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Serenity II: More Peaceful Music on the Chapman Stick by Michael Kollwitz
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/19/2018
Ease the trials and tribulations of the day
The first time around I adored the work of Michael Kollwitz and his original album Serenity, with the second edition arriving some months later, we are gifted with no less than 16 more tracks to soothe our souls and ease our minds with Serenity II.
The supreme smoothness and calmness of approach can be found with ease on tracks like the opener The Presence and the attractive and kindly composition Wrapped in Love.
What Kollwitz does so well is create an serene atmosphere, which is constant and gentle throughout the entire hour, fine examples of that fluency can be found on the forever onward energies of Climbing the Mountain, a track that has a slow sense of focused movement and then the openness of Clear Passage, a piece that contains a certain sense of a light hearted quality within.
The Chapman Stick may be worth some research if you are not aware of the instrument, I would say that of all the artists who perform with this instrument, Kollwitz must be at the top of that musical tree, this is so evident with you listen to pieces like Live and Let Live, this has a distinct Jazz ethic to its construction and the ever charming The Balance, a warm composition that creates a wonderful sense of well-being whilst listening, but then again the whole album does.
The warmth of this release is a total boon, especially if you feature the previous album on a playlist, you will have near on two hours of serenity, those subtle tones of tranquillity can be further emphasised by compositions like Blue Skies, a song with such depth of colour and musical field, or Pure Signal, an arrangement that simply floats with the bliss of a summers day.
The Chapman Stick manifests a liquid like tone to its refrains like no other instrument, and a much eased back motif comes as a result of this very careful and crafted performance, two good examples of this are the pieces Welcome Home, a track that seems to have a divine balminess about its construction and the smooth confidence of A Greater Purpose.
There is also a superb technical essence to this album that can be really enjoyed as well, listen to the gentle intricacies of compositions like One With Nature, a calm short form styled song that is as tender as it is peaceful, or Shaman’s Cave, where one will find a wonderful narrative to guide you along your way within the piece.
Michael Kollwitz has a talent for creating a temperate atmospheric musical environment with each track, pieces like Easy Does It, the perfect Sunday morning opus and the crafted and quite brilliant Breaking Free, a song with the chilled ambience of a spring afternoon in the mountains.
By the time you have reached this point, you will be so relaxed and calm, you may just want to lay back and close your eyes, I would imagine the sleep that would follow would be some of the best ever, so to gift you two last sublimely laid back and unflustered arrangements is the total pleasure of the artist.
The shortest track off the album is our penultimate offering and called Beyond the Clouds, a piece that contains a composed and still feeling, akin to laying on your back looking up at an August sky, cloud watching. The last composition is probably the most placid and gentle of all and called Way of Knowledge, this one will really give you such a sublime sense of calmness as it plays.
Michael Kollwitz has done it again; he has created yet another alternate dimension of supreme tranquillity to get lost in. Serenity II connects perfectly with its sister album and gifts to you yet another hour of utter bliss with which to ease the trials and tribulations of the day completely away.
Rating: Excellent
Sunset Breeze by Lynn Yew Evers
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/17/2018
Touching hearts and minds
Today had been filled with much beauty for me, but as the afternoon crawled into the pit of the evening, and the sun began to slide below the distant horizon, it was time to bath in some magical tones and revitalise the senses, the music of choice would be Sunset Breeze from Lynn Yew Evers.
The title is appropriate as the day had been a warm one but with a nice costal breeze, so listening to this album was like listening to the soundtrack of that moment, but what beauty flowed from Yew Evers piano was exquisite especially the opening piece called The Dancing Doll, this is a track that is chilling in its imaginative brilliance, this opus truly draws the narrative of an old room where a box slowly opens, and this dusty old doll begins to dance a dance that no one will ever see, but one steeped with memory and emotion, this is one of the best starts to an album I have heard for ages.
The artist then follows that up with another outstanding offering called Ocean Wind, this reverie is so charming, and as one who lives near the sea, I can guarantee to you that this is a superb musical interpretation of that mood. Yew Evers has a way with her piano, she creates an opportunity for it to talk and as it comes alive, it creates such wonderful melodies of emotive memory.
The calmness of the sunset is now upon me; the music flows through, it soothes my soul and in this energy I could live for an Eternity. That is the name of this next track, and that is exactly the essence and mood that is depicted here. Yes this is technically brilliant, but the touch of emotive genius is magnificently manifested.
As we move to next composition, we come across a divine moment of musical mastery with the piece Oriental Moon. The opening segment creates a momentary sense of drama, but the fluency of what follows is simply spectacular. There is something about the performance here that reminds me of my neighbour David Lanz; it has that sense of majesty about it, one that creates such a charming and scenic vista.
Soaring is up next and the gentleness of this composition is pleasing to the ear, here is a track that is steeped in the traditional style of new age piano, which I am sure the aforementioned Lanz and the great George Winston would tip their hats to, and recognise a piece with a lush quality and a superior nature of performance.
That oh so special moment has arrived, yes it’s the title track Sunset Breeze, a perfect start, a slight pause and the melody of a halcyon moment is drawn in the storyline of this piece. The warm nature with which this is played is simply wonderful to feel. One could sit on their balcony and literally enjoy a sunset breeze with this rapturous musical moment of pure class.
We have now arrived at the half way juncture of the album, and as such we come across a delicate offering entitled, Where Do I Go From Here. This a little moment of reflection, a slight emotional mood floats from the keys, as the title poses a question that is seemingly yet to be answered. The care and attention to detail on this piece is very evident and well played indeed.
Without Words is up next, sometimes this is the best way of communicating, sometimes you just don’t need words, so let music do it for you and here on this most of sincere of pieces we have a sense of love portrayed within its energies. This song drifts along so serenely, but its honest refrains plays to our hearts at all times.
