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Sisu by Jennifer DeFrayne
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/15/2017
A performance that is absorbing, formidable and sp
Jennifer describes Sisu as a personal journey, one that has seen a continuance of her determination to overcome great obstacles in her path, her bravery, spirit, her Sisu.
From her proud Finish heritage she has created an album of outstanding natural beauty and built in a real sense of fortitude and resilience, so let’s go on that journey with her right now and explore this new wonderland of empowering musical inspirations.
This sojourn with the artist begins with a piece called Fire Island, a composition that is perfect for drawing us the opening doorway to this incredible album, a track that has everything, build, a smooth yet empowering tempo and an undeniable melody. Apart from the artists mesmerizing performance on the keys, take a listen to the percussion by Jeff Haynes, a totally sublime performance can be found here.
The track Be Who You Are, not only highlights the skills of DeFrayne on Piano, but also shows how wonderfully she has progressed since her last album. This one is both subtle and inspiring, utilising the skills of the multi-talented Jill Haley on English Horn and the very gentle but classy violin of Sara Milonovich.
I do enjoy a good title track and even more so when it proudly sits as the longest piece off the album. A memorable moment of magic can be found right here on Sisu. A thoughtful refrain and a wonderfully fluent performance by DeFrayne, is only added to by a stunning performance once more by Milonovich, partnered by EWI master Premik Russell Tubbs, and some very subtle bass from Michael Manring. Sisu is a composition you never want to end, but thankfully, this seven minute plus creation, will pacify her fans and us very eager listeners with consummate ease.
As we arrive at the track Beyond, we find something rather haunting, deeply moving and memorable, the energy here seems to float with a sense of ambience that is hard to find these days, the Flugel Horn of Jeff Oster adds to that ambience as does the very subtle guitar of Jeff Pearce. Beyond is one of my personal favourites off the release, it has a real sense of grit and determination built within that is so alluring.
Gathering is almost an anthem of types; it has a slow build, but progresses in a passionate but soothing embrace of musical confidence, a call of arms to a collective strength perhaps. Musically this is so charming and contains a really thoughtful approach by DeFrayne on piano; also very noteworthy was the performance by Manring on both Bass and Ebow.
We now find ourselves at the half way juncture of the release Sisu by Jennifer DeFrayne and are now gifted yet another one of my personal favourites the mystical, but focused and centred composition, Palo Santo. This is one of those songs that will sit on repeat for days; it has that addictive and balanced energy about it. I listen to this as I sit on my veranda, sheltered from the midday sun, at peace and at oneness with the odour of a lavender incense stick burning to my left and this harmonic music, blissfully drifting through my mind, and it fits so very well indeed.
So on we go, and our musical pathway now takes us deep within the realms of this latest release, where we come across an interesting and confident arrangement called Roots. The tempo and energy of this piece is really charming, almost like honouring all that has gone before you and respecting your roots. The balance of this composition is perfect and DeFrayne’s sparkling performance here is outstanding in this utterly impressive song.
There is something very special about this next piece; Stepping Stones is a careful, but resilient track, which offers a sense of onward movement within the music that is simply unstoppable and undeniable. This is DeFrayne at her best as she plays light and dark, hard and soft, in a performance that is totally brilliant.
The tones of this quite breath-taking album seem to have got deeper and more pronounced as we move onward and into the project, on the album that is Sisu. On Equanimity we find that and ever more so, as we can feel a sense of strength perhaps to regain composure on this piece; the performance here is determined and the strings of Milonovich so mournful, but harmonic.
Internal Light is almost the mirror image of the last offering, within this beautiful composition one can feel that empowering light that resides deep within us all beginning to shine. This is without doubt one of the warmest and all-embracing tracks off the album.
We are nearing the end of our musical journey and have now arrived at the door marked, penultimate track, and it’s called Renew. This journey has been inspiring and wondrous and Renew is an extension of that theme, it is a duet with English horn performer Jill Haley and this combination brings us a very special treat as we listen to its rejuvenating energies. A really magnificent performance can be found here by the artist and Haley’s horn as always is assured and beautifully eloquent.
Once more we have arrived at the very last port of our musical journey with Jennifer DeFrayne, but before we depart this dimension of melodious perfection, the artist has one more enjoyable moment for us and it is called Perseverance. This is a composition that does what it says on the can, and what a perfect way to leave a stunning album, she leaves her listeners inspired, empowered, rejuvenated and ready to reach out for that repeat button one more time.
Jennifer DeFrayne has manifested into the world the perfect album for these times of self-doubt and fear, a release that is inspirational in its intent and preservers in its beliefs of rising above all that is negative, and never giving up. Sisu should be a musical example to us all. It’s an album that contains some of the best musicians of their time and genre and a performance on piano by DeFrayne that is absorbing, formidable and spirited.
Rating: Excellent
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 (
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
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