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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
Bill Binkelman is a long-time icon in the industry.
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Touched by the Sun
By Todd Boston
Label: Gita Records
Released 6/5/2012
Touched by the Sun tracks
1. Alapana
2. Twilight
3. Celtic Heart
4. Sol Rising
5. The Brightest Night
6. Under the Orion Sky
7. Surya
8. Full Moon
9. Solstice Dream
10. Cascading
11. Waves
12. Touched by the Sun
Touched by the Sun
I wasn't immediately bowled over by multi-instrumentalist Todd Boston's release, Touched by the Sun. That struck me as odd since the album was yet another one recorded at the near-legendary Imaginary Road Studios and helmed by the hardest-working-producer in instrumental music, Will Ackerman. Plus it featured some of the studio's usual suspects on accompanying instruments (Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, and bassists Michael Manring and Tony Levin, as well as a few others - see below). Boston himself is a gifted and talented musician on guitar, flute, bass, and the dotar (a sitar-like instrument) so it wasn't for a lack of musical mastery on his part or the guest players.

Finally, after about the sixth or seventh playing, I started to tune into what Boston was trying to achieve. Touched by the Sun features a unique blend of Indian music influences (via Boston's dotar, as well as tabla which is played by Ramesh Kannan, who also plays a Peruvian percussion instrument, the cajon) interpolated with more "typical" Imaginary Road-style music, which (if you have followed the path of many of the artists who have passed through its hallowed halls) has its roots in the storied history of the Windham Hill label. Boston, I think, is trying to bridge the gap that exists between these two styles. He doesn't always "merge" the two, sometimes opting more for a peaceful co-existence. Many times, though, he does meld them together into a hybrid of sorts, such as on Sol Rising which fuses sprightly guitar and spirited violin with tabla and dotar, yielding an uptempo aural feast that is like an East meets West cornucopia. It wasn't until I had fully absorbed the album through multiple playings that Boston's vision became clear to me. Up to that point, I felt like Touched by the Sun was a somewhat schizoid recording – with one foot planted firmly in Indian/world fusion territory and the other in the classic landscape of Windham Hill/ECM acoustic instrumental releases.

This judgment (or lack thereof) on my part didn't fully take into account the mastery exhibited by Boston and crew, as well as the music itself which is certainly both accessible and enjoyable. With continued playing, the meeting ground between the more "traditional" acoustic instrumental music and the world beat influences revealed itself to be less jarring than my first impressions led me to believe. All of the above verbiage could, I suppose, be summed up by simply saying "The album grew on me." but you know that I always opt for more words, not less!

Indian music is not the only global influence here, by the way. The apt-titled Celtic Heart pulses with the melancholic vibrancy that Emerald Isle music sometimes exhibits. The song features Boston on guitar, Friesen on cello, percussion by Jeff Haynes and Levin's powerful bass. The Brightest Night is a straight-up "Windham-esque" tune on which Boston's guitar playing shines "brightest." He is accompanied by Bisharat (who soars on this track) and Haynes and the three all make sweet music together. On Under the Orion Sky, Boston picks up his flute (while also playing guitar) and introduces some folk-rock flavor into the mix as well. Speaking of folk-rock, Full Moon bears a noticeable resemblance to the music from an oldie but goodie, the duet album recorded by flutist Tim Weisberg and the late Dan Fogelberg, Twin Sons of Different Mothers. The track has that same energy and sense of urgency when the guitar and flute ramp up the tempo sprinkled throughout the cut (which also features Bisharat, Kannan, drums played by Aaron Sterling, and Manring). Things finally quiet down on Solstice Dream, a subdued yet warm and engaging affair with guitar, flute, cajon, and beautiful wordless vocals by the estimable Snatam Kaur (whose albums I have reviewed for Retailing Insight).

In the end, Touched by the Sun did, in fact, touch me. It may have taken a while, but Boston's varied and deep talent, as well as those of his accompanists, proved hard to resist. As far as my initial resistance to the blend of musical elements, perhaps I was guilty of preconceived notions of what I expected an Imaginary Road album to be. This isn't the first time I was taught a lesson, and it won't be the last, proving that even old dogs like me can learn new tricks - as long as they come from folks such as Todd Boston and Will Ackerman, that is!
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 1/22/2013
 
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