance Reprise by Vicente Avella, we are then given a real peach of a track called The One I love, this is heartfelt piece written with real intent and after a few listens I think it could easily be used as a composition for a television series, there once more is so much to this piece, it left me amazed at the depth of composition in this album and especially within this very track. I must confess this was one of my favourite tracks off the album; I especially love the mysterious ending, very ingenious.
Ave Maria is as you would imagine a beautiful arrangement; there is a certain essence of this piece being a moment that the newly married couple can walk hand in hand across the beach together, or caress each other by a warming log fire. This is a classical piece of rare beauty in a world tarnished by a monotonous so-called popular culture.
I liked the feeling this track gave me, personally it lifted my spirits, and mind you this composition over the years has caused much speculation as to whom originally wrote it, but that can for this album all be cast aside as Vicente Avella produces one of the finest renditions of this beautiful piece of all time, what a superb arrangement!
Spring, this is a track that signifies a journey for me, a voyage into a new spring day, new beginnings, fresh starts and a new life, here the artist literally transports us into a world full of hope and love, when we are strong as two and stronger as the one. This is a light and cheerful piece that is well played with compassion and care by Avella. This is the longest track on the album at 6:51 and illustrates just why Vicente Avella is one to watch, take your time with this piece and enjoy.
Wedding March, is the last track of the album, it is also a wonderful way to round off a very well played album. It is no wonder that Avella has had some very magnificent reviews of this album and his plaudits are from wide and afar. Now I don’t read other reviews before writing my own, but it seems I am in good company with Will Ackerman when he says that this album “utterly avoids cliché” absolutely correct and after listening to All The Days Of My Life I am left in no doubt what so ever, that this is the most original and fresh construction of an album in this genre, the man just has to be just like me, a romantic till his dying day, well done Vicente Avella, this is just the shot in the arm we all needed.
Rating: Excellent
Before the Rain by Zachary Bruno
- posted by Steve Sheppard, One World Music on 4/4/2014
A positive starting place for Zachary Bruno
A new and fresh talent has arrived onto the scene of the solo piano genre, his name is Zachary Bruno and the album is a breath of fresh air now known as, Before the Rain. This album is composed and performed at the time of writing, by a young and energetic eighteen year old Canadian musician who has clearly got the head and mind of one much older upon his shoulders.
Take the opening piece for example and rightly so, it’s the title track Before The Rain, a powerful and scaled to perfection composition that really gives you an essence of the subject matter and by some coincidence, I am sitting here in the One World Music studios composing this review, whilst we are waiting for rain. Bruno has captured the mood perfectly; the wind now blows harshly through the fading summer trees and the energy builds while we stand before the rain in anticipation.
Faith Remembers has a beautifully slow start to it, this is one thing I have enjoyed about Bruno’s work, at such a young age, he is beginning to master the change in pace perfectly and the subtle mood alterations. This composition is a very good place to start, with a slightly sombre opening, it moves into an almost classical phase and personally, I love the way the musician uses a little more force now and then and let’s go, almost teasing you into this wonderful piece and after a few listens, this is one of several compositions from the album I would recommend.
Another melody has been created that will eat into your mind and sit there knocking on your brain and beg to be played again, Distant Echoes is indeed one of those tracks and I have already found myself humming it on a short trip to the kitchen! Delightful in a way that you could imagine sitting upon a vast hillside and allowing the music to carry you over the valleys below, this is a very well crafted piece and flows to its own tune.
After several spins of this album I found a favourite that I just can’t leave alone, it’s the track Migration. Interesting that I have found this album at this time of year in autumn, as things change, nature changes and birds begin to take to the wind and move to the warmer climes of the south. Bruno starts this piece at a very slow pace, as if we are experiencing the last flock of birds leaving for the winter and by the end the pace has altered until all that is left is a faint and distant memory, as the migration is completed. Migration is a very cleverly played track; listen at just over two minutes for the very subtle but definite adjustment within the composition.
We now move constant reader, to a well played and compassionate piece called Helping a Friend, now this seems to resonate as a very personal composition for the artist and as such you can almost hear the theme taking place and it feels as if Bruno is telling a story in two parts by the very structure of this track, it has a narrative and also a conflict and resolution melody within its arrangement.
Autumn Leaves actually surprised me, I was expecting a very sombre and melodic construction, but we actually get much more than that, in what is the shortest piece on the album. The best way to describe this composition to you dear reader, is to imagine autumn leaves falling from a tree and then watching the wind catch them and carry them away. At times I am reminded of the great work of Chopin whilst listening to Bruno and the thought of a very long and magical career could well be ahead for this young man, yes this is one that I will certainly keep an eye on over the next few years.
