Music Reviews 


Reviews 09-03-2005 

Scenes From the

by Timothy Davey

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“Scenes From the Neighbourhood” is Australian pianist/composer Timothy Davey’s follow-up to his 2001 debut, “Uncovered Keys.” My initial reaction to this CD was “Wow!” and the more I listen to it, the more I utter that one-word review. If this CD doesn’t bring Timothy Davey worldwide recognition, the music world is in much worse shape than I feared. The music is complex, yet very accessible, and there is a variety of playing styles that dovetail into each other seamlessly. When I reviewed “Uncovered Keys,” I kept hearing what I thought was Philip Aaberg’s influence, but when I asked Mr. Davey if he knew Aaberg’s music, he surprised me by saying that he had never heard of him. That has now changed and there is much mutual admiration. Both are phenomenal pianists who play deeply emotional music, so if you like Aaberg’s music, Davey’s is a must. The CD consists of fifteen original solo tracks and a bonus video of “Before I Knew” as a duet with Davey on piano and Loretta Mongelli on violin. Davey’s classical roots are apparent in his music, but his style is interwoven with jazz, new age, and his love for bluegrass guitar, making his musical voice unique and unclassifiable (a good thing!). The extensive liner notes tell of the meaning of each of the pieces, and also give us a glimpse of the artist himself.

All of the pieces on this album are excellent, so I’ll tell you about a few favorites. The opening track, “Out Walking,” got me from the very first. The rhythm is the pace of a brisk walk and remains steady while the right hand improvises all over the piano, much as the mind does when you go for a long walk by yourself. The freedom of that feeling comes through loud and clear, as does the sense of peace and even the exhilaration of being out in the fresh air. This is truly an amazing piece. “The Spaces In Between” is much quieter and more introspective, reflecting on how distance in time or space cannot break the bonds between ourselves and those we love. “Gratitude” is a gently rhythmic piece about the continuity one’s mother provides throughout our lives. The piece goes through many key signature changes, but the melody stays the same. Both versions of “Before I Knew” are gorgeous - reflective, deeply personal, and conversational. “Dry Creek Breakdown” is a joyous recollection of childhood riding bikes at the salt flats, imagining being on desert planet. A buoyant spirit and sense of mysterious fun make this another standout. “Sons of the Blue Funk Frontier” is a “blues inspired rumble that threatens to break into a barrelhouse boogie style.” This piece clearly demonstrates that the blues is far from being uniquely American and is a slinky toe-tapper. Several of the pieces are almost ambient in their quiet simplicity. One of those is “Distant Starlight,” which harkens back to childhood, watching the summer night sky, looking for satellites and falling stars. The sparkling quality of the treble notes contrast beautifully with the deep bass. “Gaudeamus” is a tour de force that highlights Davey’s delicacy as well as his power, so the CD also ends with a resounding “Wow!”

Excellent from start to finish, “Scenes From the Neighbourhood” will definitely be on my “Top 10” for the year. It is available from Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions.



Meditative Yoga

by Various Artists

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 This is a collection, Eastern Indian in flavor, intended for use as background music while you are practicing yoga.  It features some of the better know New Earth label artists.As yoga is an Eastern Indian practice, the feeling to the music overall is very appropriate.  The feel of the CD is slow and deliberate, allowing the mind to become free from distraction and concentrate on the yoga positions.  It succeeds in achieving this feeling. 

The CD contains 10 tracks, for a total time of 61:41.  The cover art is simple, and the liner notes cover a bit about “yoga” and the tracks included.  The artists presented are Prem Joshua, Al Gromer Khan, Chinmaya Dunster, Hans Christian, Rasa, and Ustad Usman Kahn.  Listeners to New Earth Recordings will be familiar with these artists. 

 Prem Joshua provides us with the first two tracks.  He is a well known in the World Music area, receiving a nomination in 2003 for the prestigious “BBC World Music Listeners Award”.   In 2005, MTV invited Joshua and his band to a half-hour live performance for an MTV live show inBombay.

 The first track Friends, only 2:46, is a male vocal over a wind instrument.  As an opening track it gives the flavor and sets the pace.  This is very Indian in flavor and traditional in feeling.  The second piece That Silent Place is much more traditional, being a sitar piece.  Both pieces are slow, evenly paced and good for a yoga workout.

 The tempo picks up a bit with the track Jinjhoti by Chinmaya Dunster with Niladri Kumar.  Chinmaya Dunster is better known for his association with the Celtic Raga Band and Niladri Kumar is a sitar virtuoso, who studied under his well known father and sitar master Pandit Kumar.   This is almost a jazzy piece, but with very definite Indian flavor.  It is highlighted by expert sitar work with the beat of what sounds like a snare drum and cymbal.  An enjoyable piece, very light and airy.

 Rasa is included in this collection as well.  Rasa is the award winning duo of Kim Waters and Hans Christian.  Their first CD Devotion won “Best New Age CD of 2000” and their follow up CD Union won “Best New Age CD of 2001”. Their track Srita Kamala returns to the slow, deliberate pace set in the earlier tracks, with expert sitar playing.  A beautiful, gentle piece and another lovely addition to this collection.

 We return to Chinmaya Dunster and another slow but airy piece called Ha-Ta.  This piece also features a lovely sitar melody that rides above the work.  Very bright in feeling and a little more pace than the previous track, but not rushed.  It still maintains the yoga feel to the CD.

