music review

Cosmic Connections Live

Cosmic Connections Live

Cosmic Connections Live is the polar opposite in style of the other live album reviewed this issue (Yanni’s The Dream Concert), but is its equal in every other way: superb musicianship, wonderful (as usual) vocals, outstanding instrumental performances. My assessment is, of course, no surprise to anyone who has followed the recording career of Deva Premal (vocals, tempura, keyboards), Miten (vocals. guitar) and Manose (bansuri, vocals). These three are among the best chant artists recording today.

Zia

Zia

It’s more than a little staggering to this music critic to encounter a pianist like Alexi Musnitsky, who is one third of my age yet plays with the emotional depth and maturity of someone much closer to my years. However, it’s true—Alexi Musnitsky has only now entered his twenties. When you and your customers (in-store play!) hear this extremely gifted artist, I believe you will be as impressed as I was on my first playing of Zia.

Waves of Love

Waves of Love

Waves of Love is a stunningly serene and lovely album from pianist/keyboard artist Nadama, even by the high standards of the Malimba Records label. While the 10 tracks are rooted in sublime piano melodies, Nadama’s use of an assortment of digital and sampled instruments is absolutely textbook in execution, and they help fashion these songs into relaxation masterpieces. There are some moments of gentle playfulness, but even then, the overall mood is blissfully mellow.

Follow the River Home

Follow the River Home

Ambient guitarist Jeff Pearce’s latest release sees the Indiana resident displaying a variety of electric guitar-playing techniques, highlighting at least one new wrinkle: his talent for stinging electric leads (previously exhibited at the Zone Music Reporter Awards show in 2015). These soaring notes of electric energy are unleashed on “Snowfall,” heard over a bed of reverbed rhythm-guitar chords.

In the Garden

In the Garden

With how tumultuous and chaotic our world is becoming every day, Seay’s new album, In the Garden has arrived none too soon. Possessed of one of the finest voices in music today (regardless of genre), Seay (who also plays piano and keyboards and did the sound design for the album) weds her magnificent voice to an assortment of life-affirming lyrics and dramatic, soulful melodies that will whisk listeners away from their trials and travails and deposit them in a land of beauty, light, and love.

AncesTree: Gift of the Ancients

AncesTree: Gift of the Ancients

This is my first exposure to flutist Kim Bold’s music, but I hope it won’t be my last. Playing an assortment of world flutes and accompanied by gentle percussion, piano, strings, and ambient textures, Bold weaves a hypnotic web of ethnic flute journeys, transporting the listener to a variety of landscapes, each subtly aglow with subdued primal energy regardless of mood or tempo. It’s always a delight for a music critic of 19 years (yours truly) to discover an artist who possesses a special gift and a unique vision. Kim Bold has both of these in abundance.

Beyond the Waves

Beyond the Waves

Subtitled “A soulful flute journey,” Beyond the Waves emphatically shows that flutist Ann Licater deserves a spot at the top of her instrumentalist category. Over the course of her last few recordings, Licater has demonstrated virtuosity and composing ability that showcases both her versatility and her cohesion of musical vision. Joined by a very capable cast of supporting players, Licater displays her affinity for an assortment of flutes and their respective characteristic styles (New Age, Native American, etc.).

The Dream Concert

The Dream Concert

You have to hand it to Yanni: He is a fantastic live entertainer. The New Age maestro has released a number of live albums, but The Dream Concert, recorded in front of the Great Pyramids and the Giant Sphinx of Egypt, may just be his crowning achievement—and that’s saying something! The two-disc album features not just the music but also a fantastic DVD of the concert, and it’s easily one of the most essential recordings I have ever reviewed. I was lucky to go to a Yanni concert in my hometown of Minneapolis years ago, and this man can put on a show!

Trialogue

Trialogue

Renowned cross-genre flutist Sherry Finzer and guitarist Darin Mahoney made one of the more enjoyable albums of 2013, Transformation, a superb blend of desert ambiance and New Age melodicism. On Trialogue, the pair team up with world-class drummer and percussionist Will Clipman, and the results are every bit as spectacular as Transformation, with the added pizzazz of Clipman’s superb rhythms layered over Finzer’s flutes and Mahoney’s guitars.

Sacred Visions

Sacred Visions

Harpist Peter Sterling (also keyboards, loops, percussion, ocarina, and recorder) ups the musical energy level on Sacred Visions, infusing his fluid melodies with healthy doses of world-beat influences, tasty but mellow grooves, and occasional side orders of chill and jazz. Frequent collaborator Richard Hardy (sax, flute, pennywhistle) and cellist Hans Christian, among others, lend their talents to the album. Track five, “Eclipse,” features notable players, including pioneering guitarist Bruce BecVar and New Age/jazz-fusion legend William Aura (leader of Third Force).

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