Reviews 02-06-2011

Music Reviews 



Dreaming Still

by Kathryn Kaye

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Dreaming Still is the debut CD by pianist/composer Kathryn Kaye, and what an auspicious beginning it is! Produced and mastered by the legendary team of Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen and backed by Imaginary Road’s incredible musicians plus violinist Charlie Bisharat, Ms. Kaye has launched her recording career in a very big way.  Some of the albums produced by Ackerman have a very distinctive sound, but Kathryn Kaye has established her own voice here, and it is lovely! Many of the fourteen tracks are solo piano, and there isn’t a weak track on the whole album - very unusual!

Kaye grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky and began playing the piano at the age of four. She majored in voice and keyboard in college and then moved to Germany to continue her training, performing as a folk singer and soprano soloist in concerts, recitals, operas, and on television in both Germany and the US. Her music has been influenced by the simple harmonies of folk songs and hymns, classical music, and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains where she now lives.

Dreaming Still begins with “Time Moving Slowly,” a warm and graceful daydream of a piano solo. This one reminds me just a bit of Robin Spielberg, and that is a very sincere compliment! “Waiting For the Rain” is much darker and one of my favorites. There are two voices in the melody, one in the treble and one crossed over in the bass. The second movement brings in the cello (Eugene Friesen) and English horn (Jill Haley), and the third is a duet with Haley and Kaye that almost cries out with loneliness or loss. Amazing! The title track has an effortless, leisurely flow that meanders as it tells its gentle story. I love the way it trails off at the end - much like dreams do. “Leaf Dance” is an incredible duet with Kaye and Charlie Bisharat. The energy is exhilarating and then becomes tender - another favorite. “Smile For Me April” is a sweet love song for someone with the blues - simple and heartfelt. Haley’s English horn enhances the beautiful simplicity of the piano. “April Did You Call Me” changes it up a bit with a song without words. Light drumming and Noah Wilding’s haunting vocals in the background give this piece a very distinctive sound. I love “August Light,” a gentle solo piano waltz that expresses warm contentment. This is one of those songs that makes my fingers itch! I also really love “Taos Song,” an ensemble piece that again features Haley and Friesen. Pensive and deeply emotional, this one grabs me every time I hear it. The poignant “Fred’s Farewell” has light hand percussion behind the piano that gives it a slightly Latin flavor. Gorgeous and very sad at the same time. Kaye ends this wonderful album on an up note with the sweet and happy “Mom and Pop’s Waltz.”

What a great album! I’m excited to learn that Kathryn Kaye is returning to the studio to record her second album in March - I can’t wait! Dreaming Still is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Love's Embrace

by Ken Townshend

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Love’s Embrace is pianist/composer Ken Townshend’s fourth release to date, and I think this is his best work so far. Using piano and keyboards, Townshend has created more than an hour of music that is intended for relaxation and healing. Some of the eleven pieces are solo piano and others include atmospheric sounds and synth instrumentation. The music is flowing and graceful, soothing the mind while providing a gentle respite from the noise and frantic pace of contemporary everyday life. Some of the music is influenced by Townshend’s Japanese heritage, adding color and ethnic richness.

Love’s Embrace begins with “My Beautiful Kateri,” a piece dedicated to Townshend’s wife. Shimmering and ethereal, the piano is enhanced with washes of atmospheric sound that suggest vast space and blissful peace. “Feeling the Flow of Love” feels like floating on a cloud, completely at ease. Along with the piano and atmospheric sounds, there are hints of strings in the background - heavenly! The title track continues the serenity of leaving all our cares behind for a little while anyway. “Go In Peace” is in more of an ambient style, with plucked strings, voices, and atmospheric stillness - another beauty! “Asian Flow” is the longest piece at almost 8 1/2 minutes, and is an evocative piano solo. “Childhood Memories of Japan” is more ambient with shimmering washes of sound behind the gently plucked strings - very dreamy and warm. I like this one a lot, too. “Sound of Simplicity” is a dreamy free-form piano solo. “Love’s Embrace, Part 2” closes the album with another lovely piano solo that drifts along gently, fading into the air.

Love’s Embrace is a lovely escape from worry and stress, and would also provide a soothing backdrop for work or studying. It is available from Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Check it out!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Beauty and Fire

by Tomas Michaud

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Tomas Michaud’s Beauty and Fire is a triumphant musical celebration of passion and joy expressed in a world-fusion style that blends “nouveau-flamenco” with new age, smooth jazz, rhythms from Latin and South America, and occasional tropical touches. Michaud began his exploration of music as a young child and found his first love in the guitar at the age of fourteen. He has traveled extensively, savoring the music of each region and assimilating the various styles into his own unique musical language. The twelve tracks on this exciting album range from exuberant and playful to slow and sensual. The combination is intoxicating. Michaud performs on flamenco guitars, and his ensemble includes grand piano and keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, tabla, violin, and cello.

Beauty and Fire begins with the title track, a gorgeous piece with a softly swaying rhythm and a mood of warm contentment. Occasional Middle Eastern passages add a touch of mystery - a great start! “Embrace in the Mist” is cool, exotic and enchanting. “Tango in Paradise” begins with a beautiful guitar solo that adds more instrumentation as it evolves. I love this piece and the way it becomes more intense as it develops. Don Turney’s piano solo smolders! “My Secret Cave” is a lighthearted dance for joy - pure fun with a rhythm! “Tribute” picks up the pace considerably, with guitar, violin, castanets, and drum soaring skyward - another favorite! “Morning Grace” spills over with warm tranquility while “Living On the Wind”  expresses an easy-going sense of freedom - beauties, both! “Two Hearts Into One” closes the set with an intimate and sensual love song. Guitar and violin seem to be intertwined in a dance or embrace with light percussion accenting their passion. The piano in the second half of this piece is wonderful!

What a great album! Beauty and Fire is available from, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions



by Chris Conway

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While the multi instrumentalist Chris Conway maybe a new name for this reviewer, this US born talented musician has been recording music for many years. In fact, his website indicates that he has been involved in over 35 recordings in some capacity. An artist with the wanderlust desire to express, Conway refuses to be restricted by either genre or his instrumental voice. However, Sanctuary is a very successful attempt in placing the artist behind a grand piano to record compositions that he has recorded over a 20 year period.

Despite featuring compositions that Conway has created over time, the album has a very spontaneous and improvised feel to it. For the most part the tracks have a very loose structure to them allowing Conway to weave around on the keys but in a very contemplative fashion. The songs with the greater frame work and melody standout include the tracks such as “Beyond Distance”, “Cry For The Mountains” and “Mantra”. Though melodically, “Kishori” is by far the most memorable track.

From a completely different angle, Conway’s title track “Sanctuary” clocks in over 7 minutes and has an expansive style reminiscent of the Great Improviser Michael Jones. Recorded live and produced by the artist himself under the watchful ear of Llewellyn, the sound quality is notable. Meanwhile, if you are looking for the more eclectic Conway, check out the remarkable River Of Life released the same year where he plays just about everything but the kitchen sink.

There is no doubting the talent of this multi-instrumentalist who is equally at home on the piano as he is on the guitar and the many other instruments that he is more than capable of playing. From the album cover to the musical content, Sanctuary is a very purposeful album that is focused on providing us with a quiet backdrop during our retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle of life.

Reviewed by Michael Debbage of the Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions