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Even For A Moment by Gary Schmidt
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/21/2018
A sublime soothing release
I’m now on my third listen to this album, I was just doing some lengthy promotional work and decided to play this release just before I started to write the review for it, I have to say that was the best decision I have made so far today; the whole release is bathed in such a level of calmness and tranquillity, my mundane job just floated past in a reverie of this superb collection of blissful compositions, so let’s all go on that musical voyage with the artist right now.
The first calming oasis is called, If This Is the Time. The melody here is so tranquil, but also deeply memorable and utterly reflective, one could easily listen to this whilst musing on future opportunities, as we watched the sunlight filter in through our open windows and draw patterns of light and shade into our world.
From the perfection of the first piece we now move to another favourite of mine called Inside This River, the piano of Schmidt speaks beautifully, with such a romantic lilt it is delightful to drift with, however when you add in the sumptuous Cello of Hannah Alkirie you have a meditative slice of sheer genius in a five minute plus track you simply never want to end.
The kindly Light That Lights My Face is up next, this is really charming, there is a certain warmth that brings this whole piece into the light, the smoothness and chilled vibe is undeniable and when the careful acoustic guitar joins the dance, the mood is lifted even further in this most pleasing of pieces.
This is Gary Schmidt’s second release in this genre; I enjoyed immensely Landscapes of the Heart his previous album, and here Gary has grown further and expanded his knowledge and on this track has created a superb solo piano composition that could be regarded as truly ambient in nature and called A Train Leaves the City.
On The Breath At Dawn we are in for a real treat as Schmidt is joined by new age flute performer Sherry Finzer and together they create a sense of meditative ambiance that seems to float on the musical horizon with ease. The artist has manifested a musical narration here, one that truly creates some amazing images of a forest walk as dawn is breaking, and adds all the layers of that very peaceful moment into the weave whilst doing so, this as you may imagine, is yet another favourite piece of mine.
I am fortunate enough to have a copy of La vie en piano, Gary’s Classical album in my database. That is stunning, as is this piece called Menuet in G Minor. It is a pleasure to listen to Schmidt in classical mode, I sit here with eyes closed and soak in the moment, and I could be forgiven to think that I have drifted back in time and am listening live to a performance by Beethoven, this is simply magical.
I had been waiting for this to arrive, it is that mid-way juncture of the release and when we climb to that musical pinnacle of the album we come across the delightful title track called Even For A Moment. The strings are an addition that is perfectly welcome and the slight elevation in tempo recharges our energies and fills us with such a sun kissed moment of tone and talent.
The blissful nature of this album can be further exemplified by this next amazing composition called Sub Tide, Schmidt’s constant narrative on piano is added to by the creative acoustic guitar of Roger Schmidt, together they create something of a minimalistic nature, but one that contains such warmth in its arrangement.
We can find a colourful attraction on the next offering entitled Simply By Looking, a piece that has a beautiful elevation and a decreasing of tone built into its musical matrix. The Cello creates an extra dimension of style to one of the most fluent and captivating compositions off the album and one that has an almost film score style to its nature as well.
Crescent Light is one of those crisp and pristine tracks that will always bring a smile to the face and happiness to the heart, the energy in this piece alone is exquisite and while at just under two and a half minutes long it is the shortest track off the release, it brings such cheer and light to this musical agenda.
As we move ever deeper into the album, we come across one of the most beautiful pieces off it called The Light Seems To Move. The Cello is so mournful here, but its Schmidt’s piano that takes centre stage as the master narrator; the artist manifests such a fine array of imagery, one could picture for instance an old country lake and the sun dappled leaves drop down upon its mirror like surface creating fractal patterns of light as they do so, this composition is simply the perfect soundtrack for that event.
On No Better Gift we find a present of musical peace and plenitude, this has all the hallmarks of a composition that is bathed in confidence and warmth. The added flute is a gentle addition truly appreciated, but the charm with which the artist performs here is truly satisfying and welcoming.
Once we step through this doorway we enter a realm of utter class and talent and this threshold is called Adagio for Strings. Gary Schmidt’s sensitivity here is well matched by the tenderness with which his performance exudes. This is a dimension of sound that one could escape into, with a blissful sense of ambience and tranquillity. At nearly six and a half minutes long, it gives us plenty of time to relax in its peace filled realms.
It’s incredible to think that we must now leave this world of music manifested by the artist, but before we do so he has a parting musical gift to perform for us before we go, it is called Postlude to a Moment. This is a fine musical musing, a reverie of our journey with the artist, one that is also played with such style and attention to detail.
