Reviews 10-28-2006 


Music Reviews 



Gulf Coast Blues and Impressions
by George Winston


Visit George's website

George Winston’s “Gulf Coast Blues and Impressions” is both a benefit album to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina as well as a tribute to New Orleans jazz piano. Those who have seen Winston perform in concert know that this style of music is one of his passions, so it’s fun to have a full recording of both quiet and rollicking forms of jazz piano from this artist. Six of the tracks are original compositions in the styles of some of Winston’s favorite jazz composers, three are covers, and one is an almost twelve-minute arrangement of the New Orleans musical staple, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Folks looking for meditation music should probably move on, although four of the tracks are much quieter and more what Winston’s fans have come to expect. All of George Winston's proceeds from this album will go directly to the Dancing Cat Benefit Fund, to be distributed to organizations helping people on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans to rebuild and return. In unity with the artist, RCA Records will be donating the bulk of its net profits to benefit musicians in the New Orleans area, so this is a very noble cause deserving of everyone’s support.

The CD opens with “New Orleans Shall Rise Again,” a Winston original inspired by favorite New Orleans pianists. Spirited and determined, this piece is a great way to begin and is indicative of what is to come on the album. “Creole Moon” by Dr. John is much darker, and Winston’s touch is very percussive. James Booker’s “Pixie” is a lighthearted highlight. Winston says in the liner notes that Booker has influenced his overall piano playing more than anyone, and Winston seems to feel very comfortable in this style, with its repetitive walking bass and all-over-the-piano right hand. “Stevenson” is a beautiful Winston original dedicated to a dear friend who died last year, filmmaker Stevenson J. Palfi. Sad and reflective, it is a loving tribute and eulogy. Parts 1 and 2 of “Gulf Coast Lullaby” are full of the vast open spaces that Winston is known for. These two pieces and “Stevenson” are much more ballads than blues, and since they are placed consecutively on the CD, feel right at home between the toe-tappers. “When The Saints Go Marching In” begins with a dark and stormy prelude that barely hints of what is coming. Once Winston gets cooking with the song itself, it is unfettered joy and the boisterous good time that is expected in New Orleans. With almost twelve minutes to explore the themes of the song, Winston really lets loose. “Blues for Fess, Beloved” ends the CD with a mournful piece inspired by Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd), who founded the New Orleans piano scene in the late 1940’s. The inspiration for and a strong influence on many, if not all, of the New Orleans-style pianists to follow, this is a sweet and fitting finale to an excellent benefit CD.

“Gulf Coast Blues and Impressions” is widely available in retail stores and online. To hear samples, visit

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Leaving Home (extended)

by Solar Fields

Visit Ultimae Records' website


Take Solar Fields's album Leaving Home, stretch parts of it, slow it down, and the limited edition album Extended is the atmospheric result. Three of the tracks (I'm not sure which ones) were used at an exhibition in Sweden, the concept of which was to shift perceptions as the music developed through the gallery. The rest of the album grew from that starting point to become, as the press release puts it, Deep Unified Transmissions.

This is an album mostly in slow motion, and in typical Solar Fields fashion has lots of shimmering washes like sea waves rises and falling on a finely pebbled beach. Lurking but not hiding behind these washes, deep resonances are not uncommon. Some pieces like "No answer" use striated tones as gaseous wordless vocals, tinkles, washes, synthetic clattering, and shy refrains all work to convey an atmosphere of unfulfilled but subdued desire.

Anyone who's heard Leaving Home will recognise that the track "Monogram" has been reworked here in "Station 5". A contained throbbing backdrop over which seaside washes, pinging, and occasional stirred water sounds lead into a rhythmic passage while the backdrop starts to pulsate. All this heads towards a climax and then dies off gracefully. Hints of watery sonics are found on several tracks, especially on "A Place to think" where plopping water sounds are played around with and joined by ionised tones and jaunty setback refrains.

Bringing the album to a close is the beat driven "Detection". A distant clouded rhythm vies with beach like washes and easygoing glistening before a gently thudding beat accompanied by percussion starts up. The piece carries on like then eventually settles down to a taut reverbing synth line with urban-esque clattering.

