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Ardor by Matthew Mayer
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2017
Genius in motion
There is a certain whole heartedness about this brand new release from Matthew Mayer that is so appealing. The fluency is not only enticing, it is all encapsulating, and draws you in with a simply touch of the keys.
Ardor is an album that flows with passion, like the first offering entitled Stars on 123, a curious title indeed, but a composition that has a vastness about its arrangement that is akin to the galaxy itself, an ambient start that will lighten the load after a hard day in the real world.
The title track is next up and Ardor flows from the piano like a mountain stream in winter. The gentleness of performance here is what takes my attention, I would absolutely love to watch the artist perform this, his style is so mesmeric. The reflective nature of this piece is mood filled, but has certain avidity about its energy.
Source Of Blue has a depth and deepness about its essence that is so picturesque, yes it is reflective, but in a thoughtful way. This album would be perfect for those quiet moments I spend by the ocean, in a wistful and studious mood. The melody here seems familiar; perhaps it’s the resonance that it creates for me today!
We move slowly now into a track called Shoe Strings, the slight use of pause here adds to the structure of the arrangement, then with a wave of the hand the tempo picks up and the track moves from reflection, into action. This upbeat composition rejuvenates us and readies us for the next port of call.
That sojourn now approaches, so it’s time to spend a moment off the clock in the realm of a piece called Disappear It May. This is a tune of a different colour, as the artist draws a mysterious narrative that is so very addictive. This is one of those tracks that you will find yourself whistling late at night or during the day for no apparent reason.
Doc greets our arrival at the half way marker. This melodic short form arrangement has all the hall marks of a movie segment. The piece is so carefully performed it’s a pleasure to listen to, and the light it brings with it, equally so.
Our footfalls are now on the return pathway towards the end of the album and our anthem to take us there is called A Kindled Soul. Here is a song that has a real spark; this is an inspired performance by the artist. One that is played with a real essence of rapidity, but with style and panache, this musical narration literally pours from his hands, and brings forth a truly empowering and stimulating arrangement.
One of my many favourites from this release is Moonlight Walk. I should do more of these and perhaps this very track could be the soundtrack for my night time perambulations. A slow and delightfully eloquent composition can be found here, one that seems to ebb to and fro like the tide.
The memorable When Flowers Grew Wild is now upon us. Here is a piece that is bathed in a reminiscence that is so deeply felt, and perhaps a commemoration of when life seemed to be far easier and kinder than it appears today.
We now move forever onwards and come across a piece called Escape. The intensity here is truly evident and the pace created draws us a splendid narrative of running fast towards freedom and away from fear. Matthew Mayer has manifested something here that is cleverly dramatic and radiates with it an exciting gusto of musical energy.
We now arrive at the portal of the penultimate offering which is called Dreams V1. This once more has a sense of reflection about its construction and from the performance one could easily imagine waking from a dream into sunlight Sunday morning.
We have arrived at the departure lounge of the project called Ardor by Matthew Mayer, but before we make our way back to our reality, the artist has one more piece to share with you, a musical gift if you like, to take with you along your way, it is the ever so fluent and inspirational, We Met Once. Gentle and considerate are two words I would use to label this final composition, a truly clever way to end what has been a magnificent musical journey.
Ardor has a real passion about it that is absolutely undeniable, but from that passion emanates complete truth, from that truth comes one of the finest performances of solo piano you’re likely to hear for an age.
Matthew Mayer is a true master of his art and this, his eleventh album, will not only placate the legions of his eager fans, but grow that base experientially. The talents of the Mayer go to create something here that is not only sincerely special, but could rightfully be called genius in motion.
Rating: Excellent
Prelude to a Dream by Shoshana Michel
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2017
Truly great piano compositions
Shoshana Michel is back with her third album entitled Prelude to a Dream, this could very well be the best work from her to date, so why not hop aboard our musical boat and let’s travel down this river of fluent compositions together.
The key word used above is fluency, and on this album you will find that in abundance, you only have to listen to the opening piece to recognise that quality. Wonders is a beautifully played piece that is warm and all-encompassing, its eloquent tones bring a certain charm to the overall arrangement.
It’s easy to see why some compare her style to that of the great David Lanz and on this title track, Prelude to a Dream, that’s not too hard to see. There is a slight classical motif; and the confident and articulate performance is so compelling. Michel has created a master piece, just when she needed to, one that reveals the true colour of the whole project, to us the ever eager listener.
Shoshana Michel has worked hard over the last few years and that effort can be heard in abundance on the next piece called A Walk in the Rain, one of my favourites off the album. There is a certain mood of reflection here that creates a narrative that is so very moving, this piece also has a light cinematic feel to it and that theme can also be heard right through the release.
Butterfly Kisses is a track that does what it says on the can, listen to the style and feel those kisses on your neck and your arms, engulf yourself with the sheer love that this pretty composition explores.
The variance of style and theme is so profoundly exciting, and on Tender Words, that is emphasized further. The subtleness of the arrangement is sublime; the heart felt mood it creates is sincere. The artist has truthfully created something deeply real and honest here, it’s a song to gaze into the eyes of your loved one with, and it is a direct musical communication from soul to soul.
We have now reached the half way marker in our journey and this musical trip continues with an up-tempo offering called Kaleidoscope. The performance here is literally sparkling, and with each note played the sense of a profound movement can be felt and heard with ease.
On Applewood we have a composition that has such a gentle caress about its nature, yet this is also a wonderfully organic piece as well. There is a real sense of light and warmth in this beautiful offering that is so very attractive and idyllic. This is one arrangement that could easily be described as a feel good piece.
