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Peaceful Being by Richard Noll
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/13/2018
One of the most unique albums this year
For me, the Flute has to be the most spiritual of all instruments, I’m fortunate that my wife plays flute and it is a beautiful think to watch her play on the shores of our sea line at sunset. She had told me I was in for a treat with this album and she was right, Richard Noll has indeed created something truly beautiful and it is this album that we now musically voyage through, and although not flute, you will see exactly what I mean as we travel together.
The starting pathway is a track called “Calling The Rain”, something we need here in Cyprus. The layered keyboards in the background are a perfect bed for Noll to excel on wooden recorder, and excel he most certainly does. As we listen intently, perhaps we can even see the clouds gather on the horizon, as if being called by the magic of the instrument, which is being played in the style of a Native American flute; this is so very graceful indeed.
I adore “Grace”, the keyboards actually remind me of a track of mine, so gentle, so delicate and pristine, yet the calming waves of music seem to wash over us with such a charming musical narrative of tranquillity. I thank Richard for this piece, as it has further inspired me to carry on and reconnect with my musical muse.
“Peaceful Being” flows with such an energy of abundance it is unbelievable, in the style of the wood flute, Noll manifests something mystical yes, but something empowering too, with a back drop of the keyboards. Whilst listening to this piece I could imagine myself up in our mountain range, being part of all that is creation, all that is nature; the wordless vocals here are also a delightful addition to the overall composition.
We reach the half way marker and we’re greeted by a charming opus entitled “Early Spring”, probably one of my favourite times of year. The recorder of Noll brings a lush sense of colour and warmth in music to the table here, the dualistic nature of two recorders, Alto and Tenor is simply a stroke of genius, then add in the wordless vocals of Shaina Noll and you have a superb feel good composition to bring a smile to the face and an extra beat to the heart.
The other side of the musical mirror is found here, from the sun kissed reveries of the previous song, we now move into the inky darkness of “Nightfall”. The strings here give a mournful essence to the track that brings forth the truly mystical sense of the night and superbly played by Gwen Franz on Viola, while Noll is simply sublime on his recorder, and as such, this is one of my favourite pieces from the release.
We now edge ever deeper into the album, and as we do so we come across a composition called “Open Heart”. This has to be the most fascinating offering from the release, it offers the listener an interesting counter play between melody and harmony, alto Sax and tenor, so let us also add the Viola once more as well; this is extremely inventive and quite unique, but the outcome is a masterful arrangement that is almost hypnotic in composition.
We have arrived at a very important part of the album, the penultimate track, but that’s not the reason of importance, this is the longest offering at well over 12 minutes and called “Inner Journey”, this respectful and empowering piece allows us the chance to journey slowly and surely into the musical narrative. The piano repeats its ever onward mantra and a gentle drum beats in the background, in a similar style to the journeying I used to partake in our shamanic circles. This is indeed a very special arrangement; the build and progression here are highlighted further by the male and female wordless vocals.
Richard Noll’s inventiveness and performances on this release have been fascinating and extremely enjoyable thus far, but sadly we have arrived at the last portal of our musical journey and we are gifted an offering that for me feels very spiritual. “Invocation” brings us a mystical moment with the Tenor Recorder; this solo is the mark of perfection that we must leave this realm of the artist with, reverential, respectful and deeply open and the best way to close the book on the album that is “Peaceful Being”.
“Peaceful Being” by Richard Noll is one of the most unique albums I have listened to this year without doubt, its multi instrumental nature, its very energy and its empowering musical constructions are sheer bliss. Once you open the door to this album you will never want to leave.
Noll’s willingness to manifest an album of this quality is amazing; Richard Noll is a man who is truly connected to the source and draws its energy and inspiration from it and it shows, and while listening to this marvellous album, perhaps we will reconnect as well with all that really matters;. a truly superb release and thoroughly recommended.
Rating: Excellent
High Tech. High Touch by Wendy Loomis
- posted by Kathy Parsons on 8/11/2018
Owner, MainlyPiano.com
High Tech, High Touch is a 2-EP collection of original compositions by Bay Area composer/pianist/ producer/ educator, Wendy Loomis. The High Touch disc is eight original piano solos and High Tech is eight works for synthesizers (and a few guest artists). Reading Wendy Loomis' bio and the information on her website is amazing. There isn't much in the music field that she hasn't done, and her current activities include this album, teaching in her home studio in San Francisco, composing for and playing with spoken word jazz band COPUS, composing for film, and the list goes on. She was the composer/pianist for the piano/flute duo, Phoenix Rising, and has won the ASCAP award for composition four times. HighTech, High Touch is Wendy Loomis' seventeenth album and is very likely to be one of my Favorites of 2018.

