Terra Guitarra – Earthsign Records
Terra Guitarra (Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli) switch things up a bit on their latest recording, Spirit Wheel. While their tasty, tuneful Latin guitars and percussion are still present, the energy level is significantly toned down and a new ingredient, chill-out rhythms and beats, has been added to the mix. Still present are their beguiling melodies, but rather than revving you up, they are now tilting toward encouraging you to just melt into the sensuous and languid nature of the music. Instruments include guitars, cedar flute, bass, keyboards, drums and percussion, all played with abundant talent by Bruce or Julie.
On the Edge of a Dream
Robin Spielberg – playMountain Music
These fourteen improvisational piano tone poems from acclaimed pianist Robin Spielberg, are just the ticket for winding down at the end of a stressful day and ushering young and old alike to the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod. With titles such as “Calling All Dreamers,” “Nightfall,” and “Stargazing,” you know you are in for some wonderful, soothing piano pieces, courtesy of one of the genre’s best artists. In fact, Spielberg has never sounded better, as these delicate miniatures emphasize her exquisite control of nuance and subtlety. A true must-have for both longtime fans and novices, as well as all lovers of music for quiet times.
Liquid Mind XII: Peace
Liquid Mind – Real Music
It seems fitting that in these times fraught with terror, mistrust, bigotry, and ignorance, Chuck Wild (Liquid Mind) would turn his musical eye toward something as important and vital as the quest for Peace. While it is naive to think that music can literally change the world, it can change a person, and in his liner notes, it is this concept of “engendering person-to-person peace” which is the driving force behind this, his thirteenth release. Lush strings, soft-as-a-feather synth pads, subtle twinkling tones, and soothing melodies wrap around the listener like well-worn flannel, creating a source of comfort for the soul and the body.
The Essential Collection
Eugene Friesen – Fiddletalk Music
You can’t call yourself a fan of instrumental music and not know of cellist Eugene Friesen. His career spans multiple decades and he is a highly sought after guest artist for many folks. This album collects some of his most requested songs from four solo recordings he has released over the years. Many of the tracks feature other musicians and the songs themselves are quite varied, some being mellow and others being just the opposite, e.g. “Shadowplay,” a lively jazz duet with pianist Tim Ray. When an artist with the pedigree that Friesen has refers to these tunes as “essential,” you can bet on them being just that!
Helen Jane Long – Self-released
Helen Jane Long is a highly talented pianist and orchestral music composer/arranger. Her list of credits composing scores for TV and film is formidable and she has also released six albums, this being her latest. Here, she is joined by an orchestra (uncredited in the liner notes, except for conductor Stacey Watton). The music (both piano and orchestra) is brilliantly performed, gorgeously recorded, and expertly mixed and mastered. The various songs feature elements of classical, cinema soundtrack, and pop, but always with a unique “something else” that makes Long’s pieces truly special. Some tracks pulse with power and energy and others flow with warm melodicism.
Kiss the Quiet – Meditations on Life & Love
Michael Whalen – Michael Whalen Music
Michael Whalen is one of the most versatile piano/keyboard artists on the music scene. His latest release is a sublime collection of gentle piano and keyboard instrumentals that are ideally suited for when you are trying to release the stress from the day and relax before heading off to bed. Obviously, the album is also a perfect fit for massage or the healing arts as well. Suffused with an air of warmth and romance, some of the pieces flirt with minimalism, but others are quite tuneful. Whalen’s subtle and masterful use of electronics contributes mightily, but never intrudes on the core piano melodies.
David Wahler – Self-released
Pianist/keyboardist David Wahler just keeps getting better with every album. On Mosaic, he paints sonic landscapes by combining a sizable variety of keyboard sounds. However, but no matter whether he’s employing piano, synth strings, twinkling tones, angelic chorales, or ambient textures, Wahler’s rich warmth and unmistakable sense of well-being are present in each melody. On Mosaic, he elevates his musical talent to a higher level, approaching the artistry of Kevin Kendle (who I have considered the best New Age keyboard artist for years). Perfect for playing while daydreaming by the window, Mosaic will leave everyone who listens to it feeling refreshed and renewed.
Alive Inside the Tank
Mysteries of The Night – Silver Wave Records
From one of the most storied labels in the history of New Age/Native American music, Silver Wave, comes a recording that epitomizes the term “haunting.” Mysteries of the Night are James Marienthal (flutes and percussion) and Sarah Gibbons (vocals, hand drums, percussion). Their album was recorded inside “The Tank” (Center for Sonic Arts). Truly amazing sounds flow throughout the recording due to the reverberations which occur when Marienthal’s flutes and Gibbon’s wordless vocals rebound off the walls of this cavernous structure. Ethereal, mystical, yet also primal at times, you simply have to hear this album. My words cannot do it justice. A must-have album!
Anne Trenning and Friends – Shadetree Productions
Pianist Anne Trenning invited a host of folks to accompany her on Beautiful Song—too many to list here. Some notables include Bill Leslie (Celtic flute), Ciro Hurtado (guitar), and Jeff Oster (flugelhorn) but everyone featured “brings their best stuff” on the album. Trenning specializes in piano music that offers up sincere feelings of nostalgia, innocence and romance, evoking a more genteel time in the world. Featuring six originals and five covers, the artist’s taste in the latter is certainly eclectic, running from Neil Young’s “Helpless” to Maurice Jarrè’s soundtrack for the film Witness (“Building the Barn). Trenning and her many friends delight at every turn.
Vicente Avella – Pandora’s Boombox Records
Every now and then a recording crosses my desk that defies easy categorization, presenting a particularly unique musical vision. Pianist Vicente Avella’s Rising is one such album. It’s overly simplistic to label it neo-classical (although the Eclipse [string] quartet features prominently throughout), because the album also embraces orchestral pop, cinema, chill, New Age, and perhaps a few more genres. Despite a myriad of musical flavors, the album’s cohesion stems from Avella’s performing, composing, and arranging talents. Many songs on Rising are bursting with dramatic tension, grabbing the listener’s attention with gentle forcefulness. The title track is a stunner but every song is an out-and-out winner!