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Art by Matthew Mayer
- posted by Kathy Parsons on 12/5/2016
From Mainly Piano
At a time when the world seems to be turning upside down and so many people are expressing anger and frustration, what a breath of fresh air and sweetness is "Art" by pianist/composer Matthew Mayer! Subtitled “A Piano Bedtime Album,” "Art" is Mayer’s tenth release since 1999 and consists of seven original piano solos (odd-numbered tracks) and six solo piano arrangements of lullabies and nursery rhymes (even-numbered tracks) that are sure to soothe and relax the children in us all. The beautiful cover artwork by Lisa Falzon perfectly mirrors the innocence and gentleness of the music, which was recorded and mastered by Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven Recording Studios in Sedona, AZ. It is interesting to note that the title of the album has more than one meaning in this context. In addition to the obvious visual application, Art (Cooper) was Mayer’s piano teacher and the album also honors him. I love Mayer’s quote in the liner notes: “This album represents and is about the artist in us all, the dreams we dream when we lay our heads down at night, the infinite possibilities we can create with our own art and expression to the world.”

"Art" begins with “Charlie’s Lullaby,” a delicate waltz that resembles a music box when it is played at the upper end of the piano - a charming opening! I’ve heard a lot of piano arrangements of “Frere Jacques,” but none have been as expressive or as graceful as Mayer’s version. The title track flows freely but with a purpose, as art often does. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is one of the livelier tracks, dancing “merrily, merrily merrily” from start to finish and always bringing a smile. “Love” is one of my favorites and is a wonderful “song without words.” The poignant and tender emotions that are expressed warm the heart deeply. What lullaby album would be complete without the Brahms classic? Mayer’s arrangement is played slowly with a gently rolling left hand behind the simple melody. “Bloom” would be the perfect soundtrack to a time-lapse video of a flower opening - simple yet profound. “Sweet Dreams (Dreams V)” is the perfect send-off to Dreamland with its gently-flowing left hand broken chords and elegantly uncluttered melody. Slowed down and performed with an abundance of expression, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is transformed into something new and affecting - another favorite. Picking up the tempo considerably, “Little Feet” has an infectious energy and a compelling minor-key melody that swirl and dance from beginning to end - also a favorite! “All Through the Night” is usually thought of as a Christmas carol, but it fits in on this album beautifully - a lovely arrangement! The closing track, “Good Night,” leaves a lot of open space between notes and phrases - just enough to put a sleepy head over the edge and into peaceful sleep. Sigh…..

"Art" is the first of Matthew Mayer’s albums I’ve heard in quite a while, and I’m totally charmed! Although the music is accessible enough for children, it is also sophisticated enough that you never feel like you’re listening to a children’s album. Very highly recommended!
Rating: Excellent
I Heard It Was Christmas Day by Tom Caufield
- posted by Candice Michelle on 12/5/2016
I Heard It Was Christmas Day by Tom Caufield
I Heard It Was Christmas Day is guitarist-composer Tom Caufield’s seventh release, as well as his first Christmas album. Comprised of nine guitar-led compositions, the album includes eight of Tom’s favorite Christmas standards (six sacred and two secular), plus one original composition. Although performed on a steel string guitar, one might easily mistake it for nylon in many parts, since Tom cuts the highest frequencies out when he records to create a sound that is rounded, velvety and overall haunting.

“Joy to the World” opens with acoustic guitar which is joined by gently hovering angelic voices about half-way through. Uplifting yet serene, it sets the pace for the rest of the album. “Hark on High” follows next, a combination of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High”, where melodic and flowing guitar is accentuated by delicate bells. A gentle acoustic rhythm guides “Carol of the Drum”, which is a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy”, offering a laid-back sensibility that evokes images of the countryside. It precedes what is possibly my favorite composition on the album, “What Child Is This?”, an old Christmas carol that is set to the tune of the traditional English folk song “Greensleeves”. It’s a piece I’ve always particularly loved that has been covered by numerous recording artists, yet typically difficult to personalize. However, Tom simply nails it to perfection, adding his own signature sound in this rendition with an outstanding guitar arrangement. A Mediterranean flair characterizes the piece, transporting me to an old European city that evokes a Christmas of centuries past. “I Heard It Was Christmas Day” is the album’s only original composition, nestled perfectly in-between the others. Moving along at a moderate pace, a cozy and down-to-earth feel permeates this piece, as the soft sound of accompanying sleigh bells lend a cheery tone throughout. Another longtime favorite carol that Tom has beautifully rendered is “Silent Night”, the longest piece on the album clocking in at nearly eight and a half minutes. Ethereal tones and soft sleigh bells underpin a supple guitar melody, which is later joined by a slow rhythm, truly evoking a sense of ‘heavenly peace’. Likewise, Tom adds his own twist to “God Rest You”, a rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, imbuing it with an old-world mystique. Tom has also included a lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” where he applies a variation to the chorus, conveying the warmth of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night. “Auld Lang Syne” closes out the album, where Tom’s guitar is joined by airy bells and a slow backing rhythm, perfectly capturing the bittersweet nostalgia of this long-cherished New Year’s theme song.

