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Ascend by Christine Brown
- posted by Christine Brown on 3/8/2018
Ascend

Ascend is pianist/composer Christine Brown’s twelfth album and what a great album it is! A collection of fourteen original piano solos that reflect her classical training as well as the soothing, uplifting qualities of new age piano at its best, each piece is a sparkling gem with its own story to tell. Christine has always had a sublimely graceful and elegant piano touch, but some of the music on this album seems to have an even greater emotional and dramatic range than previous releases. In addition to her beautiful original compositions, some of Christine’s albums have included arrangements of children’s songs, medleys of classical and Christmas music (A Classic Christmas in 2012) and medleys of classical and pop/rock music (Seamless in 2016). Her 2014 release of original piano solos, Souvenirs, was awarded Album of the Year by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. Several of her earlier albums have been on my annual Favorites lists and Ascend is guaranteed a spot on the 2017 list! I think it’s Christine Brown’s best album to date - and Seamless blew me away last year! The album was recorded on Christine’s Kawai RX-7 grand piano and was engineered by Scott D. Davis of Scovis Productions with mastering by Michael McDonald, Syntharts Studios; the piano sound is powerful yet very smooth. As usual, Matt Strieby’s graphic design is stunning.

Ascend begins with the title track, a warmly optimistic piece that welcomes the listener and sets the peaceful tone of the album. “Love’s Legacy” is more melancholy, with deep emotion flowing from one heart to another - a favorite. “Magic Carpet” is quite different with a mysterious Middle Eastern sound that is, indeed, magical. The deep bass of the piano is particularly effective on this piece. “Gravity” is delicate and gentle - an unseen force that keeps us grounded and functioning. “Closer” is a slow, romantic waltz as well as a heartfelt love song - another favorite. I’m really looking forward to the sheet music for “Forest For the Trees,” a gently-flowing piece with passionate passages that send it soaring. “Lotus Breeze” has a slightly Asian flavor and is as delicate as a whisper. “Cherish” is another favorite - deeply-felt emotional expression that comes directly from the heart. “Amethyst Sky” is my favorite track of the fourteen. Watching a beautiful sky can evoke feelings of longing as well as contentment and peace, and this wonderful piece captures those feelings and gives them wings. “Safe and Sound” ends the album in much the same way it began - with warmth and optimism and perhaps a touch of gratitude that all is well.

Ascend is truly an artistic achievement, and I fully expect to see it nominated for a slew of awards in addition to appearing on many “best of” and “favorites” lists. It is available from www.ChristineBrownPiano.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation.

