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By Lynn Yew Evers
Label: In-Concert Productions
Released 3/18/2016
Elysian tracks
1. As The Train Leaves
2. Remembering Love
3. Kindred Spirit
4. Shrouded Hope
5. Finding You
6. Dream Chaser
7. Bluebird Day
8. Crosswalk To Maplehurst
9. Enchanted Stroll
10. Urban Trekking
11. Beautiful
12. Night Owl, In A Style Of A Nocturne
13. As The Train Leaves (Reprise)
Lynn Yew Evers - Elysian: Prelude to Paradise
The latest album from pianist Lynn Yew Evers showcases the way she has grown as an artist since her earlier release, Dawn of Peace. On Elysian. (subtitled Prelude to Paradise.), Evers displays a greatly improved range of technique and a control of nuance and shading that is a big leap forward. Elysian. is also an intensely personal album for her; it is, more or less, her life's journey up to this point told through twelve songs (the thirteenth track is a reprise of the first one). Extensive liner notes (accompanied by evocative photos; this is a very well put together digipack thanks to photographer Gary Peterson and graphic designer Jasmine Koon) reveal each song's raison d'être and enhance the listening pleasure of each of the selections.

Recorded at what has become the "go to place" for pianists (and other acoustic instrumentalists), Will Ackerman's Imaginary Road Studios in rural Vermont, the album was co-produced (along with Evers) by Ackerman and engineered/mastered by (who else?) the talented Tom Eaton. Many of the IR Studio's ensemble players make guest appearances on assorted tracks on the album and they are all in superb form, as is their norm. The guests include, among others, Jill Haley (English horn), Eugene Friesen (cello), and Tony Levin (bass). Ackerman and Eaton also appear, the former on guitar and the latter on bass. Two tracks are solo piano and the rest feature at least some accompaniment, but Evers' piano is almost always center-stage and she holds the spotlight admirably, although she knows when to fade a bit into the background to allow the other musicians to also shine at times.

The overall mood of the album is reflective and restrained yet personal and warm. Some tracks are draped in subtle melancholy or slight sadness, while other glow warmly with sweet nostalgia, fond remembrance, or quiet cheer. Again, the song titles and liner notes will "point" the listener in the intended direction, however not in such as way as to make the point of the song so obvious as to be over the top in its emotionality. As I stated earlier, Evers has gained a lot in her shading and nuance and nothing here is melodramatic or blustery. Instead, her playing comes across as heartfelt yet also subtle. Musical "style" would be solidly in the "Windham Hill" category, i.e. acoustic instrumental music which may contain trace elements of jazz, folk or classical, but really is more of a genre unto itself.

One song that deviates from the others is "Night Owl, In The Style Of A Nocturne," which (as one might guess) draws from classical music motifs, but also has a gypsy-ish/Eastern European flavor as well (the latter is partly owed to Charlie Bisharat's violin). Noah Wilding's wordless vocals add an element of haunting beauty to the piece as well. Note that the song does not stand out to such a degree that it "doesn't fit," per se. It's a subtle distinction between it and the other tracks and many listeners may not even detect the slight shift in style and mood.

As I wrote above, Elysian. is a big step up for Lynn Yew Evers. Dawn of Peace. was good, and I sensed that Evers' talent was present on it, but I wanted more from her. Elysian. has certainly delivered that, and more. I don't know if my comment in my review of Dawn of Peace. (which stated that adding some accompanying musicians might add some needed depth) influenced her decision to do just that, but even without the extra talent surrounding her on most tracks, I think her playing and compositions are significantly more refined, mature and developed. Elysian. is the album that her extensive performing and arranging history (detailed in the album's liner notes) has been leading up to all these years – the work of an artist coming fully into her own.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 9/30/2016
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