Reviews 12-01-2010

Music Reviews 



New Butterfly

by ade ishs

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I really liked ade ishs’ debut album, Visions, but New Butterfly has me saying, “Wow!” even after five or six listens. ishs is an Indonesian-born artist who is now living in Melbourne, Australia. He has studied classical music and jazz from early childhood through his doctorate in music information retrieval, and has performed with a variety of bands and singers over the years. Although his classical roots are readily apparent, New Butterfly has a strong jazz influence and the feeling of a spontaneous, heartfelt conversation. The blending of colorful, powerful expression and a commanding piano  technique can produce stellar results, and this is a great example. Equally at ease with bigger, more dramatic music and quiet meditations, ishs should be turning a lot of heads with this album.

New Butterfly begins with “Little Butterfly,” a gentle, graceful piece that beautifully describes the movement of one of nature’s most delicate creatures. “Jakarta At Night 3” is cool and refreshing with a mood of peaceful contentment. “When the Sun Sets 1” has a hushed and leisurely style for the first two minutes or so, and then becomes more lively and dynamic, alternating with the quieter themes as the piece evolves over the course of a little more than seven minutes. It ends with a whisper and trails off. What a great piece! “When the Sun Sets 2” also begins with a quiet prelude, but this time it becomes a more reflective soul searching at the piano - possibly by candlelight. As it builds in intensity, it reaches a peak and then softens and fades out. Gorgeous! “St. Kilda Waters” is a free-form piece that expresses strength and grace - very open and beautiful. I love “I Saw Happiness,” an 8 1/2 minute exploration of that sought-after and often elusive emotion. Melodic yet free in structure, ishs takes the piece in several different musical directions that all make perfect sense. “Unity In Diversity” is a surprise. Very anthemic and hymn-like, it’s a short intermezzo between the longer pieces. “Moving Ashburton” begins with a very soft voice, leaving open spaces between the phrases. Mixing quiet themes with more upbeat, energetic ones, ishs seamlessly creates a tapestry of sound and demonstrates his mastery of the piano. “Melbourne Still Shines” is something of a love song to what is now home. Slow and expressive, it’s a beautiful way to close this truly exceptional album.

New Butterfly is almost certain to be one of my favorites for the year. It is available from, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!

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


Forget-Me-Not, Blue

by Evan Wish

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Forget-Me-Not, Blue is the follow-up to Evan Wish’s 2005 debut Lullaby of Love. Featuring solo piano, piano and live strings, and spoken word plus percussion (on one track), Wish proves himself to be a very expressive and evocative pianist and composer. Wish explains: “While I was composing this album it became a message that I wanted to send to the world. I have witnessed families of all races lose loved ones in war and the neglect of morals on a daily basis. I experienced my own heartbreak, love,  hope... and my times of contemplation; I used it all as my source of inspiration.” Although the overall theme of the album is often somber, the music is far from joyless. Powerful emotions are expressed with eloquence and grace as Wish opens his heart at the piano.

The album begins with “Tara,” a piece Wish composed for his daughter after receiving an email from her one evening. A string trio and the piano create a dialog between a father and daughter and bring to life the poignant drama that inspired the piece - a lovely opening! “What Will Man’s Legacy Be?” is quite different from the other tracks. After a beautiful instrumental prelude, a Native American chant begins behind spoken words by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gautama Buddha, and Mother Theresa. In addition to the chanting, a woman is singing the words “God and Amen” in Hebrew and Arabic. There is also a snare drum (for a military feel), a Persian hand drum, and a large African drum. There is so much going on in that section of the piece that it is almost impossible to hear what the spoken words are. Fortunately, those words are included in the liner notes. “When Do Miracles Happen?” is a gorgeous piano solo that was the result of a particularly difficult time in Wish’s life. I also really like the deeply emotional and very personal “Quietly I Say, All Things Happen.” “I Love You, Or Something Like That” is happier, tinged with a beautifully bittersweet interaction between the piano and string trio. “Angels Are Near” is a soothing piano solo made up of five different sections. The music reassures that angels will come to comfort those who call out to them. “Three Times to the Right, You Will Find What You Are Looking For” is a metaphor for starting a journey and taking three right turns, which will eventually bring you back to where you started. The interaction between the piano and strings is hopeful and optimistic. My favorite piece is the closing track, which is also the title track. Nostalgic yet very romantic, the strings enhance the drama and poignance of the music and end the album with a sigh.

Forget-Me-Not, Blue is a beautiful and stirring musical experience, so check it out at, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes!

