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Time Not Forgotten by Rhonda Mackert
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/23/2018
Bathe in truly cathertic music
I first heard of Rhonda Mackert by listening to Dan Chadburn’s show Beyond Words on One World Music Radio, he featured a composition of hers which peaked my interest and some months later an album by Rhonda now lies on my desk to be reviewed, which is a most pleasant thought indeed.
This voyage of solo piano to be undertaken is called Time Not Forgotten, and we start by opening the portal to the first piece entitled Dancing Through My Memories. This is a very clever way to begin the album, one that conjures up images in my mind’s eye of a person dancing in the shadows of their own memories and by themselves, remembering fond times as they twist and turn across the dusty sunlit dappled dance floor.
The next track is superbly titled and called Walking Among Giants. I have listened to this specific piece several times now, as it really stood out for me and each time I do so I can feel then energy of greatness within the composition; it is also performed with such respect and precision and contains a very rich melody as well.
The title track is now upon us, that rich blank canvas that allows the musician to paint the very nature of the project that will unfurl before us. This arrangement has a sensitivity of its own; it is a gloriously cultured composition that is extremely listenable. Time Not Forgotten is a track that draws a moving and passionate musical narrative to hook us completely.
We now slide through the doorway of a track called Molokini, OK I had to look this up, and found many references to Hawaii. If this is about the partially submerged volcanic crater there, then it resonates perfectly with the subject matter in question. I personally found this piece very powerful, but also incredibly fluent, Mackert has created a blissful level of ambience into this delightful opus.
As we edge ever closer to the half way marker, we come across a very intense offering called Monsoon. As we let the rain fall, we can shelter from this weather by sitting in a hut and listening to the power of nature and its relentless character. Mackert has created a composition here that is incredibly visual and with a deliciously addictive tempo, one so good that whilst listening to this track I nearly forgot to breathe! Note to self, I must remember to breathe more often.
I must admit I have a fondness for this next one, I used to watch my cousin as he sat on the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover, that was so many years ago, but this melodic slice of genius takes me back to those wild open spaces and the vast ocean that laid before me. White Cliffs is an arrangement that is packed with many memories, perhaps like mine, but at all times manifesting a sensitivity of range and tone to create such a vast vista to gaze upon musically, and then sigh blissfully.
Interestingly enough this album has moved me emotionally a few times now and as we find ourselves in Spring on Greyrock Mountain, we have yet another opportunity to reflect on fond times and past reminiscences, the view through the music is simply sublime and very idyllic, with ease one can see the tapestry of multi coloured flowers on the mountain side, dancing in the breeze.
Rhonda Mackert plays with such an openness of heart, and on the piece Chasing Fireflies that is really emphasised. I saw this great spectacle a few times while in the mid-west of the U.S, and those fairy like lights that dance across the night sky are quite breath takingly beautiful as is the performance here, and played with the delicacy of the Firefly itself.
It’s always good to have Healing Places, I have several in the village where I live, although most are by the sea, all give me great peace and tranquillity when I am there. This piece of music would be perfect to share on those occasions when I need to avail myself of a little quiet time, this is simply charming.
I have heard much about Sedona; however I have never visited the location, but perhaps I can do so vicariously via this composition; Dreaming of Sedona can be my passage to this mystical place. Mackert’s performance here is delightfully confident and draws such a wide range of imagery for us to enjoy. There is also the momentum of an onward movement here, which adds weight to the sensation of a dream time sojourn in this most amazing of places.
We have arrived at the penultimate offering from the album, and we find a simple little piece called Skipping Stones. This childlike and gentle melody seems to take us back further in time, as more memories from a happy past are revisited, but within a happy and light essence about its construction at all times.
Sadly it’s time to leave this quite healing realm created thus far by pianist Rhonda Mackert, but before we go, the artist has one last musical gift to leave us with and it is called Free Floating. Another clever track can be found here, as the musician leaves with a flowing, but gentle tempo, one that almost seems to say thank you for listening, now just close your eyes and float onwards in peace.
