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Between Then and Now by Nick Farr
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/25/2017
A breath of musical fresh air
I needed this album, I needed some time to reflect in a chilled environment and this release fitted the bill perfectly. Nick Farr had been on my musical radar for some years now, since the solo piano album A View from Within, back in 2012, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear a multi instrumental album from him, just when my spirits needed lifting.
Between then and Now starts in a most friendly style, with the memorable and light jazz styled ethic of the opening piece entitled Thinking of You. This is one extremely smooth composition and brings us a light happy feeling immediately as we start our musical journey with the artist.
On Late Night Rendezvous we have a truly sensual offering, the brass in this arrangement lays down a romantic, yet heart rendering moment of musical magic. The piano of Farr is the master narrator, which guides us through the waters of love and a late night rendezvous.
I shall have to pass this track onto our Celtic music presenter, I am sure she would love to feature Celtic Shores on her show. The compositions and arrangement of this piece is sublime and gives us a true flavour of the heartlands of the Celts. The strings are a paintbrush of sound that colours the vista with a simple brushstroke of tone. Farr drives forever onward on piano and dances with the violin when needed.
As we arrive at Within Reach, we come across a lush composition that is performed with a certain layer of sensitivity, but an extremely adept overture of professionalism. This is a truly magnificent opus, one that shows the masterful performance of Farr at its very best.
Let’s turn back the clock now and go back to Memphis, 1989. We roll backwards and into the arms of a really smooth and jazzy offering. The gentle nature of this piece gives us an evident sensation of movement, perhaps driving through the city lights, in a nightfall moment, on a warm summer evening in late August.
The percussion and piano introduce us to a piece called Happy Hour, the bass joins the band and we can enjoy a track that perhaps illustrates that we have found the entrance to Cheers bar, and we’re lucky enough to have arrived at Happy Hour. There is simply everything to like about this wonderful feel good piece.
We have passed now into the latter half of the album and come across a personal favourite of mine called A New Beginning. Farr’s skill at musical illustration can never be more evident than here. There is a certain expectation in the performance of a fresh start; the keyboards create an energy that seems to grow with every note played, and the multi instrumentation segments draw us a picture of an increased energy of excitement.
Blackberry Lane sees Farr’s skill set on piano really come to the fore, a picturesque offering is now upon us and with a certain symphonic grace we are gifted something that is truly great in all aspects of the word. The melody also has a slight Celtic lilt to it that demands to be listened to. Blackberry Lane also has that wonderful use of crescendo and a glorious cinematic quality, which would slot nicely into a movie segment with ease, and yes, this is my absolute favourite from the release.
The flute and piano of Farr dance in a symbiotic movement of nature on this most attractive and charming piece called Whip-Poor-Will. There’s a beauty and warmth about this track that create an addictive narrative, perhaps being an ornithologist helps, but this charming composition drew such a wonderful musical vista in my mind’s eye.
I must admit I have walked some of the Trail of Tears, I found it a very sobering and a deeply moving moment in my life, this heinous act should never be forgotten and the pain and suffering that went along with it should never be either. This track emphasises that, but also the proud nature of the true indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Farr has also most produced a symphony for the ages here in this classic cinematic offering, but you can also hear echoes of the past, created respectfully by a ghostly flute on the horizon.
As we reach the penultimate track we come across an intriguing offering called Snow Soldiers. The percussion draws an obvious narrative, but this is one of those pieces you must listen to all the way through, as the composition hangs in the air, like the sullen clouds of a storm waiting to break, and you never know exactly what is going to happen next. The ability of Nick Farr to produce several movie styled pieces on this album is beyond impressive, Snow Soldiers falls in that category to and should be saluted as a modern day stroke of symphonic genius.
So we arrive at our last musical doorway, and as we push it open we find tucked away in the corner our last offering from the release, it’s called Aurora Green. For me, this was a very clever way to end the album, almost where we started off, and Farr’s jazz piano style floats back into our minds, rounding off what has been a truly superb musical voyage with the artist.
