Monday, May 28, 2012

CD (Fan) Review – Mike Moreno

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of tunes on WBGO Jazz Radio by an up-and-coming jazz guitarist named Mike Moreno. Those two tracks were enough to hook me and compel me to go to Amazon and listen to samples from his four (to date) solo albums, which I promptly ordered and am now enjoying in between my reviews.

Moreno combines the steeped traditions of jazz guitar and the eclectic possibilities of the electric guitar, resulting in a fusion of old and new that matches the fire and invention of a young Pat Metheny, who has praised Moreno.

Moreno’s albums are not just exercises in jazz guitar. Although he writes most of the originals that are not standards, the other musicians supporting him get to shine just as much as the leader, resulting in the cohesion of a true band. But Moreno’s guitar is definitely the thread that holds everything together.

Although Moreno has released “only” four albums in the last five years, he by no means operates in a vacuum. A graduate of New School University’s music program in his current home base of New York City, Moreno has performed, toured, and recorded with both established jazz superstars and fellow up-and-coming jazz artists.

I find it a bit weird being a fan of someone younger than me. All of my favorite actors and musicians are several years or decades older than me, which makes sense because I became a fan of them when I was a child. However, Moreno is only six years younger than me, so I don’t feel so bad. I am proud to include him in my personal pantheon of favorite jazz/rock/fusion guitarists, including Andy Summers, Eric Johnson, Hiram Bullock, Pat Metheny, and Ronny Jordan.

I am even more excited that the future of jazz guitar is literally in good hands.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, May 27, 2012

CD Review – Sounds from the Circle IV, by The New Age Music Circle

Produced by Suzanne Doucet (one of whose tunes is included) and The B Company’s Beth Hilton, this latest in a series of recording compilations features 40 individual tracks from members of The New Age Music Circle, an online community of New Age musicians from around the world, many of whom I have reviewed on this site.

This CD has a playing time of over three-and-a-half hours, which is possible because this is an mp3 collection, allowing for the expanded capacity. With the development of this technology, there is no more need for multi-CD box sets. Or multi-CD box sets can now have at least twice the amount of material.

The press release, as well as the album package, advises that the CD can only be played in mp3-compatible CD players and computer CD-ROM drives and won’t play in older, traditional CD players. I was able to play it in my 2010 Ford’s CD player with no problems.

The artists on this CD whom I have reviewed on this site include Hennie Bekker, Louis Collaiannia, AOMusic, Tron Syversen, Al Conti, Peter Jennison, 2002, Jose Luis Serrano Esteban, Bill Wren and Frank Ralls, Paradiso and Rasamayi, Michael de Salem, and Lia Scallon. You can look them up in the search engine above to see my reviews of their individual albums and get a sense of their sounds and styles.

The overall feel of the album is soothing and laid-back. This is the perfect soundtrack for a road trip, and you don’t have to change CDs for three-and-a-half hours.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, May 19, 2012

CD Review – Lucid Dreams, by Arturo Mayorga

Arturo Mayorga presents a collection of eleven tunes that accomplish what good music does – take listeners’ minds off their cares and transport them to a place of inspiration and enlightenment.

The pianist/keyboardist alternates between solo tracks, duets, and a full ensemble. The rich sound is achieved by a full consort of musicians on guitar, drums, percussion, flute, oboe, English horn, voice, violin, viola, and cello.

Mayorga is a master of his craft, constructing snappy compositions around his fine, pointed melodies. He has an acute understanding of pop sensibilities that makes his music accessible to listeners of every stripe.

This is an enjoyable CD that is engaging from beginning to end.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, May 6, 2012

CD Review – Panomorphia, by Carl Weingarten

The new album by guitarist Carl Weingarten goes beyond the expectations of traditional guitar music, resulting in a sonic treat not only for guitar fans, but for anyone interested in a unique listening experience.

The CD features seven tracks that are primarily situated in the New Age subgenre of ambient space music. Weingarten plays slide and other guitars through digital delay loops and is joined on four numbers by Michael Manring on fretless bass, Celso Alberti on drums, and Jeff Oster on trumpet and flugelhorn, resulting in a far out space jazz ensemble. The other three compositions are Weingarten by himself on guitars and loops, creating entrancingly hypnotic timbres that sound like they were constructed by synthesizers.

The key to the success of this album is the fact that Weingarten refrains from playing bop or fusion lead lines and instead uses his guitars and loops to generate textural atmospherics, evoking the impression of aural paintings. Over this expansive canvas, Weingarten provides just enough of a hint of his slide guitar flourishes to emphasize the human element behind the sleek technical sheen of the recording.

Sounding very much like sci-fi music with a sense of the mystery and the excitement of the unknown, this CD will yield revelatory rewards to those who seek out its tantalizing sounds.

--Raj Manoharan