Time Not Forgotten by Rhonda Mackert is one of those solo piano albums that simply delights you at every twist and turn of the project, the sensitivity of performance on this album is amazingly beautiful and worth applauding. Mackert’s artistic endeavours have manifested something here that truly allows one to reflect and heal, while each and every arrangement has been meticulously put together with such intelligence and grace. This is a must buy album for anyone who has a desire to bathe in truly cathartic music.
Rating: Excellent
Ama by Michael Brant DeMaria
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/21/2018
So worth the wait
I could not believe it had been 5 years since I had last spoken to Michael; he had released The Maiden of Stonehenge, and now in 2018 he is back on home turf and with a new musical child entitled Ama. I also gazed from my studio window at the blue skies and drifted back to my days with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, back even further in 2008, and as a testament to those memories I today wear a fragrance given to me back then called Cherokee Moon.
So our musical sojourn can begin by the stream of life on the bank of a mid-reality called Ama, or water in Cherokee and the first track of this amazing new project is in fact the title header itself. A more imploring and mystical piece you will find nowhere else in this realm. The keyboards and flute form a veritable symbiosis of thought and presence that seems to literally invent a whole new dimension of musical brilliance all around us.
After the inspiration of the opening piece we now come across a deep and mood filled composition called Night Voyage. A slow sense of movement can be found here, perhaps one taken through the pathways of the darkness as only the glory of the moon lights our way. The keyboards here float and hover with an intensity so powerful, and various chimes along the way only add to the mysterious splendour of the track.
On Stella Maris we come across a composition of lightness and clarity, the keyboards here manifest a vast realm of music to explore, there is also an underpinned feeling of peace here as well. A charming angelic arrangement, designed to lift the spirits and raise the energies before we start off on our journey again.
There are times when I listen to DeMaria’s work that I literally get Lost. OK, I know that’s a tenuous link to the next track that’s called that, but it’s true, here the artist manifests a primarily flute based opus that one can truly get lost in; the gentleness of this arrangement is bathed in a sullen backdrop of thought, I could for example see myself sitting in a forest by a stream, listening to the flute narrating on my sad mood, as I watch the rain cry into the ever meandering river below.
Times change and so do moods, and here on Beyond the Veil we have a sense of something altering the very fabric of time and space before our eyes, akin to the burning away of mist on a summers day, as it seems to form angels of the morning that dissipate on the mirrored lake before us. This is a composition of such an artistic creation, it deserves multiple listens; I am now on my third, and this heavenly essence of ambience is going to play a much deeper part of my personal meditative processes.
From the opening of the Veil, we now move Between the Worlds as only the Shaman can do, the flute here is the call and cry to follow a new pathway, the floating keyboards manifest a new realm of wonderment entirely. This in my view is one of the best arrangements I have heard from the artist, and from its tones I can see again the wide open ranges of the mid-west, and the freely roaming Buffalo, yes, there are still a few left, and hear the wind blowing through empty fences! Michael Brant DeMaria’s performance on flute here is outer-worldly and proves his very soul is touched by the instrument.
As we begin our descent into the latter half of the album we come across a very moving track filled with mystery and adventure and called Mysteria. DeMaria has us captured here with his supremely masterful performance on flute, while once again the keyboards seem to swirl around us creating dimension after dimension of musical bliss.
With the mood firmly set we continue on with our journey with the artist and wander among the continuum of a piece entitled Renascence. This reflective opus opens a musical portal for us to roam within, one that at times even takes us back to the classic years of John Carpenter on synths and David Naegele on piano, in that ever so pleasant Temple in the Forest.
We have now arrived at our penultimate doorway of music and called Shimmering Light. This translucent offering reminds me of a few weeks back when Chrissie and I sat on the coast line down from our home, and watched the sunset on a horizon of shimmering waters. The drifting sensation of the keyboards are exactly the way the sun kissed waters played out for us, and this quite breath taking composition would have been a fantastic soundtrack for that event, perhaps next time!
So we have arrived after our long voyage at the very last track off the album and it is called Arrival. A clever way indeed to end the album and quite a pleasant opus to part with as well, this almost astral and ethereal composition lifts our energies and leaves us feeling completely relaxed and full filled. Arrival is a perfectly placed anthem with which to end with.
