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Ama by Michael Brant DeMaria
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/21/2018
So worth the wait
I could not believe it had been 5 years since I had last spoken to Michael; he had released The Maiden of Stonehenge, and now in 2018 he is back on home turf and with a new musical child entitled Ama. I also gazed from my studio window at the blue skies and drifted back to my days with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, back even further in 2008, and as a testament to those memories I today wear a fragrance given to me back then called Cherokee Moon.
So our musical sojourn can begin by the stream of life on the bank of a mid-reality called Ama, or water in Cherokee and the first track of this amazing new project is in fact the title header itself. A more imploring and mystical piece you will find nowhere else in this realm. The keyboards and flute form a veritable symbiosis of thought and presence that seems to literally invent a whole new dimension of musical brilliance all around us.
After the inspiration of the opening piece we now come across a deep and mood filled composition called Night Voyage. A slow sense of movement can be found here, perhaps one taken through the pathways of the darkness as only the glory of the moon lights our way. The keyboards here float and hover with an intensity so powerful, and various chimes along the way only add to the mysterious splendour of the track.
On Stella Maris we come across a composition of lightness and clarity, the keyboards here manifest a vast realm of music to explore, there is also an underpinned feeling of peace here as well. A charming angelic arrangement, designed to lift the spirits and raise the energies before we start off on our journey again.
There are times when I listen to DeMaria’s work that I literally get Lost. OK, I know that’s a tenuous link to the next track that’s called that, but it’s true, here the artist manifests a primarily flute based opus that one can truly get lost in; the gentleness of this arrangement is bathed in a sullen backdrop of thought, I could for example see myself sitting in a forest by a stream, listening to the flute narrating on my sad mood, as I watch the rain cry into the ever meandering river below.
Times change and so do moods, and here on Beyond the Veil we have a sense of something altering the very fabric of time and space before our eyes, akin to the burning away of mist on a summers day, as it seems to form angels of the morning that dissipate on the mirrored lake before us. This is a composition of such an artistic creation, it deserves multiple listens; I am now on my third, and this heavenly essence of ambience is going to play a much deeper part of my personal meditative processes.
From the opening of the Veil, we now move Between the Worlds as only the Shaman can do, the flute here is the call and cry to follow a new pathway, the floating keyboards manifest a new realm of wonderment entirely. This in my view is one of the best arrangements I have heard from the artist, and from its tones I can see again the wide open ranges of the mid-west, and the freely roaming Buffalo, yes, there are still a few left, and hear the wind blowing through empty fences! Michael Brant DeMaria’s performance on flute here is outer-worldly and proves his very soul is touched by the instrument.
As we begin our descent into the latter half of the album we come across a very moving track filled with mystery and adventure and called Mysteria. DeMaria has us captured here with his supremely masterful performance on flute, while once again the keyboards seem to swirl around us creating dimension after dimension of musical bliss.
With the mood firmly set we continue on with our journey with the artist and wander among the continuum of a piece entitled Renascence. This reflective opus opens a musical portal for us to roam within, one that at times even takes us back to the classic years of John Carpenter on synths and David Naegele on piano, in that ever so pleasant Temple in the Forest.
We have now arrived at our penultimate doorway of music and called Shimmering Light. This translucent offering reminds me of a few weeks back when Chrissie and I sat on the coast line down from our home, and watched the sunset on a horizon of shimmering waters. The drifting sensation of the keyboards are exactly the way the sun kissed waters played out for us, and this quite breath taking composition would have been a fantastic soundtrack for that event, perhaps next time!
So we have arrived after our long voyage at the very last track off the album and it is called Arrival. A clever way indeed to end the album and quite a pleasant opus to part with as well, this almost astral and ethereal composition lifts our energies and leaves us feeling completely relaxed and full filled. Arrival is a perfectly placed anthem with which to end with.
Ama from Michael Brant DeMaria is his first solo release for some 5 years, but it has been well worth the wait, each track has been carefully crafted to give you, the listener, the perfect listening experience. Whether it is on keyboard, piano or flute, the artist has done himself proud and produced one of the best albums of the year in this genre so far. Michael Brant DeMaria is one of those artists who play’s from his heart, with an openness of spirit and with the honesty of love, and with that combination, how can this album be anything else other than a complete success.
Rating: Excellent
Home Again by Loren Evarts
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/21/2018
A great contemplative album
Loren Evarts is back after his success with his last offering Water and Light back in 2015, now some three years later, I am honoured to have the opportunity to once again review Loren’s work, so join me as I take you on another voyage through the genre of solo piano.
Evart’s doesn’t waste anytime setting the scene and this homely little number called A Day on the Concord River is absolutely redolent of the subject matter. This warm and welcoming opus is as delightful as the amazing art work on the cover of the album, we could easily be right there on the banks of the river with this charming piece.
I sat for hours the other day listening to this album and just gazing at the cover, it is so redolent of the contents within and if we listen to Dugong Dance, you will see what I mean. Now the only Dugong I know of is the mammal and if this is the case, the artist has created its soundtrack, if not, this is a smooth and deeply relaxing piece that has such a sweet melody that it’s going to leave you in total bliss anyway.
On Far and Away we have a totally different sound, this energetic little composition creates a mood of distance and movement and also has a sense of longing, mixed with a reflective disposition built nicely into the weave of the piece.
