Sunday, June 28, 2015

CD Review – Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies & Meditations for Solo Piano, by Roger Davidson

Roger Davidson is a versatile, all-purpose pianist who has created buzz on the New York music scene for his mastery of jazz, Latin, and Brazilian forms, and now the keyboard artist brings his unique playing style to his first album of solo piano music.

Given his long, diverse and rich musical background, Davidson exudes the experience and confidence of an old pro, while providing fresh and new takes on a classic, age-old, ubiquitous, traditional instrument.

The original compositions are wide-ranging, reaching from the depths of the inner subconscious to the heights of lofty aspirations, and Davidson's performance capabilities keep pace with his fertile, vividly creative mind.

Solo piano enthusiasts and casual music fans will find this CD to be worthwhile and rewarding.

--Raj Manoharan

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

James Horner (1953-2015)

I was nine years old when I first saw James Horner's name on the big screen, credited for the brilliant, majestic, and sweeping score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, his first major feature film project.

He also composed the soundtrack for the sequel, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, before going on to a storied 30-year-plus career as one of the legendary mainstays of Hollywood film music, joining the esteemed ranks of luminaries such as late maestro and fellow Star Trek composer Jerry Goldsmith and frequent George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collaborator John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park).

Horner received far more acclaim and accolades for his later film work, much of which has been written about elsewhere and can easily be researched.

But for me, his Star Trek motion picture scores will always hold a special place in my heart.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, June 12, 2015

Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

Christopher Lee, how will I miss thee? Let me Count Dooku the ways:

Hammer horror, Captain America II: Death Too Soon, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, just to name a few …

Fare thee well, icon.


--Raj Manoharan

Hungary for Food and Film

Keep an eye out for the Budapest episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN.

In this installment, the globetrotting chef savors the local flavors and samples world-class cinema under the awe spices of native son and acclaimed Academy Award-winning Hollywood cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who served as the director of photography on Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (for which he won the Oscar), and The Deer Hunter.

Be sure not to miss it. It's a culinary and celluloid delight.

--Raj Manoharan

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

CD Review – Narrow Path, by Matthew Schoening

Matthew Schoening is not only a brilliant composer and performer, but a musical visionary as well, with the talent, ingenuity, and technology to manifest what his mind’s eye sees and hears.

As he did on his previous albums, Schoening plays electric cello by himself without any accompaniment. But you would never know that just by listening to the CD.

The disc brims richly with the sounds of guitar, bass, violin, cello, synthesizers, and percussion, all generated by Schoening on his electric cello with the high-tech help of looping. Schoening literally is a one-man new age fusion ensemble.
As impressive as Schoening's technical abilities are, it's his compositional skills that elevate the material to greatness. Not only does Schoening have an ear for edgy and ethereal tunes, but he also has a knack for rhythmic arrangements, compelling orchestrations, and spellbinding sonic tones, all utilized in the service of both rapturous revelry and introspective reverie.
Standout tracks include “Odyssey,” “Discipline,” “Faith,” and “Narrow Path.” The last two numbers, “Surrender (Float)” and the epic 15-minute meditation “Breathe,” are pure transcendental brilliance.
Schoening has achieved something truly special here. This album is to cello what Andy Summers' The Golden Wire is to guitar. And like that CD, this one is a classic that will stand the test of time.
--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Anne Meara (1929-2015)

While Anne Meara will always be best known for her long comedy partnership with her husband Jerry Stiller, I will always remember her for her recurring role as the mother of Spence Olchin (Patton Oswalt) on the classic sitcom The King of Queens.
Although the part was originally played by Eileen Brennan in one episode, Meara made it her own, especially as she was once again playing opposite Jerry, who starred on the show as cantankerous senior Arthur Spooner, father of Carrie Heffernan (Leah Remini), father-in-law of Doug Heffernan (Kevin James), and the usually unwilling object of Mrs. Olchin's desire.
In fact, The King of Queens became quite a family affair for the Stiller-Meara brood, with son Ben Stiller guest-starring in one episode as the father of his father's character (!) and daughter Amy Stiller (Ben's sister) making cameo appearances in several episodes as a flustered coffee store employee continually heckled by Arthur. Sometime after the show ended, Amy appeared in one of Jerry's Capital One commercials.
Thanks for the laughs, Ms. Meara.
--Raj Manoharan

CD Review – Winds of Samsara, by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman

This vibrant global meeting of musical minds deservedly won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.

Although Indian keyboardist Ricky Kej and South African flutist Wouter Kellerman are the primary principals who put the project together, it isn't just their talents that make this CD a world music wonder.

Kej and Kellerman corralled over a hundred musicians from around the planet to create this intoxicating hybrid of international and ethnic sounds, inspired by the lives and philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

Illustrious Grammy notwithstanding, this is a winner by any standard.

--Raj Manoharan