Ama from Michael Brant DeMaria is his first solo release for some 5 years, but it has been well worth the wait, each track has been carefully crafted to give you, the listener, the perfect listening experience. Whether it is on keyboard, piano or flute, the artist has done himself proud and produced one of the best albums of the year in this genre so far. Michael Brant DeMaria is one of those artists who play’s from his heart, with an openness of spirit and with the honesty of love, and with that combination, how can this album be anything else other than a complete success.
Rating: Excellent
Home Again by Loren Evarts
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/21/2018
A great contemplative album
Loren Evarts is back after his success with his last offering Water and Light back in 2015, now some three years later, I am honoured to have the opportunity to once again review Loren’s work, so join me as I take you on another voyage through the genre of solo piano.
Evart’s doesn’t waste anytime setting the scene and this homely little number called A Day on the Concord River is absolutely redolent of the subject matter. This warm and welcoming opus is as delightful as the amazing art work on the cover of the album, we could easily be right there on the banks of the river with this charming piece.
I sat for hours the other day listening to this album and just gazing at the cover, it is so redolent of the contents within and if we listen to Dugong Dance, you will see what I mean. Now the only Dugong I know of is the mammal and if this is the case, the artist has created its soundtrack, if not, this is a smooth and deeply relaxing piece that has such a sweet melody that it’s going to leave you in total bliss anyway.
On Far and Away we have a totally different sound, this energetic little composition creates a mood of distance and movement and also has a sense of longing, mixed with a reflective disposition built nicely into the weave of the piece.
Ktaadn is up next, this slice of solo piano genius seems to take us on a journey of its own, perhaps through a woodland or forest, somewhere where one can feel at peace; when I gaze at the mountain range behind my home the music fits perfectly, and within its refrains I can feel now the power and glory of this vast vista of this outstanding composition.
I adored the quiet reverie of Sunset Island; I sometimes call our home that, as nearly every night is the perfect sunset and perhaps tonight I will play this tune as the sun goes down again. This is one of the most colourful pieces off the release, one that will leave a smile of contentment on the faces of all who listen to it.
As we move towards the middle of the album, we arrive at the doorway of a soothing piece redolent of the subject matter of its title, Evensong. As the sunset begins to wain and night clouds drift across the horizon, we listen to the perfect tones of this composition, to allow the energy of this moment to fill our senses.
We now find ourselves at the musical shelf entitled “the title track” and of course that just has to be Home Again. Time to gaze once more at the front cover of the album and you will be right there. Once again Evarts pulls off such a warm and friendly performance on piano as we arrive at our very own musical sanctuaries of sorts.
There is a slight reflective motif on this next piece called Outermost House, perhaps we are on the very borderlands of the village, and from here on in a wide range of free land can be seen falling before us. The performance here is sublime at creating a narrative of suspense and memory.
The happy refrains of Wedding at Sunrise is now upon us, it is as if we have safely navigated the night and our reward is the wedding, of course this could be a wedding of a different type, perhaps even the re-joining of the past and future, but none-the-less Evarts has created something quite breathtakingly beautiful here, with a really moving sense of rhythm as well.
Anything to do with lakes, rivers and storms always grabs my attention; I have a love for nature than can never be equalled. Here Evarts creates a portrait of Baker Lake and in just over three minutes manifests something so descriptive and artistic, that one truly feels like they are sitting by the lake itself, the piano at times also sounds like the windblown ripples across the water.
Nine Mile Bridge is our penultimate offering on this journey, it is filled with a narrative of deep and meaningful memories, while the piano flows like the river under the bridge, there is also a defined and distinct sense of deep thought here, it is as if one is trawling over old times whilst gazing over the bridge, there is also a moving and powerful energy about the construction of this track that needs to be carefully listened to as well.
So we arrive at the last doorway of the album we now fondly know as Home Again. Evarts finishes with the perfect ending track, through the music, one can see shards of sunlight move across the room and the light creates dappled shadows of memories as the piece plays out. The Good Life for me seems to sum up the whole album, and a sense of gratitude can be found solidly within the frame of the arrangement.
Home Again by Loren Evarts is another classic album in the solo piano genre; this release is the holder of many memories and reflections, and Evarts the master builder of those magical musical moments. This has to be one of the most contemplative albums I have listened to for a long while and one that I would recommend in a heartbeat.
Rating: Excellent
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