New Paths signal that we are in the second half of what is a very well performed release by Zachary Bruno. This for me is a gentle repose into nature, as I found myself drifting down country lanes and through forest walks whist listening to this piece. Some very light playing sees this formation of a melody, winding a fresh and new direction for us to go on, perhaps for the artist as well? It slows down to perfection at the end and leaves us with a feeling of quiet satisfaction.
Now here is one that particularly struck me as an interesting composition, some very well constructed and stylish performing here, this track is entitled Forest Breeze and has a little mood added to the recipe of this piece. Indeed listen carefully and you will also perhaps find through the playing, that the music seems to echo through the very forests themselves. This is a captivating piece that I will defiantly be playing again, very meditative as well.
Dancing in the Rain is the longest track from what has not only been a refreshing album to both review and listen to, but also one of the most mixed and inventive releases I have heard for some time, Bruno has dared to be different and this track really emphasises that brilliantly.
Dancing in the rain has a real mix of passion, confidence, a subtle hint of mood and I think that this piece could be the composition that is a benchmark for his future work; it has everything within it to make it a fans favourite and once more there is a great narrative structure within both his style and the song, one can literally feel like you could dance in the rain to this piece.
I must admit that as a British born writer I had to look up Sonoran and seek out its location and thankfully it is somewhere that is on my bucket list of places to go. For now, I have my desk top filled with pictures of this Desert that borders Mexico and the US. Apart from that I think you will be impressed by the melody here and I believe that if Stephen King does at last get the much desired Dark Tower movie released, this music would be ideal for a desert sunset scene within it. Sonoran Sunset is a very melodic and beautiful track that will remain in your mind’s eye for ages and will no doubt now inspire many to go out and buy this album so they can try playing the track, as the sun disappears from the sky.
So to the penultimate track of the album and we can listen together to a soothing piece called Midnight Sky. This is a track that does what it says on the can and this beautifully played composition has a way of drifting in and out, but always taking you with it. Zachary Bruno is a well crafted composer and this very excellent performance on this piece will prove that completely.
So my dear constant readers, it’s time for the last track of the album. This week I have seen quite a few songs with the label of First Light, not many catch that most delightful moment in the way they should, but here Bruno has done so with a careful and almost respectful style, this is a brilliant way to end a very good debut album.
Before the Rain is a positive starting place for Zachary Bruno to begin what is obviously going to be a long and very lucrative career, this release is something most defiantly to be proud of and also one to look back upon over the years, as the moment when his noticeable talent began to blossom. If you’re a fan of the solo piano genre, this is going to be a must buy release, if you are just dipping your toes into this style of music, you would have no better pond to slip into and bathe yourself with, than that of Before the Rain, which is a varied, inventive and a most refreshing work of art indeed.
Rating: Excellent
Call of the Mountains by Masako
- posted by Steve Sheppard, One World Music on 4/4/2014
Call of the Mountains is an album that will move y
I had the pleasure of listening to the work of Masako, when last year she released her debut album called, Masako. She is a beautiful composer of depth and colour and brings a much needed extra something to the very swollen ranks of solo piano genre.
“Call of the Mountain” as a follow up had a lot to live up to after her debut, but to start it with the pictorial piece “Dawn” a real album opener of such beauty and reverence was a sublime decision and then to almost burst into the composition Kindness From Strangers was even more inspired, this too is a track full of majesty and grace and at times when listening to Masako you could almost picture an angel caressing the keys.
Masako has a style all of her own that at times seems regal, at moments angelic and at other periods, just radiates a feeling of total exquisiteness. Just listen to the track Bigfoot Forest for an example of her genius, this is a composition filled with suspense and mystery and a little melancholy thrown in for good measure, this is a piece that will literally take you on a hand in hand journey through the woods and who knows, you may see a squatch, but the BFO are nowhere to be seen!
Now for something completely different, Masako firmly enters the New Age music genre with her piece “Watching The Clouds” a delicate song filled with percussion and a repetitive piano piece with some very adept percussion to sooth us along on this path of pure peace, Masako is joined by none other than Premik Russell Tubbs on Wind Synthesizer and the man himself Will Ackerman on guitar, the steady beat of floating percussion is by courtesy of the very classy and stylish Jeff Haynes, who for me personally made this track.
