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Solo Piano Destruction by James Woolwine
- posted by Candice Michelle on 5/9/2017
James Woolwine - Solo Piano Destruction
James Woolwine is a pianist, guitarist, songwriter and teacher who began taking piano lessons at age seven. Comprised of eight original and two cover solo piano compositions, his debut album, Solo Piano Destruction, variably incorporates elements of pop, jazz and rock music into highly engaging contemporary classical arrangements.

“Overkill” is a dramatic and lively opener that follows along a relatively unpredictable path (as do many of James’ compositions), expertly weaving all his classical influences into one while displaying bold touches among an intricate melodic arrangement. The aptly-named “Ivory Dance” follows next, skipping along in a buoyant manner to the many nuances of James’ dynamic and intricate finger-work. The pace slows down a bit with Katy Perry’s instantly recognizable “Firework”, on which James skillfully employs his own unique embellishments. Comprised of the same four chords as the original song but with variation on the bridge, the piece is distinguished throughout by its insertion of powerful keystrokes, with special emphasis towards the latter part in the lower registers. Serving somewhat as an interlude is “Meadows of Dan”, which lends subtle contrast to the former piece with its simple opening notes and more rural, down-to-earth vibe. Dedicated to James’ mother who likewise named the piece, it takes its inspiration from a place called Dan in his home state of Virginia. Originally written as a guitar piece, “Happy Accident” sprang forth from several spontaneous ideas that ultimately resulted in a solid composition. Reminiscent of sunlight pouring through the open window of a cottage in the countryside, the fresh scents of nature seemingly fill the air, as James’ fingers move like spinning tops throughout the registers of this spritely, sunny tune. Showing considerably more restraint is “New Bach Etude”, the album’s most elegant composition, as well as my favorite, with its subtle intrigue and new age overtones. An additional Katy Perry song is rendered on this album, with James lending his own twist to the catchy “Teenage Dream”, which was the first composition he did a formal arrangement of. “From Andy” closes out the album with a sophisticated effervescence, serving as an ode to guitarist Andy McKee of whom this composition was inspired by.

Classically intricate yet dynamically straightforward, there is certainly much to appreciate about James Woolwine’s compositional arrangements and piano-playing techniques. Positive, upbeat and packing a lot of oomph, Solo Piano Destruction would be particularly well-suited to a live performance setting that personally engages his audience. With a guitar-based album also currently in the works, I suspect this is only just the beginning of more rewarding musical outputs to come! ~Candice Michelle (Journeyscapesradio.com)
Rating: Very Good
One Drop Became An Ocean by Charles Denler
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/1/2017
Completely recommended on all levels
I thought that spending a Moment at Dawn with Charles Denler was a musical twinkling of paradise; the music and the creative spirit have moved on and made this release, a manifestation of utter beauty in a tranquil harbour of calm natural bliss.
Water, the most undeniable force on the planet, is the subject matter and Denler’s care and attention to detail here on this project is incredibly noteworthy, from the opener we hear the intent and the proficiency that is so very inspiring. To paint with music is clearly a passion for the composer and musician.
Listen to the touching sensitivity of title track One Drop Becomes An Ocean, and feel that sense of wonder and respect. I live by the sea and enjoy my walks along the coast, and this sublime album will soon be my musical companion too.
The dramatic and empowering In The Shadow Of Angels became just one of many stand out tracks for me personally and the utilisation of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra just added a whole new dimension to the release and specifically this arrangement.
Charles Denler has a wonderful talent, not only as a composer but also as a pianist; he has a heart and a love for music that is so honest, evident and true, and anyone who can manifest great opuses like Rolling Thunder and The Seventh Wave should be applauded for his talent, skill and musical genius. A completely recommended album on all levels.
Rating: Excellent
What We Hold Dear by Timothy Wenzel
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/1/2017
A slice of musical brilliance
It seems that I have been on a long journey with the artist, he first came into my musical life with a Coalescence of Dreams back in 2012 and after riding with a Distant Horseman, I am once more at the gates of a realm described by the musician as, What We Hold Dear.
The release contains the wonderful violinist Josie Quick, Jordan Schug (cello) and Sarah Joerz (vocals). So once more let’s tread the musical path and gaze up at an astounding sight called a Murmuration. This first track gives Wenzel a fine opportunity to ground us in the new concept of the album, I have only seen this occurrence once, a flock of birds drifted in a dance like quality across the mountain range at the back of my home, it was both stunning to watch, very fluid and certainly dance like in performance, and that exactly describes the opener by the artist.
That proud moment of the title track is up next, I was already impressed by the album cover, depicting perhaps a family holding each other while a tornado is about to destroy their home, or is there more here, listen to the song, What We Hold Dear.
We have a very emotive and deeply moving track that you can feel the sadness way down in your heart, but there is one facet that shines through, and that’s hope, a beautiful haunting performance by Wenzel and an emotionally charged one by Cellist Jordan Schug (cello). In my personal opinion, I rate this to be one of the best pieces I have ever heard from the musician.
We now move onto a completely different tune for us to enjoy, as we go on a mountain trail to the Appalachian Waters. Here is a piece that has a real organic quality about its construction, almost folk like at times, a sun kissed walk through the woods in music, as we follow the birth of a mountain spring into a fully grown river.

