Sunday, June 24, 2012

CD Review – Reconstructed, by Isadar

Prolific recording artist Isadar’s latest album is his first produced by Grammy Award-winning guitarist and Windham Hill Records/Private Music founder Will Ackerman, and the result is a superbly crafted and recorded collection of new takes of selected cuts from Isadar’s previous solo piano CDs.

I haven’t heard Isadar’s prior work, so I can’t compare the new versions to the originals. However, I can certainly say that the lyrical compositions are beautifully arranged and wonderfully performed. Isadar demonstrates masterful skill in his playing and impeccable taste in his creative choices. He also lets loose on several tracks with a quirky playfulness that prevents this from becoming a stodgy affair.

This album can be enjoyed by solo piano aficionados and general music fans alike and is a perfect and pleasant soundtrack for motoring.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, June 16, 2012

CD Review – BEEing Human, by Mark Bruland

When I think of farming and farmers, I don’t think of evocative, atmospheric instrumental music. To be honest, judging by the cover and the cutesy album title, I was expecting something more along the lines of rustic, folksy country bumpkin-ness. Mark Bruland’s third album, my first experience with Bruland’s music, smashes all such misconceptions to crop dust.

A former food and beverage industry executive for nearly three decades, the Wisconsin farmer and beekeeper tills the fields and grows produce during the spring, summer, and fall and writes and records his musical masterpieces at his farm-based studio during the winter.

And what a harvest it is! (The music, that is.)

Bruland plays all the instruments, including guitars, bass, piano, synthesizers, horns, drums, and percussion. The result is a warm, rich sound that holds the music together through a variety of styles, such as inspiring anthems (“Blue Eyed Steel”), pleasant ballads (“An Afternoon with Steve,” “A Cool Breeze for Louise,” “My Laughing Heart”), and ethereal excursions (“No Matter What,” “Pictures from Wheels,” “Tom Parker’s Wind Chimes”).

From beginning to end, these are sounds for sore ears and minds.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, June 10, 2012

CD Review – Whereas, by Rebecca Oswald

Rebecca Oswald presents thirteen formidable solo piano tunes that conjure vivid stories fueled by the artist’s passion.

This is not your typical solo piano CD. Although Oswald has no accompaniment, she more than makes up for it with a dynamic sound and a masterful technique that give the impression of a full orchestra, thanks to her ambidextrous rendering of melodies, harmonies, and fills.

The compositions and performances themselves are full of drama and nuance. While they are serene and beautiful, they are also very compelling. Just when you think you’re about to drift off into tranquility, Oswald reels you back in with a jarring note here and a thunderous chord there.

If you’re looking for solo piano music that’s a nice blend of quiet and intensity and both relaxing and challenging, this one is worth a spin.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, June 3, 2012

CD Review – Inhale Slowly, by Tim White and Joe Paulino

On their latest album, Tim White and Joe Paulino set out to provide a musical environment in which listeners can accomplish the action of the title. The duo’s efforts are right on the target.

Using the ragas of classical Indian music as a starting point, White combines his ethereal bamboo flute, floating acoustic guitar, and evocative Indian instruments including sitar and bowed-stringed esraj with Paulino’s lush synthesizers and majestic grand piano.

The result is a calming and therapeutic expanse of sound that gently removes the noise of hectic daily life and tunes the mind into peace and tranquility.

The compositions, arrangements, and performances are dynamic enough to command artistic merit, yet serene enough for relaxation and cooling down.

--Raj Manoharan