Music Reviews 


Reviews 09-10-2005 

Azure Skies

by Bob Dahl

Visit Bob Dahl's  website

“Azure Skies,” pianist Bob Dahl’s fourth album to date, is a most enjoyable combination of new age, smooth and not-so-smooth jazz, and classically-influenced solos and lightly orchestrated pieces. Eight of the ten tracks are Dahl’s original compositions, and the two covers are a great take on Paul Desmond’s classic “Take Five” and an exuberant arrangement of Dennis DeYoung’s “Come Sail Away.” Pairing energetic, upbeat songs with gentle, reflective pieces keeps the mood shifting and showcases Dahl’s various playing styles and musical sensibilities. I especially like his livelier jazz work, and his placing the “Mission: Impossible” theme in the middle of “Take Five” blew me away. More on that in a minute.

The CD opens with the light and airy “Sapphire Spring,” an ode to joy and freedom. This is one of the four tracks that include Dave Captein on bass as well as some light string washes for additional color. “Shades of Blue” turns from pastels to a darker color palette with an energetic piece that is jazzier than the first track. Dahl’s impressive fingerwork is effortless. Cool! “Natalie’s Theme” was inspired and composed on the day that Dahl’s daughter was born. A sweet and loving lullaby with minimal strings in the background, this is a very beautiful piece. I was listening to this CD in the car the first time, and when Track 5 started with only rhythm on muted strings, I was trying to decide if the piece was going to be “Take Five” or “Mission: Impossible.” A few second into the piece, it was obviously a very competent and enjoyable arrangement of “Take Five” with only piano and bass. As the improvisation progressed, I was really enjoying myself, thinking about what a great arrangement it was, when, about five minutes in, there was “Mission: Impossible”!!! It doesn’t last long, but what a brilliant juxtaposition! After that, “Within Her Reach,” a lovely, flowing ballad, is almost a comedown. A different place in the playing order might have been a good idea, as this is a really nice piece. “Bailey The Cat” is piano and bass doing a lively piece that is a tad mysterious. “Hidden Meadow Suite” is gorgeous. Inspired by a large field and a butte across from his childhood home in Oregon, this 8 1/2 minute track is soothing, but also has a calming energy that vast open areas seem to bring. Comprised of four movements sharing a common theme, this Suite and “Take 5” alone are worth the price of the CD! Don’t skip “Blueberry Jam,” though! Another improvised toe-tapper with piano and bass, this is a great way to close. More!

“Azure Skies” is obviously quite a mixed bag, full of fun as well as poignant moments. You might relax with this one, but you won’t fall asleep! Enjoy! It is available from CD Baby.

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



De Profundis/
Out of the Depths II

by Terry Oldfield

Visit Terry Oldfield's website

Visit New Earth Music's website

 Terry Oldfield’s music has a very definite spiritual edge to it, speaking from the depths of the soul and providing the perfect accompaniment to those moments when you sit in contemplation of life.  

Terry is known for his music for TV productions, especially National Geographic, and scores for movies such as The Falcon that Flew withMan.  Previous works include In the Presence of Light and Zen.   

This CD explores the depth of Terry’s music, combining his talented alto and soprano flutes with the beautiful vocals of Dani Vickery.  Add to this some keyboard fill, male choir voices, and the song of the humpback whales and we have a very impressive presentation. 

There are four tracks on this CD, for a total time of 52:49.  The cover art of a whale tale in a blue ocean to a blue sky speaks of the title more than the words alone… Out of the Depths. 

The first track, Deep Connection, starts with the flute.  Light, airy, with the vocals of Dani Vickery echoing the flute to create a very ethereal feeling for this piece.  A very soft, lilting and serine composition, highlighting Terry’s expertise of composition and flute skills.    

The second work, De Profundis, is a continuation of the first piece, and progresses melodically into a melodic chant, performed by Dani Vickery and a male choir, reciting an excerpt in Latin from Psalm 129 – Out of the Depths I have Cried to Thee Oh Lord, Lord Hear My Voice.  It progressively becomes more brooding with keyboards providing an orchestral backfill and then easing back into a solo piano and finally the flute.  Dani Vickery’s voice and the flute assure the piece never becomes dark, providing the lighter, more airy elements to the piece fading to completion. 

Ocean Song introduces the element of whale song, starting with a whale solo. Dani Vickery and the flute are added into the mix, creating a hauntingly beautiful composition.  Again, it is kept light, airy and has a surrealistic feel to it at times.  Ms. Vickery harmonizes with the whales and the flute at times, in some places she repeats the melodies, allowing the whales to stand out in the piece and lending it the human element.  The flute weaves the entire composition together. 