Between Then and Now is an album that adds a colour and depth to the current music scene, one that at times seems to lurch into a banality of receptiveness. This is a musical journey you will never want to end. Farr has created a true album in the sense of the word, one that depicts so many moments in time and illustrates each and every composition with a performance that is simply outstanding. Between Then and Now is one of those releases that everyone should have sitting proudly at the front of their musical collection, it’s a true breath of musical fresh air.
Rating: Excellent
Ardor by Matthew Mayer
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2017
Genius in motion
There is a certain whole heartedness about this brand new release from Matthew Mayer that is so appealing. The fluency is not only enticing, it is all encapsulating, and draws you in with a simply touch of the keys.
Ardor is an album that flows with passion, like the first offering entitled Stars on 123, a curious title indeed, but a composition that has a vastness about its arrangement that is akin to the galaxy itself, an ambient start that will lighten the load after a hard day in the real world.
The title track is next up and Ardor flows from the piano like a mountain stream in winter. The gentleness of performance here is what takes my attention, I would absolutely love to watch the artist perform this, his style is so mesmeric. The reflective nature of this piece is mood filled, but has certain avidity about its energy.
Source Of Blue has a depth and deepness about its essence that is so picturesque, yes it is reflective, but in a thoughtful way. This album would be perfect for those quiet moments I spend by the ocean, in a wistful and studious mood. The melody here seems familiar; perhaps it’s the resonance that it creates for me today!
We move slowly now into a track called Shoe Strings, the slight use of pause here adds to the structure of the arrangement, then with a wave of the hand the tempo picks up and the track moves from reflection, into action. This upbeat composition rejuvenates us and readies us for the next port of call.
That sojourn now approaches, so it’s time to spend a moment off the clock in the realm of a piece called Disappear It May. This is a tune of a different colour, as the artist draws a mysterious narrative that is so very addictive. This is one of those tracks that you will find yourself whistling late at night or during the day for no apparent reason.
Doc greets our arrival at the half way marker. This melodic short form arrangement has all the hall marks of a movie segment. The piece is so carefully performed it’s a pleasure to listen to, and the light it brings with it, equally so.
Our footfalls are now on the return pathway towards the end of the album and our anthem to take us there is called A Kindled Soul. Here is a song that has a real spark; this is an inspired performance by the artist. One that is played with a real essence of rapidity, but with style and panache, this musical narration literally pours from his hands, and brings forth a truly empowering and stimulating arrangement.
One of my many favourites from this release is Moonlight Walk. I should do more of these and perhaps this very track could be the soundtrack for my night time perambulations. A slow and delightfully eloquent composition can be found here, one that seems to ebb to and fro like the tide.
The memorable When Flowers Grew Wild is now upon us. Here is a piece that is bathed in a reminiscence that is so deeply felt, and perhaps a commemoration of when life seemed to be far easier and kinder than it appears today.
We now move forever onwards and come across a piece called Escape. The intensity here is truly evident and the pace created draws us a splendid narrative of running fast towards freedom and away from fear. Matthew Mayer has manifested something here that is cleverly dramatic and radiates with it an exciting gusto of musical energy.
We now arrive at the portal of the penultimate offering which is called Dreams V1. This once more has a sense of reflection about its construction and from the performance one could easily imagine waking from a dream into sunlight Sunday morning.
We have arrived at the departure lounge of the project called Ardor by Matthew Mayer, but before we make our way back to our reality, the artist has one more piece to share with you, a musical gift if you like, to take with you along your way, it is the ever so fluent and inspirational, We Met Once. Gentle and considerate are two words I would use to label this final composition, a truly clever way to end what has been a magnificent musical journey.
Ardor has a real passion about it that is absolutely undeniable, but from that passion emanates complete truth, from that truth comes one of the finest performances of solo piano you’re likely to hear for an age.
