Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Album Review: Little Red Boat by Mary Lydia Ryan

Mary Lydia Ryan is a longtime pianist, composer and vocalist who returned to the music scene in 2010 following a decade-plus hiatus. Her latest album, Little Red Boat, is a solo-instrumental piano offering that resulted from the inspiration of a painting by Steve Jensen and serves as the album's cover art. As the story goes, after placing this lovely painting atop her piano, Ryan began composing with ease the twelve pieces that would eventually comprise the album. Spanning approximately forty-three minutes, Little Red Boat was recorded in beautiful Sedona, AZ and mastered by fellow pianist and composer Joe Bongiorno.

Beginning with the title piece, “Little Red Boat” is guided along by a gently flowing melody and an overall sense of optimism. Much like the rest of the album's compositions, this piece moves along in a constant forward motion, as if allegorically riding an ocean current to wherever it may lead the traveler. Next our attention is turned to “Woman in the Moon”, a nocturnal piece and one of my favorites herein. Quietly contemplative with a classical bent, it conveys an almost mythical quality, as the listener might easily imagine themselves sailing the seas at night while gazing upon the moon and finding reassurance in its company. Also noteworthy is the comparatively more buoyant “The Joy of Ten Knots” wherein a ballet-like melody is set to a gently galloping pace that simultaneously gives the composition a dynamic yet dainty quality. Another one of my favorites is the slightly wistful “Sailing This Sea Alone”. Conveying both a sense of fortitude and solitude, the piece is intriguingly characterized by higher register notes occasionally trickling upon the main melody like raindrops on the ocean. Additionally worth noting is “A Song About Sea Turtles”, which makes for a fitting tribute to one of the most cherished and remarkable sea creatures on the planet. Seemingly illustrative in composition with subtle twists and turns along its course, this delightful tune feels like a musical overview of a sea turtle’s long oceanic journey and graceful determination.

Just as the ocean’s tides and currents flow endlessly, likewise Mary Lydia Ryan’s hands are in constant motion throughout the compositions; her playing style brightly bold yet mellifluously fluid. Seemingly drawn from the personal diary of a lone seafaring adventurer, Little Red Boat conveys emotional reflection perfectly illustrated by nautical metaphors. Furthermore, this album beautifully exemplifies the profound inspiration that one artist’s mode of creative expression can have on that of another’s! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunesGoogle Play and CD Baby.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Aural Awakenings: Episode 23

The Piano Guys – Epiphany – Timeless
Kerani – Fantasy in White – Small Treasures
Snatam Kaur – Water of Your Love – Beloved
Dulce Joya – Shadows of My Soul – Reality of Dreams
Bluesilhouettes – Crystal Skies – Looking for Utopia
Michael Kollwitz – Cloud Number Eleven – Serenity III
Mary Lydia Ryan – Woman in the Moon – Little Red Boat
Samer Fanek – Newborn – Guide Me
The Haiku Project – Au Revoir les Enfants – Life
Imogen Heap – Burning Bed / A Nice Day – The Music of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Greg Maroney & Sherry Finzer – The Beauty Lies Within – Remembrances
Pangaea Projekt – Time to Dream – Winter, Vol. 4

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Album Review: Looking for Utopia by Bluesilhouettes

Bluesilhouttes is a musical project by composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist David R. Peoples. Self-described as a “stuffy academic”, Peoples freely expresses his creative side with his latest album entitled Looking for Utopia, which is themed around a quest for an idyllic place that the listener is invited along to search for. Joining him throughout is South African slide flutist Carina Bruwer and cellist Natasha Jaffe from Berlin, who each respectively contribute to the album’s overall balance of playfulness and solemnity. Comprised of twelve ensemble pieces that are electroacoustic in nature, Looking for Utopia could best be described as modern eclectic instrumental music with notable influences of jazz, classical and world.

“Valley of Hidden Treasures” introduces the album with a melodic exchange of flute, cello and piano until the piece's collective instruments build into an escalation of cinematic drumming towards the end. Immediately apparent from the onset is the seemingly improvised 'out-of-the-box' structure of this tune and others that follow. Next is “Peach Blossom Spring”, an interesting jazzy lounge composition with a downbeat groove and subtle imbuing of Indian psychedelia. A kaleidoscope of colors seemingly characterizes the equally intriguing “Dance of the Flickering Fire” in the form of whirling xylophone-like timbres and a cycling percussive pattern that feels somewhat circus-like. One of the most introspective pieces on the album is “Solitariety”, a solo piano number that passes through changing moods, as twinkling high notes offset more dramatic lower chords. Following next is the classical-tinged “Glass Flower City” with its graceful symbiosis of cello and piano that are joined at the bridge of the song by cinematic drums. Another notably intriguing piece is the curiously-named “Glass Butterflies” wherein a fanciful flute melody seemingly rides upon a constant stream of percussive bells. And lastly, my favorite piece on the album is perhaps “Take Me to Elysian Fields”, which makes for the perfect ending. Here an amalgamation of crystalline piano, swooshing effects and tribal-like tonal percussion seemingly suggest that a long dreamed-of and fantastical place is finally within the seeker's reach.

