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Canyon Shadows by Joanne Lazzaro
- posted by R J Lannan - Artisan Music Reviews on 2/22/2019
Canyon Shadows
Joanne Lazzaro and Dreamcatcher
Katherine Hoover – Canyon Shadows

The Complexity of Six Finger Holes

Well known flutist Joanne Lazzaro and her band Dreamcatcher offer an evocative performance on some of the most complex music ever heard. Lazzaro and friends take on the multifaceted music of the late composer Katherine Hoover on their latest release Canyon Shadows. Hoover was a recognized flutist and composer based in New York City. Canyon Shadows – a five movement Suite for flute, Native American flute and world percussion, contains subtexts from nature, Native American music, and medieval elements. This is her music, originally written for the Grand Canyon Music Festival in 1999, but never recorded until this world-premiere recording. Lazzaro who is somewhat of a perfectionist herself seems to extract many of the nuances of Hoover’s compositions, some hidden and some obvious. However, Joanne does not do this alone. She had the competent help of Dreamcatcher, consisting of Terry Wolff on jazz flute and Dean Hinckley on percussion. Together they make music that resounds from the valleys, bounces off the skies, and ends up deep in our spirits. The album consists of two sections. The “concert version” of Canyon Shadows is five tracks of compelling Native American and ethnic fare with complexities and animation woven together into a musical mantle of natural beauty. And the Nature Mix Bonus Tracks offer the three slow tracks with different perspectives compliments of Joanne Lazzaro.
The opening track, Searching, seems to have a vein of mystery about it. Its very essence seems to come out of the mists and envelop the listener, warm and cool, far and distant. Lazzaro and Wolff form a duet of complementary ambient echoes. Are they searching for each other or for something more?
Moving In has a lively cadence, a bit of a march of you will, but it is a sunny, eclectic tune with a bit if dissonance about it. The two flutes dance around each other as if they are challenging each other for dominance. The singularity settles out as harmony regains its place. It is the music of changes, beginnings, and consequences.
Echo epitomizes the kind of Native American flute music with which most people are familiar. Sometimes warbling, sometimes distant, it is the sound that bounces off the canyons and ascends into the universe(s). It is too short for my liking, but in it, Hinckley gets to add his distinctive sound.
Tom toms create the beat in the tune Celebration. The tune is not as high spirited as I would have thought, but the festivity may be beyond the sound that I am hearing. There is certainly a regaling of the spirit that goes along with this animated theme.
Rattles and what sounds like a fanfare opens the tune Dusk and there are variations of this song on the album. Lazzaro and Wolff offer dual polyphony in a movement that is sometimes lighthearted, but otherwise intricate in its structure. Their timing is faultless.
It opens with thunder. Dusk - Desert Nightfall Mix although a variation on the previous theme, seemed very different to me and it was my favorite on Canyon Shadows. This track for some unknown reason put me in mind of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in where instruments take on the life of their characters. In this last track you can hear the coyote as he roams through the darkness, not ready to end his day just yet. A thunder storm comes from the west and rain falls heavily to the earth. There are extraordinary musical conversations in this melody. Every member of the trio breathes life into this story.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful cover art for this album. Erica Fareio’s illustration is a wonderful textured line drawing with bold colors and plays on light and shadow that complement the music inside.
Joanne Lazzaro and company have transformed Katherine Hoover’s elaborate compositions into a palatable and pleasurable work. What is has is equilibrium. It is like a triangular prism balancing on a single point of light. The symmetry makes its own unique sound in the universe.
Rating: Excellent
Toward the Horizon by Craig Padilla
- posted by Beth Hilton on 2/22/2019
Toward the Horizon by Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen
Hypnotic, captivating, dreamy, and vivid, the music drifts from electronic soundscapes to atmospheric textures, at times swirling and spinning through dazzling sequences and epic soaring refrains. Toward The Horizon is spacemusic in every sense. It's just what the doctor ordered to drown out the maddening buzz of current events, or to encourage new visions. The track “Tidal Disruption” suggests a better place than ours...a place similar to the album's intriguing cover, with beautiful horizons touching silver seas; “Liquid Heaven” could be the essential exploration of those same mysterious empyrean waters. One’s imagination is inspired to wander.

Electronic, ambient and rock music fans will thoroughly appreciate the resulting explosive melodies and ambient soundscapes. Allen uses Strymon Effects on his guitar, and all of the synthesizer parts on “Distant Waves” were created using only a modular synthesizer that was designed by legendary synth builder George Mattson. How does that sound in the end? In their words, "It’s a combination of our unique sensibilities. There are elements of progressive rock, spacemusic, Berlin-school, trance, as well as influences like Pink Floyd, Camel, and Tangerine Dream, etc..."

