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Color Me Home by Darlene Koldenhoven
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 6/15/2017
A fantastic album that delivers a positive message
I first came into contact with the music of Darlene Koldenhoven back in 2014 through a wonderful album called Tranquil Times. Today that journey continues with her latest release called Color Me Home.
The entire product from music, to cover is immaculate, there is even a colouring book with crayons, total care and attention has been paid by the artist and I personally love that, and respect musicians who give everything on a release.
We open with a real gem called First Light; our ears are filled with the sounds of a forest coming to life in the early morning and then, one of the sweetest melodies I have had the privilege of listening to since Kevin Kendle’s album Spring in the late 90’s, falls down upon us with startling performances by Tom Boyd on Oboe, Courtney Jacob on Flute and Piccolo, and the ever inspiring Charlie Bisharat, giving us an uplifting presentation on violin. Koldenhoven’s mystical harmonics on this piece truly gives us an image of nature waking to a glorious day.
We move to the next piece called The Pleasure of the Mourning Dove. I am blessed to live in an area where I hear this luscious bird sound every morning when I awake. Here Koldenhoven creates a song to appreciate that very moment, the piano here is both calming and melodic and Bisharat’s incredibly sweet violin manifests a true moment of mastery, this song is so very appealing on many levels, and could easily be the soundtrack for my morning waking routine.
We move to something a little different now on Kalahari Calls, an ambient start greets us, one can literally feel the heat rise on this piece, in fact I found that so impressive I have listened to its effect a few times. This track also features the stunning work of South African flautist Wouter Kellerman and the flavour of the region is provided by Rocky Dawuni’s chants and vocalisations. Koldenhoven on keyboards provides us with a constant floating narrative, but one has to mention the talents of Brent Fischer on Vibe and Marimba, it’s so good to hear instruments like those in albums again, it’s sadly a rarity these days.
On Song of the Swans we find a lush Celtic motif, covered by the warm loving vocals of the Darlene Koldenhoven, the artist has given you six minutes here, to just glide musically with the swans on a mirrored lake. The contributions of both Gayle Levant (Harp) and Tom Scott (Clarinet) just add a little extra drift and fluency to what is without doubt a supremely delightful song to enjoy, and one with a really emotive melody to float upon.
As we approach the half way marker we come across yet another opus of beauty, this time called Eternal Love’s Song. Love is the only truth, as music is the only real language, and here the artist has manifested both with an equal intensity into our musical world. The narrative of this composition is pure love and peace, and after all, if we have that, what more would we need? Koldenhoven’s vocals are simply outstanding on this arrangement, one that would easily fit into any movie soundtrack.
Indian Summer is now our next stop off point, this is filled with a little Native American magic, with the talents John Saranto’s on flute leading the way, as Koldenhoven’s ethereal vocals bring us a musical interpretation of that lucky moment when Summer holds on, to hold off winters cold claws. Indian summers are precious times, and filled with a mystical moment, when October becomes July for just a couple of weeks. The native vibe here, made this one of my favourite pieces from the album, the added drum and shaker enhanced the overall composition even further.
We now find nestled away in the deeper part of the release, a track called Embracing This Moment. There is nothing more important than being in the moment, after all that is all we will ever have and the only thing that is real. Here is also a composition that contains an old friend of ours, one Al Jewer on English horn. We hear the subtle tones of Lyn Bertles early on with a delicate performance on both Viola and Violin. There is a certain wide eyed wonder about this piece that makes it so attractive.
The realm of ambience is crossed into again with the track Ode to Our Orb; this is probably the most intricate offering on the release. There is nothing more important than the planet that allows us to walk on its back, and as such, this song is a testament to our great mother Gaia. I hope we learn to treat her with more respect as we grow, and perhaps the performances of great beauty and love on guitar by David Arkenstone, Ricky Kej on Keyboards with Koldenhoven and the earthly percussive heartbeat of Vanil Vargas will help to heal the wounds, and bring a little more peace and harmony into the world.
This next track, called until, is a piece that continues a theme, for those of us who respect the world we live on; we will understand this mantra of truth. Here Darlene Koldenhoven affirms that to be so, in a performance that once again contains the stunning Gayle Levant on Harp. There is a certain similarity in theme here to wisdom provided to us by the Cree. A wonderful song created by the artist, perhaps an anthem for the world to finally come together as one, by dropping the fear and embracing love.
