Saturday, June 5, 2021

New Release: The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier by Jill Haley

Review by Lissette Cascante

Growing up in a large metropolitan city, I would often spend hours looking out of my bedroom window watching the planes as they traversed the sky, dreaming of places near and far I wanted to visit and explore.

Award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Jill Haley has recorded a series of albums which showcase and honor the various National Parks of the United States she has visited, often as Artist in Residence. Immersing herself in their rich history and landscape, Jill paints a musical picture of her total experience. Jill has also dedicated much of her time and musical talents to not only pay tribute to the National Parks, but to educate and create awareness of the need to preserve their rich anthropology for present and future generations.

In her latest album “The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier”, seventh in the series, Jill designs for the listener a sensory tour of the park through her musical creativity. The first track on the album “Plaintive Cavate Melody”, reminiscent of early 1980’s Windham Hill music, is a beautiful and alluring construct of oboe and piano which begins our musical trek through pre-historic sites, ceremonial structures, ancestral native peoples and ancient ruins. Countless images of wildlife abound in this diverse landscape.

Jill wrote all the music for the album and plays the oboe, piano, English horn and woodwinds on many of the compositions. Several other gifted musical artists add their talents on guitar, cello, drums and percussion and fuse it all together in one beautiful musical portrait.

Every track on the album is beautiful and succeeds in peaking the listener’s curiosity and desire to learn more about this magnificent place. In “Ecotone” with its monotone chords, I pictured a giant clock marking the hours, as we take in the majestic scenery, listen to the silent voices, bringing the past into the present. In “Frijoles Canyon Awakens" Jill allows her solo piano composition to describe the sense of awe one would feel upon seeing a site where volcanic eruptions occurred millions of years ago.

“Fantastical Formations” speaks to us of beautiful canyons, plateaus, and mesas to explore while “Kaleidoscope Flight” seems to follow the pattern of a high-flying bird circling the canyon tops searching for its prey. The ninth track “Parajito Moonglow” features a contemplative piano moving up and down the key spectrum as the oboe invites the listener to observe and reflect. I was not sure if the spelling was intentional as I am fluent in Spanish and the word for small bird is Pajarito and located in the Bandolier there is a plateau called “Pajarito Plateau”. Nevertheless, the melody is calming and relaxing and reminds me of a solitary little bird singing in the moonlit night of this framed wilderness.

“Vista at Valles Calderas”, my favorite track on the album, features David Cullen on guitar, infusing the track with a Spanish flair as piano and oboe carry the melody taking us back to a time when native peoples’ and explorers’ cultures begin to mesh as well as collide.

Once again guitar and oboe complement each other on “Gratitude for the CCC” ever so gracefully while a lovely piano flows smoothly in the background. The track title adds a nice gesture of appreciation for the organization which became the model for today’s national conservation programs.

The album’s relaxed feel throughout is perfect for studying, reading or just meandering. But I found it very educational too. I finally did get to travel to some of the places I dreamed of when I was a child. And now, thanks to Jill Haley, I have another spot to add to my list!

A lovely, awe-inspiring musical trek…

~Lissette Cascante for Aural Awakenings

For more information, please visit Jill Haley's website. Her music is available through Amazon, iTunes and more.