Ascension is up next, the tempo slows down to an almost dream like quality and it seems we are gifted the opportunity through this piece to rise above our lives and look down at the progress from above. The lightness of this composition and the very smooth performance from the artist give me the feeling of an Ariel flight. Note the change of intent around half way through the piece; it’s both clever and mesmeric.
On the arrangement A Spring Day in Autumn, we have an intriguing number, one that appears sullen at times, then transforms into a re-energized motif, the piece seems to have that sense of interplay that runs through the composition constantly. The performance reminds me a little of composer Holland Phillips in style, and for me this is another clever track, we seem to go from dark to light, from walking to dancing, a completely fascinating piece.
We find ourselves dear reader at the half way juncture, at this crossroads we come across a track called Hypnotized. This could be the theme for a love song, this could be something so beautiful it’s dangerous, we must ask ourselves one more thing, is this what we hold dear? A beautiful performance by Wenzel, the keyboards here are played with certain fluency and confidence, and the slight percussive beat and tempo adds an extra layer of fun to the composition.
Now for a piece that builds and adds layer upon layer of musical genius, it’s called Incantations. The flute, keyboards and Cello re-invent themselves, like a spell being cast and weaving its re-created patterns of awareness whilst doing so. The performances by Jordan Schug (cello) and Quick on violin is simply and utterly sublime.
There is a real childlike, wondrous eyes wide open feel about this one; the piece is called Moon Dance, no not the Van Morrison song. Here Josie Quick partner of Tom Carleno (Perpetual Motion) creates a silver lit dance of the dark hours, one that manifests with Wenzel’s keyboards, an almost fairy ring of a composition.
There is something a little dark about this next piece, it’s called In a Little While. The tentative nature of this arrangement is rooted in a reflective moment of time. Wenzel’s style and creative cleverness here seems to have manifested a track that has a real defined need, a musical yearning of a wish to be complete again perhaps?
We’re now very deep within the weave of the release dear constant reader, and as such a new composition called On a Quiet Night is now upon us. This is another one of my favourites from the new release, it’s slow, but perfectly played arrangement caught my emotional attention. A sense of peace can be found here, but there is also something a little Celtic about its construction as well, that for me added a whole new layer to what is a really tranquil, but colourful song.
Our penultimate offering is called Desert Dream and yet another favourite of mine, there are many it seems. Here is a powerful piece that grows and coalesces. The guitar strum and flute added to the depth, and then the violin and percussion created a sense of shift in tempo. There is a real sense of a Lord of the Rings style performance here, especially when the ethereal vocals of Sarah Joerz joins the dance.
I wonder now where that time went, I gaze at my computer and note dear listener that we have arrived at the last piece on the album, and it’s called Turquoise Sky, Emerald Sea. A gentle and smooth piece to end with and that’s always good. Quicks Violin is memory filled and a more dream like peace filled offering you could not wish to find, to end the album with.
What we Hold Dear is another fine example of the very best of contemporary instrumental music, it’s an album rich in colourful performances and composition, the creative mastery with which this album has been brought into life with is blissful to behold, and on this new offering Timothy Wenzel has manifested a piece for ever mood, for every emotion, in times past, present and future, your next step dear reader, is to add this slice of musical brilliance to your ever expanding collection, you will not be disappointed.
Rating: Excellent
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