So the penultimate piece off the release is called Open Skies, this is a particular fan favourite by the listeners of One World Music Radio and as soon as I heard the Flugel horn I knew that Jeff Oster was in the house, combined with the expansive keyboards and vocalisations of the artist, and the steady, but delicate percussion from Nick Vincent, we have a true winner of a track here, pay special attention as well to Koldenhoven’s synth solo, its sublime.
Were here, we have reached the final portal to this dimension created by Darlene Koldenhoven, of course it’s the title track called Color Me Home. So let’s enjoy this repose with her and feel the homely warmth of this piece as our last musical offering. The artist is partnered on guitar by long time musical buddy Mike Miller, a more smooth and restful end to an album you will never find elsewhere. Koldenhoven finishes with a flourish so picturesque, warm and friendly, the perfect ending to the perfect album.
Color Me Home by Darlene Koldenhoven must be one of the best releases of 2017 with ease, the vocals and added instrumentation are simply delightful, the compositions and arrangements are so beautifully produced and performed, it’s hard to see this album not winning an award next year, and this is Koldenhoven’s finest work to date. Color Me Home is an album that should appeal to any true music lover; it crosses genres and delivers important messages in a positive vibrant way, a thoroughly recommended release.
Rating: Excellent
Sipping Beauty by Tom Grant
- posted by Candice Michelle on 6/15/2017
Tom Grant - Sipping Beauty
Born in Portland, Oregon, Tom Grant is among the original pioneers of the smooth jazz genre, having enjoyed a longstanding and successful musical career going back to the 1980’s. In fact, I remember being quite enamored as a child with his hit, “If You Were My Girl”, from his 1988 Mango Tango album, which aired for years thereafter on my local smooth jazz radio station. Nearly three decades and a plethora of releases later, Grant is still expressing his artistic brilliance, this time with a beautiful recording aptly titled, Sipping Beauty. Comprised of ten original instrumentals spanning an hour, minimal smooth jazz is imbued with new age and ambient accents on this exquisitely lovely recording. A talented multi-instrumentalist, Grant plays piano, percussion, keyboards and synthesizers throughout. He is also accompanied by David Captein on bass (tracks 4 and 5) and sitar (track 9), along with Kevin Karrick on guitar (tracks 1, 7, 8 and 10). Mary Suzanne Garvey is credited with the album’s painting and poem in the liner notes.

The Bossa Nova-tinged “Petichor Perfume” opens with a swaying rhythm, lush pads and delicately flowing piano interlaced with classical guitar. Hazily romantic and dreamlike, this beautiful piece seemingly paints an idyllic scene of sailing in the evening along a misty river. Following next is the caressingly warm “Sun-Kissed Beings”, which conveys a somewhat tropical island feel with its interplay of classical guitar, subtle piano and rhythmic shakers, as hovering background voices lend an angelic presence throughout. The title track, “Sipping Beauty”, is characterized by soft piano keyboard textures that give way to a wash of chimes at the midway point, overall imparting a wistful sense of nostalgia and remembrance. One of my favorite pieces, “Feathers Falling Up”, aptly conveys a delicate airiness with its repeating melody of crystalline keyboard notes that are gently accompanied by shakers, bass guitar and ethnic-tinged percussion. Another especially noteworthy composition is “Wrapped in Love”, where suspended vocal layers, distant echoing drums and perfectly understated twangy guitar notes seemingly recall that of overlooking a canyon sunset. Co-composed with David Captein, “Sighs and Whispers” is a minimal smooth jazz-tinged number that somewhat reminds me of Pat Metheny’s softer musical side. “Arms Wide Open” is another favorite that incorporates all the signature musical elements on the album; while the equally beguiling, “Moondrops”, weaves Indian sitar into a lushly flowing current which follows along a deeply meditative course.

Often conveying a Mediterranean flair wrapped in a sensual haze, Sipping Beauty is ever-romantic but not overly sentimental, effectively imparting a subtle sense of mystery throughout. It’s especially wonderful to see Tom Grant still actively creating music and exploring new sonic terrain, which simply works to perfection on this exquisitely elegant and tastefully sumptuous album! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries by Robert Thies
- posted by Dyan Garris - New Age CD on 6/14/2017
Blue Landscapes II
Picture this. You’re in a crowded room. It’s so noisy you can’t distinguish any particular conversation from another, and no one phrase, sentence, or topic stands out. It’s just noise, an incessant din, and people clamoring for attention among themselves.
