Thursday, May 30, 2019

Album Review: Reflection by Shoshana Michel

Shoshana Michel is an accomplished pianist and composer who’s been delightful to witness evolve as an artist over the past few years. Classically trained, she began piano lessons at age seven and has been playing professionally since she was seventeen. However, it wasn’t until many years later that she would release her debut solo piano album in 2015 titled Soul Whispers, which featured lovely arrangements of Chabad Nigunim (songs of Jewish Eastern European origin). Soon thereafter she would embark on the creation of her second album and first release of original compositions with her widely-acclaimed album Dancing on the Wind, easily proving herself not only as a skilled pianist and arranger but as a composer as well.

Aptly titled Reflection, Michel’s fourth album and third collection of original music is comprised of eleven solo pieces that interweave both classical and contemporary motifs. Like a gently flowing river softly shimmering in the moonlight, her pristinely elegant compositions delicately sparkle, as the soothing melodies often take unexpected yet subtle paths along tranquil currents.

Conveying an atmosphere of serenity and solitude, the album’s artwork perfectly depicts the mood of the music, which often paints pacifying images of the sky, the stars and the sea. Avoiding any frenetic tendencies, Michel opts for arrangements that are melodically intricate yet calmly introspective over a theatrical power-playing style. Fitting for a spa setting or as accompaniment to the healing arts, her compositions effectively promote and nurture an inexplicable inner calm.

Another notable characteristic of Michel’s music is that she infuses many of her compositions with a unique element of sacredness that has seemingly been transferred from her Chabad Nigunim arrangements. This beautiful idiosyncrasy is most detectable on personal favorites such as “Shooting Stars”, “Soothing the Tempest Within”, “The Moon’s Lament” and “Labyrinth”.

Sure to earn Shoshana Michel more well-deserved praise, Reflection is easily one of the year’s best solo piano albums! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, Bandcamp and Google Play.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Overview: Still the River Flows by David M. Edwards

Still the River Flows is the third album and first solo piano release by composer David M. Edwards. Comprised of fourteen compositions totaling just over an hour, Still the River Flows exudes both a cheerful optimism and tender reflection, as Edwards seemingly muses upon personal life experiences in parallel with nature’s vistas, and cycles of day and night. Naturally, his compositions subtly shift from softly serene passages like “On A Cloudy Day” and “Evening Song”, to more brightly brisk tunes such as “Summer Dance” and “Take Me with You”. Overall elegantly simple and straight from the heart (a concept that is perhaps best-captured on the piece “Just a Simple Song”) Still the River Flows is an especially appropriate album to put on in the morning to gently elevate the soul and illuminate the start of a new day! ~Candice Michelle

(This album is available at Amazon and other retail and streaming platforms.)

Adrift in Wonder by Robert Linton

Robert Linton is a seasoned guitarist and composer who’s released several recordings over the past couple of decades. Having previously worked with legendary guitarist and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, Linton’s music would have been perfectly suited to that label’s roster in its prior heyday. Known for his own characteristic brand of finger-style nylon guitar playing, Linton’s style conveys a graceful fluidity while his sound emits an inherent tranquility.

Titled Adrift in Wonder, his most recent full-length album enlists the talents of several top musicians in today’s contemporary instrumental genre, including Eugene Friesen (cello), Sara Milonovich (violin), Jill Haley (English horn), and Premik Russell Tubbs (alto flute and electronic woodwind instrument). Mixed and mastered by Corin Nelsen of SychroSonci Productions, Nelson has been a frequent go-to guy for many recording artists in the field, whose professionalism always shines on any project he’s recruited for.

Based upon themes of inner reflection and contemplation in nature, Linton's lulling guitar berceuses remain central focus throughout, as the accompanying instruments add minimal layers and softly-hued textures that subtly encircle the main melodies, not too unlike the album's artwork depicting delicate autumn leaves surrounding the composer. Visually evocative of dawns, sunsets, rivers and woodlands, Linton’s enchanting compositions emit incandescent atmospheres that warmly soothe and tenderly pacify the senses.

An absolute must-have album for fans of tranquil guitar instrumentals, Adrift in Wonder consistently elicits an air of comforting calmness with its perfectly understated and exemplary atmospheric acoustic arrangements! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, Bandcamp, iTunes and other retail and streaming platforms.

Aural Awakenings: Episode 31

Artist – Track – Album & Buy Link
Brooks & Day – Sacred City – Mystic Messages
Perpetual Motion – Dance of Two Souls – Dance of Two Souls
Jill Haley – Rustles of Green and Gold – The Winds of Badlands
Kathryn Kaye – We’ll Be Home Tomorrow – Solace of Mountains and Clouds
Juliet Lyons – Flow – The Light Within
Jonny Lipford – Fly in Beauty – Migration
Gerhard Daum – All That Matters – Songs Without Words
David M. Edwards – Still the River Flows – Still the River Flows
Mike Woodlark – An Elephant’s Soul – Mackland Ave
Ciro Hurtado – Rumba Andina – Altiplano
Grayhawk – Sacred Equinox – Shaman Journey
Lisa Pressman – Amber Waves – As We Imagine

Monday, May 27, 2019

Artist Spotlight: An Interview with Steve Rivera

We’re excited to present an audio interview with Steve Rivera. He’s a California based pianist who composes beautifully melodic and contemplative instrumental music. Last year, he released his second album titled Beyond Measures & Time, which was named as one of the top 25 albums of 2018 on Aural Awakenings. We’ll get to learn more about Steve Rivera, as well as the inspiration behind Beyond Measures & Time. So please stay tuned for a delightful conversation about his musical past and what’s in store for his future!

Music from the albums Beyond Measures & Time and Dividing the Darkness can be heard in this interview.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Aural Awakenings: Episode 30

Artist – Track – Album & Buy Link
Shambhu – Dream Walk – Lilac Skies
Christopher James – Get on with It – Grace from Persistence
John Otott – Sunrise in Avalon – Unspoken
Timothy Wenzel – Makes You Wonder – Running Away
Stephen Wallack – Cooper’s Song – Chapters
Incendio – Blue Bolero – Summoning the Muse
Dimitri K. – Inferred – 7/8
Pam Asberry – Nebula – The Presence of Wonder
Andy Iorio – Arise – Awakening
Mikuskovics Baum – Life Land – Timeless
Dan Rufolo – Idea Factory – Jazz Meditations
Robert Linton – Weaving Through the Waves – Adrift in Wonder

Monday, May 13, 2019

Overview: Lilac Skies by Shambhu

Well-known among both jazz and new age music circles, acclaimed guitarist Shambhu amps up the pizazz on his latest album, Lilac Skies, which features some bluesier electric guitar licks alongside soothing acoustic ensemble arrangements. Playing lead guitar as well as bass and keyboards, Shambhu is joined throughout by a handful of guest musicians, who variably lend additional bass, drums, percussion, organ, keyboards, EWI, flute, lap pedal, steel guitar, and even vocals on one track. Melodically engaging and lively, yet perfectly suitable for relaxing and unwinding to, Lilac Skies beautifully conveys the blossoming colors and fragrances of the warmer seasons. Sure to be a summer favorite, the album will appeal to many lovers of both smooth jazz and contemporary instrumental music! ~Candice Michelle

(Available on Amazon and other retail and streaming platforms.)