2Cellos are Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic and like another internet phenomenon, The Piano Guys, the two musicians have erupted on the classical crossover scene like a fresh wind, blowing away the conventions of the genre and reinvigorating their music scene in the process. Playing with the London Symphony Orchestra, the duo tackle some of the more iconic pieces of music from equally iconic films (as well as the opening medley from Game of Thrones). At times powerful and dramatic and other times subdued yet equally evocative, these two cellists showcase their abundant talents on music from Braveheart, The Godfather, Rainman, and more.
Real Music continues to tweak its image by injecting a more ambient/ electronic aspect into its extensive catalog. This is Ashaneen’s (Polish electronic music artist Piotr Janeczek) second release on the Californiabased label and it’s a stunning blend of classic drifting spacemusic with elements of subtle (and some not so subtle) tribal rhythms on selected tracks, all woven together via flowing synth pads, textures, washes, and chorals. Janeczek can stand toe-to-toe with the top names in these genres. His ability to interject dynamism on tracks such as “Passion of the Soul” and then immediately fold into the ethereal serenity of “Spaces of Creation” displays accomplished mastery over disparate subgenres.
Not many artists have so dramatically re-invented themselves as Elise Lebec has on Origin. It’s obvious that she has undergone not just a musical rebirth but a personal one as well, which occurred during a recent trip to Egypt. The results of her transformation are stunningly captured on this mind-blowing amalgam of ancient Egyptian musical motifs and instruments and state-of-the-art electronics and rhythms, both married to exciting and sultry Egyptian and English vocals. Featuring contributions by 38(!) musicians from around the world, Origin is not just a powerful musical statement, but a true revolution in the world-fusion genre. Lebec’s vocals are a stellar triumph throughout.
Reading through Charles Denler’s bio, you’d think he would be a household name, so deep and accomplished is his music career as a multiple award winner for scores and soundtracks and an accomplished contemporary classical composer. On his latest album, the pianist performs with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (and it’s easy to tell this was a “live” recording and not with the orchestra parts merely added on in the studio). Subtitled “A Water Suite for Piano and Chamber Orchestra,” the music here veers from delicate and minimal to full blown drama and passion. By turns soul-stirring in its power and evocative in its warmth, this is an easy suggestion to all your classical music customers.
It’s rare to hear an artist so accomplished on piano, drums, and soprano saxophone (as well as Fender Rhodes and synths), but Rick Cutler is that one man show on the cryptically titled Daydreams (Probably). Two women also appear as guest vocalists, but there are no other instrumentalists. Cutler plays a mixture of eclectic and imaginative jazz music that is never in the least bit inaccessible. Some tracks are on the quieter side (“When I Found You Again), while others feature funky piano riffing (“The Tall Road”) or a bluesy, back-alley feel (“Opposites Distract”). This album is ideal as a late night musing soundtrack when ambient doesn’t cut it and you want something more urban sounding.
I feel quite comfortable stating that with this album, we are witnessing the emergence of a huge star in the Celtic/New Age genre, perhaps eventually on par with Enya, Loreena McKennitt, and others in that class. Sarah Copus is the daughter of Pamela and Randy Copus, the famed New Age duo 2002. Even bearing that esteemed pedigree, I was blown away by Sarah’s harp playing and even more so, her lovely vocals. Keep in mind this young woman isn’t even 18, but she has been performing and recording for seven years with her folks. Sarah’s vocals are ethereal and haunting while the instrumental Celtic reels display her considerable talent on the harp.
An unabashedly romantic (yet never cloying or saccharine) album, Gina Leneé’s Red Diamonds is also one of the best piano and ensemble recordings to come from Will Ackerman’s famed Imaginary Road Studios in recent years. Themed around affairs of the heart (tracks include “A Thousand Days Without You,” “Soulmates,” and “The Beautiful, The Broken”), Leneé displays an amazing control of nuance and shading, as well as rare composing skills. Sometimes wistful, sometimes sad, sometimes tender and sweet, these 10 odes to love will make a great gift for any romantic at heart. Sterling production quality is of course present as well.
Lynn Tredeau is one of those pianists who embodies the classification “elegant simplicity.” Never outright showy, she allows her melodies to speak directly and plainly, with just the right number of notes, each one doing its own singular job. Her delicate touch on the ivories, as evidenced on songs such as the somewhat somber title track, is indicative of an artist with an uncommon maturity in both performing and composing. At times, the pace of the music picks up slightly, but the overall mellowness of the recording is not disturbed. Style-wise, the music can be classified as a cross between New Age and classical with elements of “late night jazz piano” at times thrown in.
Unlike their previous four releases, AOMusic’s (Miriam Stockley and Richard Gannaway) Asha concentrates more on spotlighting the two core members, while still retaining the pure joyfulness, optimism, and universality that has become their hallmark. Many of the tracks feature Stockley and Gannaway singing in English (there are still other languages present, as well as their near-patented use of children’s choirs). Gannaway’s stellar talent on a host of instruments (and his vocals) are matched by Stockley’s famous lilting voice. World beat influences abound but are wrapped up in contemporary studio wizardry with topnotch production and engineering quality.
The Recognition's title and cover art give no indication of the haunting and beautiful music contained on this album from harmonica and guitar maestro Art Patience. When a recording captures my attention this vividly in the first few tracks, I can’t wait to share my enthusiasm with everyone in my readership. Almost always beautifully haunting in tone, the album could serve as a soundtrack for a road trip down “old” Route 66, exploring long-abandoned towns along the way. This is some of the moodiest (in a most positive way) music I have heard in years and deserves lots of in-store play to spur interest.