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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
  The Fairy Garden by David Arkenstone, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/1/2016
  Skipping on Daisies by Christopher Boscole, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 10/21/2016
  AncesTree by Kim Bold, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 10/21/2016
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The Wisdom of My Shadow
By Lisa Downing
Label: Vision Quest Entertainment
Released 7/24/2016
The Wisdom of My Shadow tracks
1. Forbidden Dance
2. Tragic Dream
3. Black Wedding
4. Mischief
5. Mad World
6. Postludium
7. Cloudwalker
8. The Torii Gates
9. Harlem Nocturne
10. One More Day
11. Moonrise
12. Sad Lisa [Cat Stevens]
13. The Dragon Within
14. Diaphanous Breeze
A New Beginning
I have reviewed contemporary pianist Lisa Downing's music before. This is different. In The Wisdom of My ShadowAl Jewer and Andy Mitran, and Am├ęthyste and Gunnar Spardel.

The album opens with a trilogy starting with Forbidden Dance. It starts out hesitant, almost fearful. There is a beautiful starkness about the piece. It is a pas de deux that may never take place as the characters look for a way to bridge the rift between their worlds.

Tragic Dreams, the second song, is the female daring to have hopes and having them dashed upon the rocks of life. Lisa offers up a strong solo piano number that suggest the pain of yearning and not knowing the conclusion or if there ever was one.

The pealing of distant bells fractures the darkness in the opening of Black Wedding, the final piece in the Shadow Trilogy. This is one of the more dramatic pieces on the album with a solid, dynamic melody. Emotions are running at peak as the couple looks for and finds hope.

I have never been fond of covers. At one time my thinking was that no one could do better than the original artist, but time and talent has changed me. Mad World, the original song by Tear for Fears and redone by Gary Jules takes on another dimension under Lisa's delicate touch. What was once a black and white story changes over to a vivid, colorful scenario of dreamy expectations.

Cloudwalker is a trek into the wilderness of your spirit. Accompanying you are Native flutes in front of you and delightful piano behind. Ambient artists Andy Mitran and Al Jewer (Transmigration) contribute not only this song, but also their enormous talents to the excursion. This is a first for Lisa who usually offers primarily solo piano. It sounded to me like everything meshed wonderfully as the three journeyed into the spirit land of clouds, sun and sky.

You can pass under The Torii Gates and enter a different world or a scared space. As you enter successive gates, your awareness, perhaps your enlightenment become more holy, more sanctified. The music in this case, passes through sequential moods, or atmospheres. With every step, the spirit rises.

On the tune Moonrise, Lisa shares her song with some unique voices. The whispery vocal is by songstress with Am├ęthyste who also adds her talents on the ghostly Theremin. Her husband Gunnar Spardel contributes his synthesized soliloquy of nascent beauty. Together they resonate the praises of the Divine Feminine, her power and her ubiquity.

I have known the tune Sad Lisa for a long time. Although it was originally penned by Cat Stevens, I knew it as part of the repertoire from a group called Angels of Venice back in 1999. The tune is pensive, yet it has a sorrowful lament throughout as we feel in the music the pain of the heroine. Downing's valiant solo piano rendition uses andante for drama and we feel the vulnerability she experiences.

The Dragon Within is song of retrospection. We all have a dragon within us, but sometimes it sleeps, it muses, or it plays. Sometimes it never wakes up. It is up to us to rouse the dragon. Lisa's emboldened tune is that dragon waking, discovering, and soaring across the skies of our minds.

There are so many changes to the way Lisa rendered this music versus her previous albums it is difficult to note then all. However, the strength of her emotions and dedication to strong melody are obvious. Yes, there is a bit of darkness to the music, but that just balances everything out as it should be. This may be her best work to date. I liked every track and I especially liked her offering of Harlem Nocturne as tribute to her father.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 8/6/2016
 
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