Ascend
Christine Brown
2017 / Key Image Music/Christine Brown
63 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
October 1, 2017
Rating: Excellent
Soul Dreams by Christopher Boscole
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/7/2018
Bring a smile to your face with the music
While I watched the afternoon stretch out into the haze of a day so mild and warming, I mused over a recent musical trend within the solo piano genre, has this style become more ambient lately, more introspective? I gaze upon the splendour of the day amid the dust storms from the Sahara, and the dark shadow it creates over the Mediterranean, and perhaps yes, that could be the case, the point in question now, is can this be said for the latest album by Christopher Boscole, who has just given to the world a sparkling new offering entitled Soul Dreams.
However the aforementioned postulation of ambience cannot be levied at the opening track from the release entitled New Hope, the composition is full of a glistening radiance of the subject matter in question and this up-tempo and joy bringer of a piece is well named, and one may add, a fine way to start an album for a solo pianist.
Boscole’s music has been described as inspirational and uplifting and that would be a perfect description of the next track Polyana. A wistful and memorable melody can be found here, in a performance that if one listens, can be quite empowering.
We move on to the composition Heart Traveler, and whilst in my opinion ambience isn’t achieved, we find a piece that has incredible depth and mood. This is one those arrangements that’s played with utter honesty, with the heart on the sleeve, and Boscole deserves to be applauded for this quite emotional performance.
The cadence of the afternoon now brings patterns of dusty sunlight in through my windows, creating a wonderful mood for music like this. Boscole now tests that moment of reverie with a fluent offering entitled Happy Day and creates some simply delightful imaginary that suits my current state of emotional bliss. This is cleverly arranged and composed, while many would be expecting a full flowing musical narrative, Boscole manifests something so tender and delicate with a slow tempo that is redolent of just being happy, but appreciating it.
Soul Dreams is one of those albums you really won’t want to miss, it has everything and on the piece, To See You Again, we have another genuine composition of happiness and glee. There is a blissful and delightful openness about this arrangement that is so appealing; one could imagine two friends meeting after such a long time apart and all manner of honest conversations taking place, in the way when you have really missed someone.
Yes, solo piano is a genre that is jam packed with artists of all levels, quality and style and Boscole must be in the top 10 somewhere. Now for that sense of ambience I mentioned much earlier, you will find a hint of it in this next offering called Empathy. A very moving composition can be found here; this performance does touch at the soul level, one can feel through the performance that the artist is creating the energy of truth and peace, to allow us to let go and enjoy the arrangement in its entirety.
We now drift as if on a summer cloud into the latter half of the album, and come across a charming piece called The Question. The narrative here is bathed in a classic new age piano style that stretches back through the decades of Winston and Lanz and forms a soothing, yet uplifting energy for the soul. The performance is outstandingly brilliant and one, I would imagine, would be a real treat to watch performed live.
We’re here at the track called Souls Journey, this is as ambient as it gets, a slow tempo manifests a moment of floating within the musical notes; this is simply beautiful and very emotive too. Boscole has created a world between worlds with the piano, but although the composition is stirring, there is serenity about the arrangement that is so compelling and as thus happens to be one of my favourite pieces off the release.
The title track is now upon us, Soul Dreams has a flow that is quite addictive and the abundant sense of movement here is indeed breath taking. There is a structured pattern of ambience that takes us through and within a realm of dreams, and allows us to bathe in the mirrored pools of its beauty for just short of six amazing minutes of solo piano heaven, this also has to be one of the best performances I have ever heard from the artist, and saying that, you’re going to want to listen to this one many times over for sure.
As we move to the last few portals off the album, the one we step through now reminds me of David Neagle and his Temple of the Forest album of many decades ago, it ripples with the intensity of a composition played from the clear and present channel that Boscole has most certainly got, and is called Peace of the Soul. At just short of seven minutes long this piece is absolutely top quality in all that it gives to us the ever eager listener, it manifests an urgency to be whole, to be at peace, and the desire to just be at one with ourselves.
The penultimate offering is entitled Mistery, which of course is the archaic spelling of what we now call Mystery. As this album has progressed Boscole is literally creating through his compositions, realms of musical awareness as of yet not seen. The performance is fast and passionate, but through this full flowing and empowering narrative, he has created a place of musical safety, a sanctuary of sound perhaps.
Our last offering is called Suite Sunshine, Boscole has crafted this so well and navigated us through the journey of the soul with great skill and talent, this last piece for me is like breaking through the clouds and being bathed in sunlight. So ambience then must be in the heart of the listener and the mind of the musician and the combination of them both is the magic we have just listened to.
I could listen to Soul Dreams on repeat, as music goes it is ageless, it manifests within the arrangements that we are something more than what we are, and from that, gives us hope. Boscole has produced in my view his best work so far, this is an album that once played will leave you with a resonance of peace of heart and ambience of mind, which will simply bring a smile of happiness to your day, however it has been, and that can’t be a bad thing can it?
Rating: Excellent
French Impressions by David Lanz
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/5/2018
Lanz at his eloquent best
There is nothing more soothing than the gentle refrains of a David Lanz album to sooth the soul, you just have to listen to this oasis of calm and you will feel immediately at peace. Whilst listening to the album it did however occur to me that this has to be the most ambient in style I have ever heard from Lanz, and as a big fan of that genre I dived in deep, and found a dimension of sound as never before.
So let’s begin our musical journey through French Impressions. That voyage of intent begins with the short form composition The Wandering Path. Beautifully imagery can be found here in well under two minutes, and with a narrative that is so tranquil.
This story of supreme solo piano ambience continues with the fluent and charming Conversation Avec les Etoiles, which I think means conversation with the stars. Here is a piece that explores the realms above in a warm, but very personal way; Lanz almost seems to create a moment so precious, so tender and so awe inspiring, all in one short arrangement, a veritable soundtrack of romantic stargazing.
On The River At Night we have classic Lanz composition, a sweet and very poetic melody and slow wending tale of nocturnal river side memories, here the artist manifests something so emotional and filled with passion it is impossible to resist. On this piece, Lanz is in a moment of sublime flow and offers us the listener a chance to drift with him.
The ambience continues with Midnight Kiss, once more the artist shows just how the years have honed his skills; the gentleness of this offering is amazing and so very delicate, the adoring stream of a never ending passionate loving and affectionate moment can be found here, thanks to a blissful performance by Lanz.
We nudge towards to the half way line of the album and come across a beautiful track called Still Life #2. There is something quite serene about this composition, yes it has that typical Lanz flow, but the tempo is so well paced, giving us a true art gallery moment of a composition. The artist’s performance on this piece is like sitting by a window and watching the day drift past, while we stand just outside the periphery of time itself.
By now I’m sure you will agree with me about the sublime ambience of this album and on Love Is Truth, you will find the openness of the piece is sparklingly refreshing. This is a true heart on the sleeve composition, nothing hidden; everything gained, and exquisitely played.
We now move to Marees de Matin, this ambient lake is further filled with a really gorgeous performance and adds another dimension to this already outstanding album, by manifesting a little extra elevated cheer and happiness.
French Blue is almost cinematic in quality; one could easily see this in a film segment. David Lanz is unique, that is without doubt, and its creations like this one, that one can see that statement blossom into fruition, the style is almost like watching one of the grand masters paint; Lanz use of musical colour is quite simply stunning.
Passages, at well over five minutes long, is not only the longest piece off the release, but also one of the most emotive. There is a certain element of reflectiveness about this composition that makes it so appealing. This is also a track that seems to wend its own way, perhaps through the passages of a life, and allows the artist to channel the music perfectly.
We now glide to the deeper waters of the album and come across a moving piece called, As Dreams Dance. This musical reverie is simply delightful to listen to, and the current and almost tidal nature of this performance, gives us a perfect nocturnal perambulation through a world of dreams.
We now arrive at the penultimate offering on the album French Impressions and find a simply brilliant moment of solo piano bliss, and on this, the title track, Lanz makes the most of this moment and creates a sublime and tranquil narrative for us to enjoy. This piece has everything, it has a calmness of spirit and an ease of movement; Lanz can simply switch gears and motifs at a whim.
The last portal to this dimension of sound created by the artist is upon us, and called Prieres du Soir. The artist allows us to drift away on a blanket of tone, one so rich and imploring it becomes a dream filled pastiche of an evening song, so lovingly created by a man who truly plays from the heart.
French Impressions by David Lanz is without doubt the most ambient you will have ever heard the artist, his magisterial fluency on this release is unequalled and in my view, David Lanz is in touch with his musical soul more so now than ever before. French Impressions is a release that will not just sooth the mind, but one that will bring happiness and comfort to each and every listener who bathes in its calmimg tones; this is without doubt Lanz at his eloquent best.
Rating: Excellent
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