The two 32-minute discs are very different from each other, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed they were by the same artist, but the quality of the music, the recording and production are all top notch and provide a superlative showcase for Wendy Loomis' versatility as a composer and musician.

The High Tech disc begins with "Omar Sosa," an ambient/electronic tribute to the brilliant Cuban musician that it's named for. The infectious beat will have you tapping your toes in no time! "Cassiopeia" was co-created with Jerry Gerber (soft synth) and Michele Walther (violin) and is high energy as well as high tech! The soulful violin is a fascinating contrast to the driving beat of the synths, and yet they work together perfectly. "Birthday Beat" is rather dark and mysterious, but the percussion keeps it lively and moving forward - another very interesting set of contrasting sounds! "Synchronicity" includes Monica Williams on pan flute in addition to the more playful synths and percussion - a favorite. "Apogee" is more fluid and ethereal, but the dark, steady drum and hand claps keep it grounded - I really like this one, too! Gerber and Walther return in "Pleiades" as co-composers and instrumentalists. High energy, exotic and very rhythmic, this one just about dances right out of the CD player! Love it!

Okay, now that I've gushed about the electronic disc, let me tell you about the High Touch solo piano disc that I REALLY like! I love all eight of these piano solos and really hope Loomis will offer the sheet music sometime. "Cumulus Cloud" is very free and impressionistic, floating on air and moving gracefully when and where it wishes - very soothing and transporting. "Julio" is dark and passionate with a Latin rhythm and a haunting melody. And then there is "You're Too Sensitive"! I cannot get enough of this wonderful minor key waltz! In addition to the powerful main theme, there are a few lighter themes that seem to tell a story. I can't seem to listen to this one without hitting the replay button at least once! "Nagano Reflection" is elegant with a gentle Asian feel - beautiful! The dramatic "Safe Travel" expresses a sense of urgency as well as movement. "One Snowy Night" reminds me a bit of Erik Satie in places - simple and uncluttered, but very evocative. Another favorite! The album comes to a close with "Eternity," a slowly-flowing "song without words" that comes from the heart.

High Tech, High Touch will not be easy to categorize come awards season, but it should be in line for a whole bunch of awards! It is available from www.WendyLoomis.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