You can always rely on Solar Fields to create blissful music ideal for chilling out to. Extended is worth a listen any time, but perhaps most suitable for when the day is young and tiredness dictates a slow start.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions




by Jeffrey Michael

CD Baby website


“Awakening” is Jeffrey Michael’s seventh release to date and is by far his strongest and most evocative work. Still in his twenties, Jeffrey has created a very impressive body of work over the past ten years or so, and has grown tremendously as an artist. A few of the sixteen pieces on this album have appeared on previous releases, but most are new. A few tracks have string accompaniment, but most are solo and recorded on a Bosendorfer grand piano. Also a film composer, Jeffrey Michael’s music has a cinematic sweep that conjures up colorful visual images and a rainbow of emotional experiences. Both soothing and powerful, this collection of original compositions should do much to bring Jeffrey Michael to the forefront of contemporary pianist/composers.

The title track opens the CD with a feeling of gentle optimism. A piano and cello duet, it is a lovely way to begin. “Ocean Dance” follows, and is one of the strongest pieces on the album. An infectious rhythm melts into a flowing melody, builds momentum, and becomes calm again. Something about this piece reminds me of Dax Johnson’s work, which is always a good thing! Subtle string washes enhance the mood, but the piano really shines. “Evening Gray” is much calmer and has an elegant flow. “Imagination” is another beauty and a bit more on the classical side. Dreamy yet energetic, the shifts between major and minor modes effectively show both the dark and lighter sides of the imagination. “Peppertree” is a little different from the others with its jaunty rhythm conveying a sense of fun and suggesting a very pleasant stroll somewhere. “Phantom of the Mind” is another favorite. Dark, mysterious, and intense, I really like the energy and passion of the piece. “Winter Flight” has a sense of purpose in its graceful melody - also exceptional! “Road to Bonifacio” first appeared on Jeffrey Michael’s 1999 release, “Reflections,” and was my favorite track on that CD, too. The piece was inspired by the scenic landscapes traveling in Corsica, and this version is more than two minutes shorter, so it has evolved a bit. The rhythm is propulsive, and the mood is joyful and yet a little mysterious - what’s around the next turn? What a great piece!

If you aren’t yet familiar with Jeffrey Michael’s music, this is a great place to start! Those who have been following his career will be pleased,too! “Awakening” is available at and Recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Sacred River

by Gandalf

Visit Real Music's website


Drawing his initial inspiration from flowing water Gandalf returns with another Earthly pastoral and reverential album called Sacred River. In the liner notes Gandalf says that the music reminded him of a novel Siddhartha, particularly the part with a wise ferryman. He suggests we let the music act as our ferryman taking us across the water.

What a lovely opener “Morning at the River Bench” makes. Birdsong and gently burbling water begins the piece, and it's possible to briefly make out the distant sound of schoolchildren singing. High pitched synth chords then come in along with a delightful acoustic guitar melody. The world has woken up for another day, one that is peaceful and full of good things.

I sometimes imagine certain Gandalf tracks as an adult lullaby. Take “Confidently Floating Seawards” as an example. It begins minimally with an easygoing melody played on guitars. Then in come some glistening pads and a nasally oboe like effect. The music in this track is a sonic caress, a mental equivalent of being gently stroked by someone with delicate hands.

We hear the sound of water in most of the tracks, adding to the serene demeanour of the album. It's difficult to describe Sacred River as anything other than beautiful and heartwarming. Even on the final track “Where the River Joins the Ocean” Gandalf manages to present the idea of drama in nature in an almost understated way. Quickly cycling guitar gives a sense of moving water while big chords and subdued cymbal crescendos lift and fall across the soundscape majestically. Breathy chorales add to the mix before the track settles down into a gentle rhythm with Gandalf's signature oboe like sound.

Gandalf has gone for a more mellow approach since the excellent Between Earth and Sky. The commonality of all his albums is a warmhearted and deep appreciation of nature, and Sacred River continues this tradition admirably

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions


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