Ktaadn is up next, this slice of solo piano genius seems to take us on a journey of its own, perhaps through a woodland or forest, somewhere where one can feel at peace; when I gaze at the mountain range behind my home the music fits perfectly, and within its refrains I can feel now the power and glory of this vast vista of this outstanding composition.
I adored the quiet reverie of Sunset Island; I sometimes call our home that, as nearly every night is the perfect sunset and perhaps tonight I will play this tune as the sun goes down again. This is one of the most colourful pieces off the release, one that will leave a smile of contentment on the faces of all who listen to it.
As we move towards the middle of the album, we arrive at the doorway of a soothing piece redolent of the subject matter of its title, Evensong. As the sunset begins to wain and night clouds drift across the horizon, we listen to the perfect tones of this composition, to allow the energy of this moment to fill our senses.
We now find ourselves at the musical shelf entitled “the title track” and of course that just has to be Home Again. Time to gaze once more at the front cover of the album and you will be right there. Once again Evarts pulls off such a warm and friendly performance on piano as we arrive at our very own musical sanctuaries of sorts.
There is a slight reflective motif on this next piece called Outermost House, perhaps we are on the very borderlands of the village, and from here on in a wide range of free land can be seen falling before us. The performance here is sublime at creating a narrative of suspense and memory.
The happy refrains of Wedding at Sunrise is now upon us, it is as if we have safely navigated the night and our reward is the wedding, of course this could be a wedding of a different type, perhaps even the re-joining of the past and future, but none-the-less Evarts has created something quite breathtakingly beautiful here, with a really moving sense of rhythm as well.
Anything to do with lakes, rivers and storms always grabs my attention; I have a love for nature than can never be equalled. Here Evarts creates a portrait of Baker Lake and in just over three minutes manifests something so descriptive and artistic, that one truly feels like they are sitting by the lake itself, the piano at times also sounds like the windblown ripples across the water.
Nine Mile Bridge is our penultimate offering on this journey, it is filled with a narrative of deep and meaningful memories, while the piano flows like the river under the bridge, there is also a defined and distinct sense of deep thought here, it is as if one is trawling over old times whilst gazing over the bridge, there is also a moving and powerful energy about the construction of this track that needs to be carefully listened to as well.
So we arrive at the last doorway of the album we now fondly know as Home Again. Evarts finishes with the perfect ending track, through the music, one can see shards of sunlight move across the room and the light creates dappled shadows of memories as the piece plays out. The Good Life for me seems to sum up the whole album, and a sense of gratitude can be found solidly within the frame of the arrangement.
Home Again by Loren Evarts is another classic album in the solo piano genre; this release is the holder of many memories and reflections, and Evarts the master builder of those magical musical moments. This has to be one of the most contemplative albums I have listened to for a long while and one that I would recommend in a heartbeat.
Rating: Excellent
Home Again by Loren Evarts
- posted by Dyan Garris on 5/21/2018
Home Again
Loren Evarts is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger. His most recent release, ‘Home Again,” is a collection of contemporary solo piano compositions produced by Will Ackerman and engineered by Tom Eaton.
Loren holds a Master’s degree in music education, taught for several public and private schools, and is now an instructor for five colleges.
“Home Again” is twelve tracks, four which were previously recorded by Loren, plus eight new compositions. The piano used for this recording is a Steinway B. The album is mellow, smooth, and soul-soothing all through.
Loren opens the album with “A Day on the Concord River,” which nicely sets the tone for all that comes next. Here we can almost feel the light breeze on our face and see the sunlight filtering softly through the trees as we gently canoe along on this peaceful journey. “Dugong Dance,” track 2, is graceful and enchanting. The dugong is an herbivorous marine mammal related to the manatee and the dolphin. Legend has it that the dugong was an inspiration for mermaids. This song perfectly captures those feelings.
“Far and Away,” track 3, is a personal favorite. Dreamy and delicious. “Ktaadn,” a spelling variation of Mount Katahdin in Maine, is track 4. Mount Katahdin is the highest mountain in the state of Maine and has inspired various artistic works. This one is lush and luxuriant, and one I found myself listening to several times.
“Sunset Island,” track 5, is truly gorgeous. Peaceful and resplendent, this brings up images of a charming place untouched and unchanged by time. The elegant and reverent, “Evensong,” (evening prayers), was stirred by Loren’s many visits to medieval cathedrals in England.
Track 7, title track, “Home Again,” has a light, whimsical feel, and was almost named “Poohsticks” which is game from a Winnie the Pooh book The House at Pooh Corner.
“Outermost House,” track 8, is full and splendid. I really love this one. “The Outermost House” was a small beach cottage refuge sitting high atop a dune on Cape Cod and belonging to writer Henry Beston, who spent a year there chronicling life on the beach. One can actually feel that “beachy” perspective through Loren’s excellent composition.
“Baker Lake” and “Nine Mile Bridge,” although a bit more somber, are equally as likeable as the rest of the album. “Wedding at Sunrise” is perfectly evocative of a joyful day – any joyful day; a celebration of life. “The Good Life,” gentle, ultra-melodic, and contemplative, winds up the album very nicely. This composition prompts us, perhaps, to give some thought to what ultimately makes life “good.”
Comforting, yet not so “comfortable” as to be boring or insipid. Sophisticated and unique, yet completely unpretentious. Glamorous, yet elegantly classic and classy, “Home Again” by Loren Evarts, is an album you will want to come home to again and again. Beautiful and recommended
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