The next track hooked me completely; I am of course referring to You Are The Promise, You Are My Home. Now this is a rare occurrence as this doesn’t happen too much, but as the composition played, I started to invent the lyrics and sing along with the melody; maybe I will have to start writing songs lyrics again?
Reminisce has a similar energy about its construction as well. The smoothness with which this track is played is delicious; the cinematic elements of this arrangement must also not be ignored, it has a true sense of grandeur that makes it quite memorable, a delectable musical offering indeed.
We now drift into the back waters of the latter part of the release and come across a piece entitled Khai Qin's Song. This track is quite remarkable and one that has a certain level of sensitivity about its essence. The steady tempo and honest narrative brings us a truly respectful and sincere opus of a kindly piano and performer.
Heim Angelus had an almost reverential feel about its way. The style of performance was something quite outstanding, there were times I could literally feel a level of emotion, one that could see the notes of passion flood from the piano as they were so craft fully played.
The penultimate offering from this very classy release is called A Walk In A Chinese Garden. The softness of presentation here made this track for me; if one truly listens, a deep sense of rhythm can be found here, one so profound that it could even be meditative at its source.
So the gateway to the last track of the album has been reached, but before we depart from this musical realm, the artist, Lynn Yew Evers has one last gift of tone and harmony to offer us, and it is the classic Prelude in D Minor. The classically trained Evers ends with a composition of great character and style.
Sunset Breeze by Lynn Yew Evers is that solo piano release that all fans of the genre are going to fall head over heels in love with. Technically gifted, passionate in approach and artistic in her endeavours, Sunset Breeze by Lynn Yew Evers is an album that must win awards and reach the hearts and minds of anyone who truly adores really good piano music, performed brilliantly, by an artist who truly cares.
Rating: Excellent
The Essential Collection by Eugene Friesen
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/12/2018
Friesen is the man when it comes to the cello!
The Cello of Eugene Friesen has long been an instrument to admire; I have heard it signing its songs of beauty on so many albums, for so many artists over the years, now on The Essential Collection, you can enjoy a host of releases by the artist, who is joined by some of his fellow musician friends.
The very beginnings of this musical voyage will start in Japan, where the musings of performing in a museum and a popular Japanese song have been merged to create a track of utter beauty, and an energy of a pristine light for us to immerse ourselves within, the Cello and the repeating tones all work their magic perfectly on the opening piece Triangles/Akatombo.
Friessen follows that up with the intricate, but enchanting Shadowplay; there is a certain jazz enthused ambience within this piece that I adored along with its sense of pace and rhythm, the plucking technique by the artist here is breath taking and I would imagine Shadowplay would be something quite amazing to watch in a live concert, a tip of the hat to Tim Ray for his very sweet contribution on Piano.
Whales and the sound of them are always going to be popular in the new age music genre, but the sheer depth and vastness of musical quality that Friessen creates here is chilling and quite powerful. Humpback Harmonies also has a defined sense of movement within its overall construction, and this symphony of Cello’s manifests a truly remarkable composition, one that resonates so masterfully with the whale itself.
There is something so serene and calming about the arrangement Prelude in D Minor (JS Bach) on this offering, Friesen’s Cello builds a narrative that is so appealing, and grand. This solo effort has a quality of performance that one may find it both mesmeric and meditative in its energy.
As we approach the half way marker we arrive at a serene and lush composition that has such a beautiful narrative, called Cove. There is a wonderful attractive flow about this piece, so much so, that one could feel they are drifting down a river, and with this combination of Piano and Cello, heading for the sanctuary of a sunlit cove, such bliss.
Hymn for the Pacific Rim has a true sense of rhythm and movement about its nature, which makes it so very easy to be a part of. Featuring the multi instrumental talents of Howard Levy on Wooden Flute, and the creative, glistening percussion of Glen Velez, and added to the mix is the acoustic guitar of Chuck Loeb, manifesting one of the most light and all-encompassing tracks off the album.
I must say I absolutely adored Voice of the Wood, the natural sounds that open this are simply picturesque and with the Cello they literally manifest this glorious vista of nature for us to musically walk within. After some research the bird in question is the Japanese Bush Warbler, but the symbiotic partnership with Friesen’s Cello is something to behold, I also felt an emotive quality about this composition as well that was quite moving.
Tim Ray is back on piano for the upbeat and exciting arrangement called First Ride. The fast paced tempo describes the swift dynamism of movement to a tee, it has all the energy of something new that has been birthed, something shining and musically bright will be found within this piece, which will allow you to simply smile at the experience of listening to it.
As we move towards the deepest part of the collection we come across Dances of Rasputin, if you ever wanted to listen to Friessen rock it up, then this is the track with which to do it. This improvised work of folk genius highlights the immense talents of the artist in full flow; this would indeed be something to watch at a concert!
Our penultimate offering is Remembering You, and is performed with such a reverence of respect it is a delight to listen to. The combination of Ray and Friessen on piano and Cello is emotive, and bathed in a musical tone of appreciation, and dedicated to the artists late father.
So we have finally arrived at the very last port of call of the album and it’s called River Camp. Now here is a track to lighten our way as we leave the project, this piece has all the vigour of youth and exuberance of being young, and perhaps even a gloriously happy occasion of a memorable time at, on, or in the river!
There is something special about this album; it manifests so many doorways of musical brilliance, that there is literally something for everyone within the release. The Essential Collection of Eugene Friessen will take you back in time, it will remind you of the artists best works, it will make you smile, enthral you with its new and splendid tones of production, but at all times remind you that Eugene Friesen is the man, when it comes to the Cello.
Rating: Excellent
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