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Greatest Hits Vol. 2 by Steven Vitali
- posted by Candice Michelle on 3/24/2017
Steven Vitali - Greatest Hits Vol. 2
Greatest Hits Vol. 2 is a collection of sixteen pieces culled from a three-decade span of works by California-based composer/musician Steven Vitali. His music first debuted on Canadian airwaves in 1988 with a song called “Eternity”, which was eventually followed up with his debut album, Come Dream With Me, released in 1989. Totaling sixty-seven minutes in length, Greatest Hits Vol. 2 weaves new age, neoclassical and contemporary instrumental styles of music that variably range from boldly cinematic to quietly contemplative, as environmental nature sounds along with touches of world music are additionally sprinkled throughout.

Introducing the album is a piece from Vitali’s 2006 release, Quiet Moments, titled “Tranquil Thoughts”, which opens with breezy intonations of Japanese flute amidst the sound of ocean waves gently rolling in. A soothing piano melody ensues, as Vitali’s fingertips climb softly up and down the keys, effectively invoking an atmosphere of calm and serenity. Following next is “Andrew’s Song”, taken from the album, Invitation to Dream. Boasting a sweeping and tender arrangement, the piece initially begins with a solo keyboard melody, as more symphonic and rhythmic elements are brought into the fold. Track numbers four and five include a pair of notable pieces also culled from Quiet Moments. The first of these, “The Winds of Time”, begins with the churning of the ocean’s tides, as an introductory harp recalls that of a stage curtain being pulled back on a dance performance or play. Melodic piano and strings provide gentle accompaniment throughout, as the distant call of seagulls seemingly drift in and out of rising mists from the sea. Descending wind gusts accompanied by the sounds of thunder and rainstorm quietly introduce “Heaven’s Harp”, eventually giving way to a more classically-infused melody of delicate harp and strings. The album seemingly reaches its zenith midway through with the eighth track, “A Sign of the Dragon”, a particularly lovely composition taken from the 2013 release, Language of the Soul. Proceeding with a flash of tinkling chimes, images are recalled of the mythical Far East. Imbued with a somewhat formidable yet whimsically magical essence, added cinematic and rhythmic elements lend a Yin-Yang balance of both delicate beauty and striking power. It’s easily my favorite piece on the album, even bearing some reminiscence to the fantasy-themed music of Medwyn Goodall. “Everything Happens for a Reason” is another highlight likewise taken from Language of the Soul, as well as perhaps the album’s most emotive composition. Illuminated by sparkling key strokes throughout, a symphonic arrangement of string and brass instruments are laid over of a steady, moderately-paced rhythm. Eventually pausing for a bridge of subtle ethnic chant, this wonderful number ultimately culminates with an essence of existential wonder and forging ahead in life. Concluding the album with a lively mood of festivity is another piece lifted from Quiet Moments, titled “On the Mountain”. Here, cinematic strings and choral textures are guided by a waltzing rhythm that leads right though the entrance of a grand palace of celebration.

Lightly touching upon influential works of composers such as Hans Zimmer, Vangelis and Yanni, this rewarding collection of songs range from sweepingly cinematic to quietly contemplative. Likewise characterized by romantic overtones of classical elegance throughout its course, Greatest Hits Vol. 2 offers a definitive, well-rounded introduction to the music of Steven Vitali, no less providing new listeners with an excellent place to start! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Very Good +
Reflected In A Flowing Stream by Kathryn Kaye
- posted by Candice Michelle on 3/24/2017
Kathryn Kaye - Reflected In A Flowing Stream
Reflected in a Flowing Stream is the sixth full-length album from notably accomplished and award-winning pianist-composer, Kathryn Kaye. Co-produced by Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton and herself, Kathryn’s latest release was recorded at Will’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, as well as mixed and mastered by Tom. Comprised of eleven compositions spanning fifty-five minutes, a talented team of guest musicians are variably featured throughout, of which includes Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Tony Levin on bass, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn, Jill Haley on English horn, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Tom Eaton on accordion, and Will Ackerman on guitar. As always, the most visually suited cover artwork was chosen to represent her album, with this one perfectly capturing a gentle repose, observant of nature and the seasonal cycles of the year.

“A Lark in the Last Night of Day” offers a gently spirited solo piano introduction with notable classical touches, delicately alternating between drifty notes and bubbling, flowing key strokes. Capturing a sense of nostalgia seemingly reflective upon the past, an allusion to the end of a season is conveyed, as further indicated by the title of the next piece, “As Seasons Change”. Here, a solemn touch of cello is accompanied by bass, preceding a lovely piano melody that becomes more formidable, yet remains ever graceful, before softly winding down again. The next composition, “Procession of Moon and Stars”, is likewise aptly-named, as it moves along in a procession-like manner with a marching stanza in the lower registers. Alternating between major and minor chord shifts throughout its main melodic riff, this exquisite number is further enhanced by accordion and cello, as the caressing sound of flugelhorn lends an interval of dreaminess. Bookended by sparse piano notes, “The Stillness Before Dawn” ensues, while a more clearly defined melody exchanges subtle gestures with English horn nestled in-between. Noticeably brightening up the mood is “No Reason Not to Dance”, an optimistically lively, moderately-paced ensemble piece joined by accordion, bass, percussion and violin. I’m especially fond of the closing piece, “Arctic Night”, which is likewise accompanied by cello and bass. As if having saved the best for last, this mysterious number beautifully paints a nocturnal landscape, while brooding minor chords softly cast a shadow upon cascading influxes of improvisational piano throughout.

Reflected in a Flowing Stream gently nudges the listener to take a pause for quiet reflection. It never becomes bombastic or overly imposing in nature, but rather feels intimately subdued. Executed with utmost elegance and an expertly refined restraint, Kathryn’s prepossessing compositions feel innately unhurried and mindful of every detail within the present moment. Her compositional style, along with the moods she creates, often bear reminiscence to the works of Chad Lawson, as well as those of early David Lanz, such as his Narada-released album, Nightfall. Existing fans of Kathryn’s work will note much to praise about this album, while newcomers will find a perfect place to start, especially, those who enjoy classically-infused, contemplative new age piano music!
Rating: Excellent
Souvenir d'Italia by Elizabeth Naccarato
- posted by lillian on 3/22/2017

American pianist and composer Elizabeth Naccarato has musically captured one of her favorite places, Italy, on her sixth album, SOUVENIR D’ITALIA. The dozen instrumental tunes are like picture-book snapshots of an Italian adventure that capture the feelings of sitting at sidewalk cafes, meeting friends at the Spanish Steps, driving through the countryside, dancing, serenading, romancing, wandering through cathedrals and museums, sampling regional gourmet delights, and feeling the passion of the people.

Naccarato’s previous popular recordings are JARRELL’S COVE, NORTH SYCAMORE, STONE COTTAGE, ONE PIANO and HISTORY. Naccarato got her degree in piano performance at the University of Southern California. Over the years he has worked with other musicians including Michael Gettel and Nancy Rumbel. Naccarato mostly composes her own music, but on her new album she decided to cover the Italian classic “That’s Amore” as an instrumental.

SOUVENIR D’ITALIA is beautiful, Italian-flavored, gentle, piano-oriented music. Naccarato wrote these compositions after spending a lot of time in Italy. Then she gives the listener the emotional feelings of traditional Italian music by bringing in guest musicians on violin, mandolin and accordion. Plus she adds the occasional saxophone, bass and drums to round out the arrangements. The result is soft, melodic music that, if you close your eyes while you are listening, is the next best thing to an Italian vacation.
Rating: Excellent
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