Want something special? Then the track A Highland Tale is your piece, this is a very powerful track, while the piece itself is quite short, there is a certain dominance within this composition that demands to be listened to. I have heard something similar way back in the 1970’s from Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Keith Emerson, on the album Tarkus and it still works beautifully.
Talking about beautiful, try listening to the stunning refrains of Reflections, one could easily picture a mirrored pool in a clearing, perhaps in Bigfoot Forest, try giving yourself to this song, it is a tale of outstanding beauty, this is a composition of utter magnificence, I actually found this piece the most emotional to listen to from the album and found it provoked some interesting moments of reflection from me whilst listening to it.
The Day of Crossing the Hudson is glorious; Ackerman has produced a total gem of an album here and this composition is one of the many that stands out from the release, but while this piece has a light feel about it, there is also an undertone of depth within the track as well. Much can also be said for the following composition called Mountain Trolley Remembered, this is a song that once more makes us reflect, the style of this the shortest piece on the album is in ultra reflective mode.
There is nothing wrong with a little indulgence from time to time and as such dear constant reader, I would ask you to indulge yourself within this composition called quite aptly, Purple Indulgence. Using the very talented Eugene Friesen on Cello, Masako commits herself entirely to one of my favourite pieces off the album. In a way it took me back too many years to admit, to a piece I used to adore, a flip side by Neil Sedaka called Lightning Ride, whilst the speed is different, the progression of the music has a similar element in it for me, and I can see myself playing this one on many shows to come.
Wildflowers as a track name is going to say it all, but don’t take this piece for granted, this is a gentle, beautiful and respectful repose into nature, a piece that really gives us time to breath in what has been a breath taking album so far. The scene is set, the solo piano player is engaged, now let’s see if you can just relax and enjoy the pictorial pleasure created by the Masako.
Blue Blaze is a track in almost two different dimensions, it has a carefree sense about it, but also then jumps into a state of tension and even mystery, it is as if the artist is telling a tale through the composition and Blue Blaze certainly has a real narrative about it, a narrative that finishes abruptly with a sense of relief on the last note.
Once more Masako slips into reflective mode within the track Precious and this one could easily see her sitting by a window in the studio, just gently stroking the keys whilst watching the sunset on what has been a glorious day and within this piece we can feel a certain reflective respect coming through, this is a composition of gratitude and respect, with a tiny hint perhaps of regret?
The Other side of Tristesse sees the longest piece on the album and combines many talents on what will become a classic piece to revere in years to come; now this is musical creativity at its best. Masako out does herself on this composition that really takes the listener on a journey through a myriad of emotions and dimensions, this almost felt like a spiritual musical jam session, with all the artists just hitting a total symbiosis of creative genius in a track that grew and grew. There is some stunning guitar work on here from Ackerman, who is joined by Jeff Haynes on percussion and an angelic vocal from Noah Wilding sealed the deal for this outstanding track.
Well dear constant reader, the night is falling once more and out of my studio window, this winter continues on unabated, but to ease that lethargy at least I have the track Smoky Rain, now rain is something we in the UK know a lot about and most of us are born with flippers and gills, but this is one of those tracks that really does what it says on the can, it’s a rain piece! So enjoy it, just be a big kid, run out into it and listen to this track while doing so and you will see it’s the soundtrack to your endeavours.
The penultimate composition to this incredible album is called Mt Kathdin. This is located in the or more accurately on the Appalachian Trail. Now I have only ever seen this place from the air, but who knows one day I may venture up into the hills and if I do, I shall remember to take this album and this very track with me on my journey, it is an idyllic piece filled full of beautiful moments of musical magic and a piece that really emphasises Masako’s class a pianist.
So dear reader and listener, our sojourn in the world of Masako’s “Call of the Mountains” is about to be completed with a track called “Lullaby for the Hills”. Hill walking is my favourite pastime, it brings me freedom, it brings me liberation and most of all it brings me peace. Masako has created a superb track to end the album with and I could easily imagine myself sitting on the hillside watching the last rays of the sunset on a day that will forever stay within my mind’s eye. Including the world’s best Flugelhorn player in Jeff Oster on this last composition was a stroke of genius.
Call of the Mountains is just what the Solo Piano genre needed; here we have an album jam packed to the top with total class and creativity, an album superbly produced by Acerkman and Eaton to such a fine level that the bar has firmly been now.
Call of the Mountains is an album that will move you, it is an album that will bring your peace, it’s an album that will liberate you and it’s is an album that I would personally recommended for you to place in your musical collection, for here we you will listen to a musician who really feels every inch of what she plays.
Rating: Excellent
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