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


A Candlelight Christmas

by Joe Bongiorno

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It might have been David Lanz who started the tradition of smoothing out Christmas music as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and it could be that Joe Bongiorno, “Mr. Mellow Sounds” himself, has taken this approach to its ultimate degree with his long-awaited A Candlelight Christmas. Joe arranged ten traditional Christmas songs and composed two new ones, and recorded them in his Piano Haven Studios on his hypnotic Kawai grand. All of the songs are paced very leisurely, creating a serene and peaceful mood and almost an hour of soft-spoken, graceful solo piano Christmas music. A nice glass of wine, some candles and this album, and voila’ - you have your very own Piano Haven Christmas!

Bongiorno begins with the smoothest arrangement of “Joy To the World” I’ve ever heard. Very slow and gently flowing, it sets the tone of the album. “What Child Is This?” seems to be a favorite of almost everyone, yet Bongiorno’s version is fresh and new. I’ve never heard this song mixed with phrases of “Carol of the Bells,” but it’s a great touch! “O Come Emmanuel” has always been one of my own favorites, and it’s often very, very dark. Bongiorno lightens the mood somewhat, although his arrangement maintains the melancholy and deep emotion. I love this arrangement. The first of the two original pieces is “A Candlelight Waltz,” a slow, dreamy, and very romantic dance for two. “Silent Night” is soft and hushed yet conveys a warm glow. I find it really interesting that over the past ten years or so, “O Holy Night” has evolved from an emotional powerhouse to a tender and gentle carol. Instead of a command to “fall on your knees,” it seems to have become a quiet suggestion. Bongiorno’s arrangement definitely comes under the second style and is one of the sweetest. “The First Noel” and “Away In a Manger” are the most improvised of the tracks, making them even more personal - and very beautiful. “The Little Drummer Boy” is one of the most popular of the more modern carols, and I’ve heard it with a strong march sound, a couple of times in a rock style, and occasionally with the innocence and sincerity of a young child. Bongiorno chose the latter of those approaches. His “O Christmas Tree” is slow, flowing, and dreamy. Bongiorno closes this lovely collection with his own “Feels Like Goodbye,” an exceptionally beautiful piece that ends the album sad to see the holidays ending, but hopeful for the coming year. Sigh....

Well worth the wait, Joe Bongiorno’s A Candlelight Christmas is available exclusively from Recommended!

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


Autumn Suite Vol. 1

by Chad Lawson

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Autumn Suite, Volume 1 is the second in a series of improvisational duet albums from pianist Chad Lawson. This time, Lawson teamed up with guitarist Troy Conn. The EP is divided into three tracks that range from just under eight minutes to almost eighteen, and each is titled “Autumn Suite I II or III.” On their page on CD Baby, it states that they “steal the playbook from Evil Knievel and take every risk they could come across.” It would be fun to have more information about the process, but the two artists let the music speak for itself. I have to give Chad Lawson a lot of credit for not allowing himself to get too comfortable with the success of his award-winning “Set On a Hill,” which was more composed and melodic. Both Summer Suite and Autumn Suite are much edgier and more experimental, taking a chances and being in the moment with the music. 

I LOVE “Autumn Suite I,” which begins with a Spanish/classical guitar-sounding intro by Troy Conn. He ends with a somewhat mysterious twist that Lawson picks up with a series of beautiful rolling broken chords on the piano. Lawson suggests a melody that continues in a Spanish style, and Conn develops it as Lawson accompanies him with a flowing piano. The interplay is achingly beautiful, and it’s simply amazing that this piece is an improvisation. “Autumn Suite II” begins with the piano, softly setting the tone and then introducing a single note pattern that the guitar picks up on. Lawson continues to improvise to this steady repeating note/rhythm. The pattern evolves into a repeated chord that both artists riff on, sometimes only varying the dynamics. As this very experimental piece goes along, the developmental changes are subtle and may be too repetitive for some ears. About 12 1/2 minutes into the piece, there is a muffled dialog in the background, but I can’t understand any of the words. Shortly after that, Lawson plays a series of slow chords and goes into a different direction with the piece as it becomes more rhythmic and upbeat, ending with slow chords as it fades out. “Autumn Suite III” begins with slow chords that create a very subdued mood. The first half of the  improvisation continues in a gentle, soft-spoken style that is elegant and graceful. About halfway into the piece, Lawson injects a livelier beat with rolling chords as Conn picks out a melody on electric guitar. During the final minute, Lawson returns to his slow, lovely chords and fades out. 

Autumn Suite, Volume 1 is a fascinating study of the creative dynamics between two artists as well as the amazing musicality that can result from this sort of collaboration. It is available from, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.

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