Review Page: https://mainlypiano.com/reviews/wendy-loomis-high-tech.-high-touch

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com
Rating: Excellent
Carpe Noctem by Peter Calandra
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 8/9/2018
One to file under amazing music
There is always a moment within a year that I relish, one of those moments is upon us right now, a Peter Calandra release, this time on the back of his album Piano improvisations he offers something very different indeed, as he gives us his latest work of genius entitled Carpe Noctem, which translates to seize the night!
One of the main reasons I adore a new Calandra release is that it allows me, the ever eager listener of incredible music, to voyage on another journey with one of the world’s best composers of contemporary instrumental and classical music around today.
Our musical travels starts with the gentle and reverential offering called Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The vocals here are layered so beautifully to give that charming and all-encompassing ethereal effect that creates many memory filled moments of magic for us to wonder among, and is of course the perfect starting opus.
The artists fluency is simply beyond anything you may have listened to before and on Carpe Noctem (Seize the Night), the title track, that will become very evident indeed, the choir of angelic voices sing out from high and manifest a night time dimension where the rules of day and light do not apply, here anything is possible. This is such a wonderfully charismatic composition, and one that is bathed in so much emotion as well. This truly moved me, as I hope it does you as well.
From the depths of night, one of the most magical times of day is nearly upon us, this arrangement is Aurora Scanderé (Dawn Rising), a moment of dawn, that clear and crisp air filled blissful segment of time, when all manifestations can slowly become realities, when dreams can become the pathways of the truth ahead. The artist brings to the musical table a superb composition that builds progressively in film score style, and increases its tempo to a moment of sublime crescendo.
Crucifixus (Crucifixion) has to be one of the most emotive offerings on this release and regardless of any religious connotations, Calandra has created something so very real, so very emotional; one can feel the moment through the music with ease. The brass sections are incredibly poignant and layered so delicately with the choir, that they bring a level of musical genius that would be hard to rival if you lived for eons.
We now move toward the middle of the release and come across one of the more ambient offerings on the album and called Ars Vitae (Art Is Life). I have a specific love for modern art, and used to enjoy walking through the hallowed halls of the Tate Modern in London, I could do that with this track on repeat with ease. Calandra is inspired here, mixing choral works with synths and keyboards, in a neo classical style that treads dimensions of musical intellect as of thus so far untouched. Yes, this was my personal favourite from the release.
Illuminare (Illumination) is that musical marker that sees us drift over the half way line, this gentle reverie is a veritable bed of tranquillity, one could watch the day unfurl and then shiver with artistic joy as the first rays of sunlight drift on a hill of wild flowers, with the cadence of the day ahead. The orchestral movements and the hovering string sections are simply sublime and will raise the hairs on the back of your neck with a joyful abundance of glee and happiness, now this is what I would call a breath-taking arrangement.
Let’s now drift down the valleys of the second half of the album with the piece Invictus Bellator (Unconquered Warrior). One can but admire the elevated level of intensity on this offering, but it is so well arranged that it does not overwhelm the piece. The gentle progression is also deliberate, but perfect and manifests a steady energy of movement with purpose within the track; it is as if the unconquered warrior himself is nearing our location and as the pale rider breaches the horizon, the composition increases in a marvellous moment of tempo, power and determination all rolled into one quite stunning arrangement.
One thing we all like is a Mane Pacificae (Peaceful Morning). Well the good news is that Peter Calandra has now created the soundtrack for that most important of time segments of the day. For me, a lover of classical music, this once again moves me; the string sections and brass combine to bring something so very special and musically delicate too, almost like watching a flower open for the first time.
We have just had a blood moon and fortunately here on our island the pollution that light creates is not that bad, on Luna Benedictus (Moon Prayer), the shortest piece off the release, we have a wonderful ambient offering that depicts for me, the moments I spend in partnership and meditation with the silver energy of the moon perfectly, short form maybe, but the piano and orchestration manifest a real treat of a piece.
We have slowly steered our musical boat to the penultimate bay of the album and here on Sacrum Spera (Sacred Trust), Calandra’s skills as an all-round musical genius are truly evident. This composition is filled with a sacred energy indeed, but the musical tides of the arrangement, create for us a place of depth and tone to enjoy. The orchestration and choir keep that ebb and flow of harmonious brilliance in a perfect melodious cohesion; this is truly a special piece indeed.
Finally we dock at the last port of the release and are given one last moment of symphonic bliss to enjoy before we must depart this musical dimension, this gift is entitled Spiritus Mundi (World Spirit). Calandra, like the master he is, has left the most uplifting track till last. Energy of oneness can be found here, a realisation of unity as well. Perhaps through Calandra’s last track, he may well find he has created an anthem for the world, and through this musical reverie, we may all get to smell the white rose of peace at last.
Carpe Noctem by Peter Calandra is another in a line of quite breath-taking albums by the musician and composer, and I can see no reason why the album shouldn’t been seen on the shelves of the world’s public, under the files marked “Amazing Music”. One will find pristine productions, perfect arrangements and more. Calandra is one of those artists that continuously produces extremely high quality albums and Carpe Noctem can now be added to that list. This is absolutely recommended without a shadow of doubt.
Rating: Excellent
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