Matthew Mayer is a true master of his art and this, his eleventh album, will not only placate the legions of his eager fans, but grow that base experientially. The talents of the Mayer go to create something here that is not only sincerely special, but could rightfully be called genius in motion.
Rating: Excellent
Prelude to a Dream by Shoshana Michel
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2017
Truly great piano compositions
Shoshana Michel is back with her third album entitled Prelude to a Dream, this could very well be the best work from her to date, so why not hop aboard our musical boat and let’s travel down this river of fluent compositions together.
The key word used above is fluency, and on this album you will find that in abundance, you only have to listen to the opening piece to recognise that quality. Wonders is a beautifully played piece that is warm and all-encompassing, its eloquent tones bring a certain charm to the overall arrangement.
It’s easy to see why some compare her style to that of the great David Lanz and on this title track, Prelude to a Dream, that’s not too hard to see. There is a slight classical motif; and the confident and articulate performance is so compelling. Michel has created a master piece, just when she needed to, one that reveals the true colour of the whole project, to us the ever eager listener.
Shoshana Michel has worked hard over the last few years and that effort can be heard in abundance on the next piece called A Walk in the Rain, one of my favourites off the album. There is a certain mood of reflection here that creates a narrative that is so very moving, this piece also has a light cinematic feel to it and that theme can also be heard right through the release.
Butterfly Kisses is a track that does what it says on the can, listen to the style and feel those kisses on your neck and your arms, engulf yourself with the sheer love that this pretty composition explores.
The variance of style and theme is so profoundly exciting, and on Tender Words, that is emphasized further. The subtleness of the arrangement is sublime; the heart felt mood it creates is sincere. The artist has truthfully created something deeply real and honest here, it’s a song to gaze into the eyes of your loved one with, and it is a direct musical communication from soul to soul.
We have now reached the half way marker in our journey and this musical trip continues with an up-tempo offering called Kaleidoscope. The performance here is literally sparkling, and with each note played the sense of a profound movement can be felt and heard with ease.
On Applewood we have a composition that has such a gentle caress about its nature, yet this is also a wonderfully organic piece as well. There is a real sense of light and warmth in this beautiful offering that is so very attractive and idyllic. This is one arrangement that could easily be described as a feel good piece.
Meditation would be another of my personal favourites; Shoshana Michel has manifested a really mysterious feel to a composition that seems to explore realms as of yet unknown. In my view this is one of the cleverest compositions I have heard for a while; its mood is careful and almost ponderous at times, but it also has a superb cinematic quality about its creation, which I so deeply adore.
We are now in the far reaches of this musical realm, and at this point as we come across a calming narrative of tone called, A Most Precious Gift. Michel manifests a stunning melody here that is quite emotive at times, but extremely pleasing to listen to, and as the title suggests, it is a most precious gift.
We are now approaching our musical docking bay, but before we cease our sojourn with the artist, let’s listen to the penultimate offering from the release, it’s called Silent Farwell. Michel’s performance here is so engaging, the flow and structure is extremely cinematic, this is a one of those highlight pieces that really emphases the artists growth as a pianist over the last few years.
So our last port of call is now reached, the final composition of natural outstanding beauty is about to be revealed, it is called Ethereal. This album is already making its mark on our shows here at One World Music Radio, and tracks like Ethereal is the reason why. The smooth and gentle beginning is pure class and the crafted build and progression even more so, here is a piece of music that has a classic melody that should resonate for years to come and completes with ease the best work this artist has of yet produced.
Prelude to a Dream has raised the musical bar once more for the musician; this I believe is the album that will place Shoshana Michel’s name firmly on the map as one of the finest female pianists of her day. The album is a collection of truly great compositions, lovingly put together by a lady who has truly resonated with her listener’s demands, and her very own musical soul. If you’re a fan of solo piano, this has to be a must buy release.
Rating: Excellent
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