Out of the Depths picks up the pace a little with tempo, still incorporating the element of the whale song and Dani Vickery and using a variation of the chant of Psalm 128, now in English: Out of the Depths, I have Called The; Lord Hear My Voice Calling Thee Tonight.  Flute takes the forefront again, repeating the melody of the chant, and it progresses with keyboard orchestral fill and the repeated chant by Ms. Vickery and the songs of the whales.  The piece ebbs and flows, sometimes accentuating the whales, sometimes emphasizing the chant.  Ms. Vickery harmonizes with the whales, echoing their song at time, creating a very lovely, very poignant musical composition.  The chant has variations at times and Ms. Vickery works this well.  She has a very lovely voice and her skills to either lead or blend are center stage in this piece.  The flute again weaves the melody in and out of the vocalizations.  The piece comes hauntingly to a close with the whales and Ms. Vickery drifting softly out to sea.   

A very impassioned work, skillfully created, masterfully executed.  If you are looking for an inspiring work for spiritual contemplation or for music to accompany those quiet, meditative moments, this CD will provide the right atmosphere.  And if you are new to Terry Oldfield, this is a great introduction.  Those who know his work will be adding this CD to their collection.

Reviewed by MA Foster


Walking Through Clouds

by Bernward Koch

Visit Real Music's website

Bernward Koch’s style is New Age.  When we discuss New Age music, we speak of compositions that border on classical, are soft, relaxing, and can be almost unnoticeable when played except for the feeling of calm that fills the spaces between the events in our lives. 

This CD presents Bernward Koch doing some of his most soothing New Age compositions.  The title Walking through Clouds sets the tone of the album; soft, expressive, wordless songs that fill as background music providing peace and enjoyment. 

The piano is his instrument, lilting its way through short, original compositions that delight and invoke a soft emotional response of ease and tranquility.  The piano is accompanied by various instruments that provide backfill and enhance the experience.  We hear various keyboard effects, bass, guitar, glockenspiel, flute and soft percussion.  Christiane Boehm fills in with a very experience flute and Christoph Koch provides some percussion as well as some lovely guitar accompaniment on two tracks. 

There are 16 tracks on this CD, providing a total time of 60:45.  Each track is light, airy and soft. The melodies, while short, are not superficial.  There is real melody development here, some of them bordering on the tip of familiar, but not really.  The melodies can become familiar however and you will find yourself humming along if you take time to listen to it a few times.  The pieces are not long, running from about two and a half minutes to a little over five minutes.   

If you are working, they make the perfect fill at the office.  Each piece has its own character, and never bores or drones, never becomes repetitive nor does it distract.  It can be calm in a madhouse, set the pace for a day of continuous work, and provide for an enjoyable break from everyday work. 

At home, this can provide atmosphere for dinner, quiet evenings on the back porch, while reading or relaxing in a tub.  Again, it is not intrusive and is perfect for personal time. 

My only disappointment with this CD is that Mr. Koch has the ability to compose some very memorable melodies, but they never develop beyond the simple yet elegant short pieces.  These compositions leave you wishing they were built upon and developed further. 

A few noteworthy tracks on this CD include Touched by Love, the opening track, which almost comes across as an anthem or a prayer, and has a very memorable melody.  A strong composition that does not overpower the listener but gently make its presence known. 

The title track Walking through Clouds gives us another memorable melody, almost ethereal in feeling, as suggested by the title.  Again, soft but with strong composition and piano, having the added bonus of a lovely flute accompaniment that makes this a poignant piece. Following Stars gives us a contemplation piece with subtle guitar accompaniment.  A lovely arrangement, allowing for drift but providing the anchor with a strong melody.   

The track Evoking Wonder is almost pensive, contemplative in its structure, but never broods.  A lovely, lyrical piece of music that provides a good example of Mr. Koch’s composition skills. I especially liked the closing track Travel Lightly which almost dances away with itself.  Again, good strong melody, lyrical, memorable and a delightful close to this CD. 

This is background music for a gentler way of life or the calm point in the middle of a storm.  It breaths stillness and serenity.  If New Age music is your soundtrack, then this will quickly find a place in your life.  A wonderful addition to your New Age collection and a lovely introduction to the works of this artist.

Reviewed by MA Foster


Return Home