Meditation would be another of my personal favourites; Shoshana Michel has manifested a really mysterious feel to a composition that seems to explore realms as of yet unknown. In my view this is one of the cleverest compositions I have heard for a while; its mood is careful and almost ponderous at times, but it also has a superb cinematic quality about its creation, which I so deeply adore.
We are now in the far reaches of this musical realm, and at this point as we come across a calming narrative of tone called, A Most Precious Gift. Michel manifests a stunning melody here that is quite emotive at times, but extremely pleasing to listen to, and as the title suggests, it is a most precious gift.
We are now approaching our musical docking bay, but before we cease our sojourn with the artist, let’s listen to the penultimate offering from the release, it’s called Silent Farwell. Michel’s performance here is so engaging, the flow and structure is extremely cinematic, this is a one of those highlight pieces that really emphases the artists growth as a pianist over the last few years.
So our last port of call is now reached, the final composition of natural outstanding beauty is about to be revealed, it is called Ethereal. This album is already making its mark on our shows here at One World Music Radio, and tracks like Ethereal is the reason why. The smooth and gentle beginning is pure class and the crafted build and progression even more so, here is a piece of music that has a classic melody that should resonate for years to come and completes with ease the best work this artist has of yet produced.
Prelude to a Dream has raised the musical bar once more for the musician; this I believe is the album that will place Shoshana Michel’s name firmly on the map as one of the finest female pianists of her day. The album is a collection of truly great compositions, lovingly put together by a lady who has truly resonated with her listener’s demands, and her very own musical soul. If you’re a fan of solo piano, this has to be a must buy release.
Rating: Excellent
Flying Solo Silhouette by Ann Sweeten
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/16/2017
This is pure class
I believe that when the time is right the music you need will be there for you. I have been in a sensitive mood lately and in need of a panacea to cure my woes, that panacea would turn out to be Flying Solo Silhouette by Ann Sweeten.
The very first refrains from Sweeten created an ambience like I have never heard from her before, and A Light Rain then went on to manifest an oasis of calm that was sweet perfection, in fact I have now played this composition five times already this morning, its stunning.
As the journey has begun, the next musical step is a piece called Dawn On Red Mountain. The slow and tranquil tempo is a delight to listen to, with ease, one could picture the vista of the mountains. I have a range along the road from my home, and this would be idyllic music to watch either a sunrise or sunset upon. The performance style here is sublime and the techniques used allow our imaginations to create wonderful vistas.
This in my opinion is Sweetens best work to date, and she emphasises that with her next offering called Veil Of Tears. This is an arrangement that contains a level of passion and emotion that literally flows from the piano in a cascade of tears. Note the fluency of Sweetens performance here, you have both power and grace, but balanced so well.
Living in Cyprus, with its Greek life-style, Elysian Fields or the Greek afterlife is a theme we’re familiar with, and on that very track Ann Sweeten draws us a narrative of a waving meadow of green, where ones families can unite again after death. There is a repetitive nature about the track that enables a real sense of movement too.
On Afterglow, we find a real heart-warming opus of serenity, the ambience manifested is indeed sublime, but its wort noting the performance here once more by Sweeten, it has a really charming smoothness about its construction. This is one of those pieces that should be placed upon your winter musical playlist immediately.
As we cross over into the second half of the release, we come across a really moving composition called Nikki’s Song. The deep well of emotion that this piece draws upon is so evident; its respectful tones create a real cathartic narrative within this offering.
Another piece now for your winter playlist, this one is called December Snow. I haven’t seen snow in December for many years, but the imagination allows me to use this music to traverse to a realm where I can sit by the window and watch the snowflakes drop from above. This is without doubt a beautiful composition and like the snow, the melody and arrangement seem to almost recreate themselves throughout this quite breath taking composition.
Broken Wing At North Light is another track we can explore at our leisure; it has an honest gentleness about its construction that is very appealing. The whole energy of this piece and the performance here by the artist is simply mesmeric.
The solo nature of this album and tracks contained within allow Sweeten to really draw great colour and movement into the arrangements, using her own skill set, and on Eclipse she does just that with great aplomb and confidence. The depth of field within this composition is fascinating; Sweeten manifests a slow onward movement as the skies begin to grow dark, and eventually the light is gone. This has to be one of the most addictive tracks I have heard from the artist and is my favourite from the release.
Ann Sweeten has crafted a superb album here of solo compositions that are simply outstanding, like this next one called The Hourglass. The subject of time is always one that fascinates many of us, and indeed there is something about this piece that reminds me of the work of David Nevue on his album Winding Down. Sweeten brings not only a repeating motif of the sands falling to the bottom of the glass, but also a passionate melody, one that is bathed perhaps in memories of past events that can never be revisited.
How appropriate is this offering, as we now enter autumn, it’s called Falling Leaves. I have a love for music about this time of year; it is such a reflective season. Sweetens skills here leave us with a smile on our faces and memories of happy summer days in our back pockets.
Our last doorway to this dimension of sound and tone created by the artist has now opened, and if we take a peek inside we can see that she is ready to perform her last track for us, this musical gift is called On Wings Of Light. I don’t think Sweeten could have left this project any better than with this one, there is a really smooth sense of flight here, a subtle movement that is so well played and caring, it’s almost angelic at times.
Flying Solo Silhouette is Sweetens best work so far without doubt, this is an album that has everything the legions of solo piano fans will adore. She has manifested an album that has emotion, colour, movement, a softness of touch and intensity when needed.
You will know I listen too many in this genre, but this has to rate as being one of the best I have heard for quite some time. I am sure that the radiant professionalism and outstanding skills shown within this album will also be acknowledged by those sensible enough to purchase it, this is pure class.
Rating: Excellent
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