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Many Paths
By Lorrie Sarafin
Label: Lizard Dance Productions
Released 11/19/2010
Many Paths tracks
1. The Last Buffalo
2. Arrival
3. Circle of Peace
4. Celestial Seas
5. Sofia
6. Dreamtime
7. Mountain Temple Mist
8. Om
9. After the Rain
10. Fire on the Water
11. The Last Buffalo Remix
12. Betrayal
13. Many Paths
14. Shifting Sands
Many Paths
Many Paths is Native flute player Lorrie Sarafin's second CD and a more apropos title could not be placed on this diverse and highly proficient album. Branching out from her solid debut recording, Second Wind, and featuring accompanists for the first time, Sarafin displays an uncommon ability to traverse a variety of musical soundscapes with amazing ease and virtuosity. From the opening The Last Buffalo which would not be out of place on a Tuu, OYuki Conjugate, or perhaps even Steve Roach album, to the breezy jazz leanings of the closing title track, Sarafin navigates ambient, Native flute, jazz fusion, new age, and ethno-tribal territory as if musical boundaries simply didn't exist for her. As a result, the cross-genre appeal of Many Paths is strong, especially for desert/tribal ambient fans who might ordinarily assume this more straightforward Native flute fusion music.

While the album is technically a 2010 release, a few of these tracks have been around, unreleased, for over a decade, but you'd never know it from how fresh they sound. Sarafin's adroit Native flute playing is sometimes front and center, and at other times, she manipulates the instrument to create some unusual sounds, as well as once again employing loops (for ambient textures and ethnic percussion), as she did on Second Wind. It is her startling versatility of talent which elevated the CD to the point where it made my best of 2010 list.

The artists joining Sarafin are keyboardist Rod Ibieta, pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins, and Celtic harpist Susan Rivers. Ibieta is featured on three cuts while the other two contribute on one song each; so, Many Paths is, for the most part, still a Lorrie Sarafin effort. I do not mean to understate the other musicians' contributions, in particular Ibieta whose work I have heard before. The pair's first collaboration, Arrival, is a tasty slice of Native flute fusion where Sarafin's airy flights are matched by a semi-jazzy rhythm track and sampled guitar by Ibieta. Sofia, a tender romantic ballad, is the next song on which the two artists appear, and here things slow down but the music retains some of the same overall sound. Acclaimed pianist Hawkins "joins" (via a long-distance collaboration since Hawkins hails from down under) Sarafin on the new age-ish Celestial Seas, a gently flowing marriage of ambient textures and piano, accented with the sound of waves. Shifting Sands unites Sarafin's haunting wooden flute with Rivers' delicate playing, as serene harp tones merge with a sparse flute melody, yielding a song of peace and beauty.

The most unexpected tracks on Many Paths, though, are the deep ambient-tribal ones, such as Circle of Peace, which reminds me of both Roach and Rich to varying degrees. The more overtly tribal nature of Dreamtime recalls either Tuu or O Yuki Conjugate in my frame of reference, probably more the former than the latter as the track is not as dark as the road O Yuki Conjugate usually traveled. You'd expect a song titled Om, to be a meditative chant of sorts, but instead, Sarafin transports the listener into a rainforest landscape with underlying ambient currents and assorted tuned percussion and vaguely forbidding swatches of sonics. After the Rain features echoed Native flute and accompanying thunderstorm, crickets, dripping water, and darkish ambient elements. Fire on the Water is even darker... disturbing actually, with flute, textures, and tribal rhythms merging into a miasma/whirlpool of energy and fear.

It's hard to believe that an artist known primarily for her Native flute playing has this adventurous and exploratory music inside of her, waiting to get out. I wonder if there is any subgenre (which could be squeezed into a wooden flute context) which would prove beyond Sarafin’s reach. Ambient fans, in particular, should sit up and pay notice. If Sarafin ever commits to an entire album of ethno-tribal music; well, as Neo once opined, "Whoa!"
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 4/22/2011
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