 Ustad Usman Khan is a classical sitar player, with raga being his specialty.  He is well known in India andEurope and has played at many festivals.  The piece presented here, Raga Kanshik Ranjana is a traditional raga, interpreted by Mr. Khan in the independent style he is well known for.  Again, the piece offers a change of pace, but never gets beyond a level appropriate for yoga practice.  It is also one of the longer pieces on this recording.

 Astral by Hans Christian of Rasa keeps the pace going, offering a lovely composition again featuring a nicely orchestrated blend of Eastern and Western instrumentation and feeling. 

 Sitarist Al Gromer Khan offers us something different in the way of Blue Raga.  More blues than raga, it has a very Western blues feeling but there are hints of an Eastern influence with the sitar and some of the rifts.  Again, the feeling is slow, purposeful and conducive to the yoga practice, but definitely has more of a Western feel than any of the previous tracks.

The last two tracks are by Chinmaya Dunster, and bothMount Kalash and Konark are Indian in feel, withMount Kalash being a more traditional piece.  It is again a slow and focused piece for yoga, while Konark is much more airy and melodic, much more the Celtic Raga Band feel to it, and a nice piece to end this disk with. 

This is a good overview of modern Indian music, with a good mix of traditional and progressive material with some Western influences.   It is a nice blend of styles and if you are not familiar with modern Indian music, this is a good place to start.  Also, it achieves its purpose as being a nice background accompaniment to your yoga practice.  This is a very nice compilation of modern sitar masters and styles that will appeal to the world music listener as well as the yoga practitioner. 

Reviewed by MA Foster


The Seven Valleys

by Stellamara

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The group Stellamara is comprised of vocalist Sonja Drakulich, Gari Hegedus, Susu Pam[anin, Tobias Roberson, Jamie Paulos and Beth Bahia Cohen.  This recording also features some guest artists.  The group core is Sonja Drakulich and Gari Hegedus, who have written and arranged the compositions on this disk. 

The overall flavor of this group is Arabic, Turkish, and Persian.  Musical instrumentation includes hammered dulcimer, keyboards, mandocello, various Middle Eastern drums, viola, and the striking vocals of Sonja Drakulich.  The combination of Ms. Drakulich and Mr. Hegedus gives us a very professionally composed and produced work.   

This CD contains a total of twelve tracks at a total running time of 62:22.  The cover designs are worth noting for their lovely composition and style.  This is a Hearts of Space release. From the opening track Szerelem we get the feel of the entire work.  The soft yet clearly defined vocals of Ms. Drakulich open the CD and while never overpowering any of the tracks, it is the focus of most of these compositions.  The lyrics on this piece are Hungarian, and the piece is derived from a traditional Hungarian work.  In some cases, the accompanying liner notes contain translations of the lyrics.

 Resulina is much more Middle Eastern in flavor, more traditional.  There is energy in this piece, again highlighting the vocals but also very defined in the drumming and string work. Zablejalo Mi Agance is a traditional Bulgarian composition.  The viola takes on a “gypsy violin” feel, very forlorn and melancholy which is also reflected in Ms. Drakulichs vocal style, which fits with the lyrics.  There is a complete translation of a very sad tale which sets the tone for the composition itself.  Do take the time to read through the liner notes for the translations.

 The tempo picks up with Baraka, still conveying the Middle Eastern flavor, but with an upbeat swing.  Rhythm is the focus here, augmented by Ms. Drakulichs voice.  Nida features Portuguese lyrics, again included in the liner notes, and is a blessing for the traveler set to music.  Again, the feel of traditional folk music, featuring strings and some back drumming. 

 Kurdi Taksim is a short improvisational piece featuring Gari Hegedus on the oud (pronounced “ud”).  This is a Middle Eastern lute, the ancestor to the European lute.  This short piece highlights Mr. Hegedus proficiency with the instrument and is very delightful. The title trackSeven Valleys is a very melancholy piece, very Turkish, a love song according to the lyrics.  Again featuring the vocals of Ms. Drakulich, with Gari Hegedus on divan saz and baglama, the Turkish stringed instruments similar to lutes, and a daff, or a tambourine. 

 Firtina continues in the same vein, but more upbeat and without the vocals.  A much faster paced piece, again very Turkish in flavor featuring Gari Hegedus with the same assortment of instruments. Maliks returns to the Portuguese lyrics, another travelers blessing from the reading of the lyrics.  The piece features the sarod, an Indian stringed instrument, backed by the oud and the tambura.  Ms. Drakulich provides the vocals and Tobias Roberson fills in with the frame drum.  A very lovely piece, very lyrical, soft and impressive.

 Kyrie Eleison focuses on Sonja Drakulichs vocals arranged to harmonize with herself.  The instrumental accompaniment is minimal, allowing Ms. Drakulich to dominate this piece with her amazing vocal display.  This piece is adapted from the13th Century Gradual of Eleanor of Britiany and shows the groups ability to adapt and use Medieval Music as part of their repertoire.

 Persephone is a modern piece, placing violin and viola in the forefront of the piece, and surrounding it with tanbur, oud and keyboards.  A very smooth piece, it has a Middle East meets West feeling to it and is interesting in its composition and construction.  An interesting addition to this work, highlighting the artists’ ability.

 Sturmica is based on a traditional Balkan piece, again featuring the vocals of Ms. Drakulich, and has interesting lyrics that lead into a strong ending composition.  Upbeat, the piece finishes by once again highlighting the groups ability to present music with a Middle Eastern feel that is appealing to the Western ear.

Overall, this is a powerful showing for the group, highlighting their musical abilities and strong compositions.  This is a good choice as an introduction piece to the group, having various styles of their music.  It is a very interesting side trip into the World Music genre. 

Reviewed by MA Foster


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