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A Coalescence of Dreams by Timothy Wenzel
- posted by anonymous on 2/28/2013

Pianist and synthesist Timothy Wenzel calls his new album A COALESCENCE OF DREAMS. The dictionary defines coalescence as: uniting, growing or coming together, often in a nourishing way. There are many meanings to the album title, but in a broad sense the concept is about bringing diverse elements together with the right catalysts to create something bigger, stronger, more meaningful, whether it is in music, science, personal goals or relationships.

This is high-quality new age music where you will hear the acoustic sounds of piano, violin, guitar, flute and percussion blended with some electronic elements. The tunes are inspired by stories from history and Wenzel’s travels (from Hawaii to Europe).

This is calming, blissful, multi-layered and creatively-refreshing music on a classic-sounding, all-instrumental album. This is good stuff. Unite with Timothy Wenzel’s music and be nourished (maybe even dream a dream or two together).
Rating: Excellent
Scorpion Moon by Sora
- posted by anonymous on 2/28/2013

The spectacularly-soaring singer Sora has created a beautiful vocal album, Scorpion Moon. Her voice is something to behold. The music behind her voice is subtle, mostly-acoustic and played to perfection by some of the top classical and world-music musicians in Canada.

Sora grew up studying and playing both folk and classical music, two very-different genres, but the juxtaposition deepened her musical knowledge and prepared her to create her own unique music with elements from many different styles. Now her sound crosses boundaries from new age to folk to pop to Celtic to modern-classical.

Many of Sora’s original songs are based on ancient tales passed down for hundreds of years -- a thousand-and-one-Arabian-nights (“Scheherazade”), Rapunzel (“The Tower”), The Little Mermaid (“Mermaid’s Song”), and The Pied Piper (“Piper”). But these are fresh takes on the old stories. Sora also sings of various arch-types such as the “Hero” and the “Savage.”

She follows in the tradition of singer-songwriters such as Loreena McKennitt, Enya, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Jewel and Amy Lee (of Evanescence), all of whom were influential inspirations. But Sora’s powerful and pure voice is her own, and her songwriting also has its own literary distinctiveness.

This recording is highly-recommended for listeners who enjoy soaring mystical vocalists, world-tinged ethereal music, and adventurous lyrics.
Rating: Excellent
First Light: Solo Piano by Craig Urquhart
- posted by Michael Diamond on 2/21/2013
First Light
I love this story…
Moving to New York City after receiving his Master’s in Composition from the University of Michigan, pianist Craig Urquhart (pronounced "irk-hart”) left some of his music with Leonard Bernstein's Manhattan doorman; the Maestro called Urquhart back, and the two became acquainted. In 1985 Urquhart was hired as Bernstein’s musical assistant, and worked for Bernstein until the composer’s death in 1990. Call it luck, chance, or destiny it was a golden opportunity for Craig who credits Leonard Bernstein’s CBS series The Young People's Concerts with The New York Philharmonic as "literally educating a whole generation of kids about music, including myself."

Among Craig’s other influences are Chopin, Debussy, Satie and Copland, as well as pop and rock musicians. Over the years his focus has evolved from academic classical music to a more lyrical personal voice, which has appealed to listeners in a number of genres including new age. With nine albums, his music has an international audience on iTunes, Sirrus Radio, the Essence Radio Program and Whisperings Piano. He has also given concerts in New York, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, and more. Craig has an active interest in a number of social and environmental causes and has used his music to support them. He has performed at the United Nations for National AIDS Awareness Day and Earth Day, as well as numerous other benefit concerts. He also served for many years as a member of the music faculty at the Harlem School of the Arts. Craig has a deep belief in “the continuing renewal of faith in beauty and the healing power of music.”

The first track on the album entitled “Contentment,” lives up to its name with a peaceful vibe and a simple melody. This quality in Craig’s music was recognized by someone with a far greater ear for music than I will ever have – Leonard Bernstein himself, who noted that “it has a deceptive simplicity and honesty that is rarely to be heard in contemporary song-writing. His tonal approach is not merely “sincere” but genuinely moving, with a private beauty all of its own.” This feeling continues with a slightly more reverent air on the following track called “Hymn.” Craig’s playing has been compared to that of George Winston, and I can see that to some degree. Unlike some solo pianists whose style is very ornate and filled with as many notes as possible, Craig is able to express a range of emotions in a way that at times more understated, yet always elegant. This emotional expressiveness is beautifully portrayed in a composition called “In Memorium J.G. which I found quite touching as it flowed through various melodic movements contrasted with spaciousness.

One of my favorite tracks was a song called “Autumn Wind” which captured a more wistful ambience, and for me, conjured the feeling of a late fall day with winter soon approaching. Another favorite, and perhaps the most moving was “A Father’s Love. This piece has a bit more thematic complexity than some and is enhanced by Craig feel for dynamics and velocity to create dramatic effect. However, at the other end of the spectrum, yet equally evocative, is the album’s title track that unfolds slowly and quietly like the dawning of a new day. One quality I appreciate in Craig’s composing and playing is what I would call a sense of melodic yin and yang, and knowing when to allow for space in the music. Overall there is an exquisite balance throughout the recording. I won’t say he “saved the best for last,” but the album draws to a close with a heartfelt and uplifting piece called “My Angel,” which I really enjoyed. I have to concur with noted music journalist Kathy Parsons, who once wrote: "The grace and depth of emotion conveyed in Urquhart's music is a reminder of how profound and colorful 
the piano can be as a solo instrument.”

Craig’s artistic endeavors extend into multi-media collaborations as well, such as his composition of art songs that include musical settings of poems by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Also, his The Wonder of Miracles was choreographed for a memorial concert at the magnificent Cathedral St. John the Divine in New York City. While many listeners are familiar with Craig Urquhart from his numerous recordings and international concert performances, for those just discovering him, his new release is a wonderful introduction to this multi-talented artist. First Light illuminates the gifts of Craig Urquhart as a world-class pianist and composer of distinction.

Rating: Very Good +
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