Even for a Moment is a musical reminder that we only have, and only will ever have, the moment we currently reside in. With such style and skill Gary Schmidt has manifested one of the most soothing releases this year and brought to the genre an album that will be regarded as a timeless collection of beautifully performed and produced opuses dedicated to the ambience of the now.
Rating: Excellent
Journey of Tears by Monica Williams
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/21/2018
An incredibly passionate album
I have been a fan of flute based music, ever since I found my first Nigel Shaw album back in the 90’s and ever since then the ride has been a magical one, now with this new release by Monica Williams, called Journey of Tears, that journey has become even more picturesque and exciting.
I have an absolute delight, whenever an artist uses the natural sounds of a thunderstorm within their music and Monica does just that on the opening piece entitled Raining Tears. The deep energy of this composition is only highlighted by the power of the storm in the background, and the never ceasing rain which falls like tears from the sky above. This is a passion packed offering to start with, and as such the performance is equally empowering and moving.
The magical ride continues with the bright and energetic song that we have arrived at now called, Conversations Within. The addition of Darin Mahoney on guitar was inspired and adds so much to what is already a truly fluent and exciting offering. Williams on flute excels and shines in her performance on this her debut solo album.
Guitar and flute once more combine on this next and somewhat deeper track called New Horizons. While there is a certain mournful quality about the overall construction of the piece, there is also a clever level of hope built into the composition, thus leaving the listener with perhaps a sense of hope, that on the far off reaches of a struggle, a new horizon will beckon.
The shortest offering on the album at just less than two and a half minutes long is called Unconditional Love. This is a quality of love that is so rare and so barely touched by many, but once done so, life is never the same again. In an amazingly imploring narrative Monica Williams sums up this condition with a breath taking performance on flute.
At the half way marker a rhythmic percussive beat draws us into the musical narration and the flute of the artist manifests a song that is so moving, yet also deeply fascinating and called On the Edge. I rate this to be the cleverest track off the release as Williams sets us up at the mid-way point of the album, with a composition that has an undeniable level of tension; it is as if we are literally walking on the edge of what maybe or may not!
Soothingly we can now caress a new offering called Finding Peace, it may feel that after the preceding track that we did in fact find the right portal to pass into, and peace has indeed be found. The sonic backdrop of swirling, but delicate and peace filled keyboards creates a perfect stage for the narration of that successful find, and the flute of Williams celebrates with a confidence in a performance that is simply stunning.
To be able to ride the winds of life, you have to be prepared to deal with the realities of one thing, Constant Change. We can hear a sumptuous and very rhythm based percussive beat here, enabling William’s flute to relate the mood of the piece perfectly, the keyboards are perfect in their role of allowing the artist to allow her flute to sing loud and proud and with such fluency, on a track that is empowering in enabling us to all ride with the winds of constant change, rather than against them.
I nearly got lost in this next offering called Wandering; there is a certain meditative quality here that captured my senses and drew me far east and into foothills of Shambala. This would indeed be a perfect composition to meditate to and drew so many wondrous images of mountain side villages and snow tipped tors. The flute floats across the mists of some inner dimension in what is the most mystical, but attractive offering off the release.
We have arrived at the doorway of the penultimate track off the album, now I mentioned the great Nigel Shaw in my first paragraph, and the first sounds of the flute here really remind me of his work on Dartmoor Roundhouse back in the early part of this century. Williams on Love From A Distance has produced the same reflective and mournful haunting energies; I could listen to this one for hours, this is flute straight from the heart.
I could stay in this dimension for days, but sadly we have come to the end of our voyage with the artist, but she has one more performance for us before we must leave and it is simply gorgeous, it is called The Great Beyond. This is one of those arrangements that I would call a grandstand piece, it is the longest offering on the album at over eight minutes and if it had lasted an hour I wouldn’t have minded. The wordless vocals of Alexia Nodromia are utterly breath taking and some of the best I have heard for ages while the guitar and Williams flute, depict the sheer vastness of an uncharted realm called, The Great Beyond.
I would have to say that Monica Williams in producing Journey of Tears has probably created the best flute based album of the year and some. The mood set, the narrative and reflection of life and love and its emotional backdrops are simply exquisite. Williams may have just produced her first solo album, but if this one is anything to go by, she is well on her journey and I see a long and happy career at the top of this genre for the artist. Journey of Tears is an incredibly passionate album, packed with emotive and beautifully played compositions, and without a shred of a doubt, thoroughly recommended.
