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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 (Journeyscapesradio.com)
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
Eavesdropping by Musical Nature
- posted by Candice Michelle on 6/11/2017
Musical Nature - Eavesdropping
Musical Nature is the recording alias of Rhode Island based electronic music composer Geoff Varosky. His latest album, Eavesdropping, features six compositions varying in length from seven to under nine-and-a-half minutes, which notably draw upon the ambient-techno style of music pioneered in the early 1990’s by electronica bands like The Orb and The Future Sound of London. Interweaving what could be described as free-floating background and foreground layers of synthesized textures and environmental field recordings, experimental beats and industrial nuances frequently lend both an edgy crunchiness and contrasting bit of chaos throughout.

The opening piece, “Common Code”, is also the album’s most dreamy and minimal number, characterized by echoing environmental textures comprised of hollowed metallic timbres, synthesized loops and distant muffled voices. Soft pads drift into the free-flowing soundscape that encircles the listener, in which one is solitarily removed from all the human hustle-and-bustle that can be heard just outside of this seemingly dome-like environment. Continuing into the equally dreamlike “Brown Sauce”, distorted signals and unintelligible voices are intercepted along the way by icy shimmers and seagull calls. A processed repeating drum loop accompanies the piece throughout, although serving less as a foundational rhythm and more as an additional textural layer, which lies just outside the bounds of an inner circle as it produces a ping-pong effect across the listening space. Easily my favorite piece on the album, it somewhat recalls The Orb’s “Back Side of the Moon” from their 1991 classic, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. “Independence Day” moves into a more urbanized setting with crunchy distortion, amelodic jazz samples and experimental trip-hop beat. The piece nicely segues into “Victoria”, which conveys an underground semblance of industrial machinery that’s highly reminiscent of The Future Sound of London’s 1994 ISDN album. Initially reverting to the dreamier atmosphere of the opening piece, spacey voices and warped sci-fi sounds swirl about “The Tuesday Moon Siren”, eventually giving way to a bouncy, bass-laden downtempo groove. The final track, “The White Horse”, is most similar in composition to “Victoria”, albeit slightly toned down.

Recalling past works by The Orb, Autechre, FSOL and Spacetime Continuum, Eavesdropping is just the kind of album that would seem right at home on the long-standing Warp or Astralwerks labels. Its vividly blurry and beautifully surreal environment is one that seemingly leaves the listener unable to quite figure out where they’re at throughout its journey. An always welcoming and thoroughly enjoyable sound to hear acknowledged and expanded upon, Eavesdropping is especially recommended for fans of any of the aforementioned artists, as well as those who appreciate continually innovative and cutting edge styles of electronic music! ~Candice Michelle (Journeyscapesradio.com)
Rating: Excellent
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