Composed, performed and produced by prolific electronic music artist Craig Padilla and multi-talented performer and music educator Marvin Allen, one would never guess it is the duo's first time working together. These skilled musicians have crafted a masterful free-flowing dreamscape that moves through a myriad of moods, revealing the many colors of an ever-changing sonic skyline. Melodic and rhythmic, surreal and drifting, the resulting music is a timeless adventure through illuminating guitar tonalities and majestic synthesizer vistas.

Very few labels offer an album "unboxing" playlist of videos, which was fun to discover on YouTube, and is just one of many quality touches that makes Spotted Peccary such a fine record label; visit Spotted Peccary to listen, purchase and browse:

Toward The Horizon releases today, February 22, 2019. on Spotted Peccary Music in physical and digital formats, as well as 24-bit Audiophile format.
Rating: Excellent
The Space Within by Reneé Michele
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/12/2019
A attractive album of pristine performances
Reneé Michele has drawn some wonderful fluent musical art work in her time; I was particularly entranced with the 2015 hit album Seasons of the Heart, and now even more so with the latest album entitled The Space Within, it is this voyage we now embark upon with the artist.
The title of this album is something to remember as we journey, as it really feels like we are going within, deep within. The opener is a very reflective and emotive track called My Angel. I particularly found this quite moving, the performance was not only played with a subtle perfection, but with a deep level of soul as well.
Now we move to the intriguingly entitled composition In the Mist. The artistic opportunity for the artist here to create something truly special is massive, and Michele does not let me down, as from the very first notes I am transported to a realm where the dawn is struggling to break through the shield of the night, and a thick mist is crawling across nature’s landscape. A beautifully fluent performance can be found here, one as you can see has inspired my imagination, added to this is the flugelhorn of Jeff Oster and the English horn of the amazing Jill Haley, all of which creates something truly magical and unequivocally picturesque.
It feels to me like I have walked into an entirely different realm of music, the atmospheric attractiveness is stunningly opulent, listen to the title track and you will understand far more. The Space Within as a composition is lush, but emotional to feel and hear, and contains a very sensitive but pertinent Cello from Eugene Friesen. This fine portrait of beauty is enhanced further with some of the finest flugelhorn by Oster, which only adds an extra texture to Michele’s already crafted performance.
The lightness of spirit with which this next piece is played is idyllic and although reflective in parts, raises the energies of the album, almost akin to the sun peaking in through the curtains of a shadowy room for the first time. The melody on Tabla Rasa is sublime and memorable, even more so as it contains the work of non-other than Will Ackerman on guitar and a heartfelt segment of violin from Charlie Bisharat, which is always something to look forward to.
This is Reneé Michele’s sixth album and I can confirm that this is a release that you could take into eternity with you; with each and every track there is more beauty to be found lying just around the corner, like this next offering called The Cloud Suite- Aspire and Life As A Cloud. One has to admire the gentleness of performance here by the artist, one that is joined in part one by both Oster and Haley as the Horn section softly lifts the piece skywards, with an almost unperceivable touch, then when one is the cloud, we can just drift with the sereneness of the moment, one that is made even more charming with the natural energies of Friesen’s Cello. As suites go, this has to be one of the most additive listens I have had, normally I can write as I work, but these two tracks made me stop in my tracks and almost meditate on the compositions in question, simply brilliant indeed, musical genius in motion.
I believe that the artist grew up here, so perhaps it’s no surprise that we find a track called Montana Breeze on the album. Reneé Michele’s performance is truly charming and completely honest, it’s like the musician has woken up in her old home and flung open the curtains of her old bedroom, and that warm feeling of familiarity fully flows right over her senses completely.
The next offering shows a different energy from the artist, a true willingness to break from conformity, to take a chance, to alter course and take a new pathway, in this instance The Road Less Travelled, here you will be able to hear a sense of nervous excitement within the onward marching performance of the piece, one that must be said contains some of the most charismatic guitar from the incredible Will Ackerman you may have heard for a while.
Amazingly we have arrived at the penultimate arrangement of the album called Trees of Vermont. It will of course not surprise you to know that the artist recorded the album at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio’s, and one feels like this is a journey to that very studio itself, all the expectation, all the beauty of nature’s journey along the way. One can literally feel the inspirational power exuding from the artist as she plays with her heart, to yours.
Our last doorway to this magical wonderland of piano is a sensitive but colourful offering called Communion. At just short of seven minutes it is the longest piece off the release and one that really shows a wonderfully symbiotic partnership of performance and creational spirit, in a perfect combination of natural genius, a better way to leave this album you will never find.
The Space Within for me was one of those albums you never wanted to end, Reneé Michele in my view has produced her best work so far and the magic touch of Ackerman and his team have added a layer of crafted professionalism, which makes this album truly inspiring and quite moving to listen to. The Space Within is an attractive album of pristine performances and has an enchanting production quality, that has delivered to its listening audience one of, if not the best piano with instrumentation albums that I have heard in the last few years, simply captivating indeed and thoroughly recommended.
Rating: Excellent
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