Rating: Excellent
The Ineffable by Alan Matthews
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/19/2018
An amazing debut album
These days of summer have been long and tiring for me, month after month of draining humidity, so where does one look for a little respite from the trials and tribulations of life, why in music of course, as music is the only true language in the universe, it can also be the panacea to cure all ills and moods too. So with that in mind I gaze longingly at the album cover of The Ineffable by Alan Matthews, a wonderful oceanic view with a multitude of sun rays poking out through the low level clouds and I begin my voyage of calmness and peace.
The first sense of tranquillity can be found on the opening track entitled Moiras Song. The soothing tones of this truly laid back offering are superbly performed by the artist as his piano sings out across the void of time, in total symbiosis with the sultry Soprano Saxophone of Premik Russell Tubbs.
The theme of relaxation and soothing the furrowed brow continues on this next offering called No Words Remain. The gentleness here is sublime to be a part of, and when combined with the Charlie Bisharat’s violin, anything is possible. There is a slight elevation of energy throughout the piece, one that also pulls back like the tide rolling up to the shore, but that only adds to the perfection of the composition.
On the next track we are gifted a moment of tranquillity called The Resigned. The performance here is something so very special and has a wonderful reflective quality about its overall construction. One could easily look out upon nature right now and just give in to the moment with this charming musical narrative.
There is a certain light hearted reverie about this next offering called The Conversation that is so appealing, the tempo has increased slightly, to give us a notion of a reality of movement in some way, the energy is further raised by incorporating the talents on percussion of Jeff Haynes; the flowing piano and the inventive percussion also give us a sense of a back and forth of a conversation quite cleverly.
As we approach the mid-way junction of the album we come across one of the most emotive tracks from the release and called The Second Goodbye. This moving opus really hit home, the passionate, but reflective performance here was so beautiful to listen to, and then the tones of passion rose higher with the emotion of the narrative as the interplay of the track seemingly became both players in this game of moving expression.
Just about now we find ourselves heading down hill to the final few compositions of the release and as we arrive at the doorway to a piece that has me transfixed, as the artist goes long form on the 10 minute plus arrangement entitled Strange to Me. I once spent a few hours listening to a pianist in Hartsfield Atlanta airport in Georgia and he played a composition similar to this. The ambience of the moment was sublime then and never forgotten and this arrangement has the same energy to it. Charlie Bisharat brilliance on violin added a whole new dimension of class to this already addictive track.
Wistful is next and is almost the opposite of the last offering at just over 2 minutes long, but in this short form offering Matthews expresses so much musically, it is a real treat to enjoy. The performance is light and relaxed and indeed quite wistful, the addition of the incredible Jill Haley on English horn is a huge bonus and adds a sparkling new layer of magic to the piece.
One of my favourite songs was this next offering called The Empty House. I have emptied a few homes in my time, last of which was my dear late mothers, it was indeed one of the hardest things I had to do, and this track for me explores those emotions whilst doing so, exploring as it does the former memories and energies of the home as it was, and now the sheer emptiness of nothing more than a soulless building. Matthews creates a level of ambience and emotion here that would be hard to match, but creates a cathartic musical narrative at the same time.
We are now deep in the weave of the release as we arrive at the composition called What She Knows, the mood here is blissful and the performance even more so, the tranquillity of this arrangement is delightful, the melody is enhanced further by Hayley’s sublime English horn, as the story telling piano manifests an emotive swing and a calming refrain for us all to enjoy.
The voyage through the album has now brought us to a track called You Don’t Know What Day It Is. This is our penultimate offering off the album and once more the artist paints for us a compelling musical picture of excellent tone and timbre. For me this created a soothing atmosphere, so much so I have now played this very track three times already, I just cannot let it go.
We started with Moria and we end with her, with Moiras Song Reprise. Once more the enchanting piano give us the perfect piece with which to leave the release and one bathed in a very light jazzy ethic, calming, tranquil and serene, all good qualities to have in an ending composition of an album of this nature.
The Ineffable is an amazing album, considering it is the debut work of pianist Alan Matthews. The performances and compositions are smooth, confident and intelligently arranged and composed. What Matthews has done so well here is combine that healing aspect of music with a mild Jazz ethic that leaves the whole album totally accessible to each and every listener.
Rating: Excellent
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