I Heard It Was Christmas Day is easily one of the best Christmas albums I’ve heard, boasting impeccably elegant and creative interpretations of timeless compositions. I am simply enamored with both the fluidity and enveloping quality of Tom’s guitar-playing style, which at times is exotic and gypsy-like, and at others, more Americana-flavored. Furthermore, the album is presented with a beautiful artwork design that depicts a 17th century painting by Valentin de Boulogne called “Christ and the Adulteress”, which Tom selected to convey the timeless, universal message of compassion and forgiveness. I not only enthusiastically recommend this album to those who love Christmas music, but to anyone who enjoys some of the best that guitar instrumental music has to offer! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
Freedom by Rockapelli
- posted by Kevin Donoho on 12/1/2016
Written by
Steve Sheppard (OWM Cyprus Radio) 11/16/2016

It’s time for us to go on another musical journey dear reader, this time one with a difference, as we ride out across the sonic plains with Native American band Rockapelli.
We start with a spectacular offering called Shoshone Sunrise. With drums, flute and chanting we are gifted something truly scene setting on this composition, that sets us up nicely for the remainder of the album.

The title track “Freedom” is sublime, and contains a really creative mix of indigenous music, rock and superb vocals. This is a delightfully paced track with some light and very thoughtful guitar by Kevin Donoho, and some emotive vocals by Reil. This track is one that I personally rate very highly and its smooth rock style is sure to make its way onto my Friday Rock show sooner rather than later.

The acoustic guitar on Snake Eyes was a real scene setter, and the bass created the foundations for us to all enjoy a really rhythmic offering. The percussion really reminded me of the great days of Santana. A real team effort of a piece this one and a very enjoyable driving composition that constantly but carefully picked up energy and tempo as it manifested itself.

The guitar on the beginning of Spirit Rein had a really light smooth Jazz ethic to its initial construction, which morphed into an excellent folk ballad; this is one very beautiful song that has so many elements of artistry drawn within it. The song itself is simply adorable to listen to, and with ease we can be there to watch the Spirt Rein fall gently on our faces.

At the half way point we are greeted by the spirit energy of the horse, which means Freedom. The natural sounds, flute and acoustic guitar set a wonderful panoramic vista of a summer landscape, in the delightful short form track called Meadow.

The start of Midnite Sun really reminded me of early Rush on softer tracks like Closer to the Heart, however the individuality and incredibly wonderful performances by Sierra Reeves on vocals for this song and the stylish guitar of Donoho manifested for us a totally outstanding arrangement of classy brilliance, and this composition is one of my favourites from the album.

Donoho’s acoustic begins the early refrains of the next piece called Halcyon, this is a moment in our lives that is rare, and means a segment of your life when everything is perfection in both peace and harmony, and the music suits that mood time perfectly.

As we move deeper into the album we come across a clever arrangement called One Smile. This is yet another fantastically produced arrangement, which has both good lyrical content and performance. The vocals supplied by the outstanding Bob Reil are both soulful and powerful when needed, as a vocalist myself that’s not always an easy thing to do. The flute then creates a whole new dimension as Emilano Campobello joins the dance and soon after Donoho‘s guitars and drums add weight and intention to what is one of the best and most meaningful tracks of the album.

The longest track from the release is called Oasis and thankfully lasting all of a lush and sweet six minutes plus. Listen and be in awe of the performance on flute and superb acoustic narrative on guitar. The natural sounds really create an atmosphere of a peace filled Oasis with ease. This is one of those tracks that you start listening to and enjoy so much you keep dragging the counter back to zero to start again, a totally sun kissed environment has been masterfully created here and all you have to do is relax, close your eyes and enjoy!

Our last moment of musical magic is called Walking Thunder, and as you may guess from the title, we are in for something explosive, powerful and emotive. The percussion is deep and has great movement, especially when partnered so ably with the flute. Reil’s vocals drive us along this musical Buffalo trail and we
can even give merit points for the huge storm rumbling thunder clap at the beginning and the end of the song. I do so love compositions that have a reference or relationship to the potency of storms, the amazing energy of the power of the creator and this arrangement with the amazing drum and audio provided by Susan Marie Reeves towards the last few moments of this piece says it all, this is a true classic, that you must play many times over.

This album by Rockapelli is not just good it is powerfully effective; it has charm, intensity when needed and its creative and artistic performances and compositions are simply outstanding.
Freedom as an album is a collection of songs that have been created with a really positive energy, it has vibrancy, but also a smoothness and totally professional and thoughtful methodology can be found behind the overall concept of the release. The band should be proud of themselves for producing such a quality album and that quality should also be part of your music collection as soon as possible, as albums of this ilk, do not come around that often.
Rating: Excellent
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