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By Cornell Kinderknecht
Label: Little Greyhound Music
Nightfall tracks
1. Painted Sky, Genesis  
2. Nightfall  
3. Mother's Hands  
4. Water  
5. Southwest Prelude  
6. Santa Fe Sunset  
7. Mystic Heart  
8. At the Divide  
9. Alaska Highway  
10. Nocturne  
11. Gratitude  
12. Heart Crossing  
13. Day's End  
Cornell Kinderknecht's CD, Nightfall, is a tour through the magical musical world of flutes: Native American, Bansuri, Anasazi, bamboo, ocarina, and Irish whistle. Kinderknecht handles each of these with confident artistry, weaving a variety of both soothing low-key melodies and a few slightly uptempo tunes, accompanied by an assortment of keyboards (and a smattering of percussion supplied by others on two tracks). While the Native American flute dominates the affair, appearing on eight tracks (I'm counting the Anasazi flute among those songs), I wouldn't go so far as to label Nightfall a Native fusion release. It's much closer to classic new age music (one track brings to mind the Micahel Hoppe/Tim Wheater collaboration, The Yearning), at least to my ears. Part of this impression is influenced by how Kinderknecht incorporates his piano and arsenal of electronic keyboards. However, since the Native flute has such a distinctive sound, if Native fusion happens to be a subgenre you enjoy, you'll almost certainly like this album.

As good as his flute playing is (and it is that!), Kinderknecht also impresses in how he layers his keyboards alongside the flutes, displaying spot-on (and uncommon) skills in album production and engineering. The keyboard sounds are also uniformly solid, whether they are sampled instruments, e.g. the acoustic guitar on At the Divide, or more electronic, e.g. the bell tones that usher in the calming Water or the Gamelan-like chimes on Nocturne. Of course, there are plenty of underlying strings and ambient-like synths too, also applied with taste and discretion.

I prefer the more sedate pieces here, but the livelier ones are not too frenetic to derail the album's overall contemplative mood. Painted Sky, Genesis opens the CD with a lilting flute melody over a bed of midtempo piano. Santa Fe Sunset features piano, guitar, muted bass rhythms and Native flute (also percussion by Bill Bucher), while At the Divide brings together bamboo flute, guitar, piano and a subtle tamboura drone in a lightly playful dance of beauty and grace. The most energetic track on the album is Alaska Highway, and because of the presence of ocarina, the track bears a resemblance to some of Nancy Rumbel's livelier music. The closing Day’s End carries of hint of Mexico woven into its sensual flowing flute and quasi-flamenco guitar which evokes a late night soiree at a cantina.

However, it's songs like the title track (a haunting Bansuri number with touches of delicate sadness), Mystic Heart (Anasazi flute wafts sorrowfully over a tamboura drone and plaintive guitar), and the melancholy beauty of Nocturne with its Native flute, bell tones, sparse piano and swirling ambient textures that elevate Nightfall to something truly special. I'm not knocking the occasional foray into uptempo fare, but the gentler somber selections are some of the prettiest music pieces I've heard in the past year.

Cornell Kinderknecht has one other solo album and two collaborative efforts in his discography so he's not a newbie, so to speak, although I had never heard of him before receiving this CD. Nightfall is so good a recording that he deserves a bigger following. Hopefully, this review will stir some well-deserved interest in this talented and versatile artist. I solidly recommend this album, and not just for flute lovers as the other instruments contribute a lot to the overall sound of the music.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 3/8/2009
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