However, as you make your way through the crowd, you notice there are two people in the corner having an interesting dialogue. A quieter dialogue. Your attention is drawn to them magnetically, because they seem to be having a genuine exchange that is somehow effortlessly rising above the cacophony, without perhaps, that direct intention.
You move closer. You want to hear what they are saying. As you move closer, and can make out what they’re saying, you decide that it’s not so much what they’re saying, it’s how they’re saying it. Wait a minute. Wait. Correction. It’s both. You stop, listen, absorb, and are amazed.
You have just discovered the profoundly compelling improvised musical conversation of piano meets flute that takes place between pianist Robert Thies and flutist Damjan Krajacic in their “New Age” album collaboration, Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries.
Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries – the second album in a series appropriately captioned, “Music From a Quieter Place” – is a refreshingly candid improvisational musical dialogue between concert pianist, Robert Thies and flutist extraordinaire, Damjan Krajacic.
Improvised? How good could that be? Read on.
These are not just two who like to get together and make music. Thies is an internationally recognized concert pianist, who in 1995, won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is world renowned for his piano mastery and ultra-sensitive, heart-felt delivery and interpretation of technically difficult classical piano pieces that would undoubtedly daunt any virtuoso.
If you want to experience the classical musical genius that is Robert Thies, watch on YouTube his performance of Chopin’s Etude in C minor, Op. 10 no. 12 “Revolutionary.” It’s astounding. I’m sure you will agree that if he doesn’t have his hands insured already, he should do so.
But his extraordinary talents aren’t wasted here by any means. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Thies, raised in a musical family, is also a composer in his own right and a gifted improvisational artist who began composing and improvising at a young age.
And it’s equally important to note that composer and flutist, Damjan Krajacic, also raised in a musical environment, doesn’t play second flute to Thies’ piano skills either. Hailing originally from Croatia, Krajacic holds a Master of Music degree from California State University, Los Angeles, in Afro-Latin Music, where he studied Charanga, Jazz, Brazilian, and Classical flute.
Here, Krajacic’s own extraordinary musical mastery is showcased through the use of several different kinds of flutes, each with its own distinctive voice inside this conversation. But none of it is for its own egocentric purpose. This is one resonant frequency speaking fluently to and with and woven throughout the other. It’s authenticity, musically and otherwise. It’s another reason to be attracted to this conversation.
When you’re having a real conversation with someone, you don’t script out beforehand what you’re going to say. You just engage in the exchange and see where it takes you. You walk away with food for thought and with something that gives you opportunity to propel yourself to higher knowing. Each person brings their own fresh, unique point of view to the mix. This is the true beauty of the musical interchange going on in all of the compositions on Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries. And it is here that we have opportunity to rediscover our own native authenticity that has perhaps been lost in the crowded space.
I love every one of these 15 tracks found on this album. The heartfelt, thoughtful compositions here open one up into to a vast, expansive landscape where you can actually feel like you’re back in touch with yourself and with your individual life after a long period of being away.
Even though I feel like the whole album is a standout, some of what is specifically worth noting is as follows:
The first track, “Floating,” is aptly named. There is a freedom of spirit inherent here that is palatable. This is love of life.
On the track “Into the Horizon,” it’s the flute that has the haunting melody here. It’s as if we’re flying into the horizon in our airplane of life. The piano provides the grounded framework we need to in order “keep our horizon” in our sights. It’s exactly what we need to keep ourselves straight, steady, and aloft. The flute melody then allows us to soar to new heights. Uninhibited by the earthly landscape, we can thoroughly enjoy the ride.
“Discoveries” is a brilliant, colorful combination of Thies’ piano mastery and Krajacic’s subtle, interwoven flute. It’s served up on a bed of rhythmic heartbeat. Have a listen and you’ll discover the depths for yourself.
Particularly alluring is “Across the Open Fields.” The melody is engagingly lovely and one feels as if they are flying high above. The groundedness of the flute combined with the lightness of the piano melody makes for an interesting juxtaposition in a place where the flute could be expected to be the air and the piano then should be the ground. It makes for a nice mix of sky and earth in a whole different way.
Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries is without question the best New Age album I’ve heard this year. Thoughtful, moving, healing. Graceful. Elegant. Beautiful. Provocative without even trying to be. These adjectives and descriptions hardly scratch the surface of conveying what truly can’t be conveyed by words. That’s why we have music.
What’s particularly refreshing about this “music for quieter place” is that it speaks volumes to our planet and to our souls. Discover it for yourself.
Listen and buy Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries on iTunes
CD Baby
Blue Landscapes Music website

Rating: Excellent
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