Delightfully whimsical and decisively unpredictable, Looking for Utopia could even be described as a kind of experimental lounge music. Consciously genre-defying, the music herein conveys more observation than emotion to my ears, while seemingly encouraging a daydream state within which the listener’s mind is free to wander, explore and discover! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Album Review: Conversations on Piano by Joseph Nimoh

Joseph Nimoh is a Ghana-born pianist and composer who began playing piano at age 11 in his mother’s church. In addition to having studied piano performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, Nimoh also served as pianist and music director for numerous churches in the New England area.

After having had the pleasure of listening to Nimoh’s latest album entitled Conversations on Piano, it was immediately evident that those inspirational music roots are an integral part of his impressively refined and lovely sound. Comprised of twenty original solo piano compositions spanning almost an hour of simplistic authentic beauty, Conversations on Piano effortlessly weaves elements of jazz, gospel and classical music among its divinely-inspired compositions.

“Anything for You” serves as a beautiful opener with its moderately-paced melody gently played in the mid-range. A defining attribute of Nimoh’s music is the warmly personal and down-to-earth vibe that it conveys, which seems to speak directly to the listener’s inner thoughts and feelings. Although dynamic at times with often unpredictable transitions, Nimoh’s compositions never venture into the ornately bombastic, nor do they convey that of a grand stage performance. Rather, one might envision themselves cozily nestled in an upscale piano lounge or relaxing comfortably by the fireplace at home while listening. Likewise, Nimoh possesses a seemingly natural gift for smoothly transitioning among varying moods and tempos – even within the same composition) – and there’s a subtly improvised quality to his melodies, as they typically avoid following along a narrowly predictable path.

Softer pieces like “Morning Dew” perfectly capture the quiet calm of an early morning mist with its sparser notes perfectly placed among thoughtful pauses throughout. In subtle contrast, Nimoh lends a delicate force to “Conversations”, a bold yet tender composition that stands out as one of the album’s most melodically flowing and memorably engaging. Encouraging song titles such as “Don’t Be Discouraged”, “His Plans are Sure”, “Time for Change”, “Searching for Answers” and “I Am With You” aptly reflect a heavenly guidance that’s undeniably infused in Nimoh’s elegant compositions, which seemingly serve as gentle reminders of faith, hope and fortitude.

Beautifully embodying a supernal essence within its intimately personal compositions, Conversations on Piano is a most-fitting companion for prayer, reflection or relaxation, while simultaneously possessing a revitalizing quality that is sure to lift the spirits and pacify the mind! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Google Play.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Top 25 Albums for December 2018

Presented in alphabetical order by artist name.

Artist Name Album Title Record Label
2Cellos Let There Be Cello Sony Masterworks
Acoustic Ocean Blue Moon Rising Natural Health Source
Al Jewer & Andy Mitran Perihelion Laughing Cat Records
Andrew Colyer Christmas Time Inner Nova Music
Ann Licater Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation Cul de sac Mystic Productions
Blue Silhouettes Looking For Utopia Blue Silhouettes Music
Brenda Warren Beautiful Journey Seven Mile Music
Brian Crain Piano and Night Crain Records, Inc.
Charles DenlerNoelLittle River Music
David Lindsay Last Passing of Summer David Lindsay
Dulce Joya Reality of Dreams CD Produktion und Vertrieb
Hanson String Theory Three Car Garage
Imogen Heap The Music of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Masterworks Broadway
Joseph Nimoh Conversations on Piano Joseph Nimoh
Karen Biehl Starlight Dreams Karen Biehl
Kerani Small Treasures Kerani Music
Libera Beyond Invisible Hands Music
London Music Works The Nativity Silva Screen Records
Mary Lydia Ryan Little Red Boat Mary Lydia Ryan
Michelle Qureshi Silver Chord Heart Dance Records
Pam Asberry Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind Optimistic Flamingo Music
Robert Ziegler Christmas at the Movies Sony Classical
Sangeeta Kaur Mirrors Sangeeta Kaur Music
Sarah Brightman Hymn  Decca Gold
Snatam Kaur  Beloved Spirit Voyage Records