Acclaimed soprano soloist and classically-trained pianist Darlene Koldenhoven boasts one of the most diverse portfolios a musician could ask for. Hailing from Chicago’s south side, and raised in a musical family, the GRAMMY® Winner and three-time GRAMMY® Nominee, with her radiant smile and her powerful 5-octave range voice, has traveled the world performing solo as well as with top industry names such as Yanni and many others in concerts and events, conducting workshops, teaching music, even appearing in blockbuster movies (both Sister Act films with Whoopi Goldberg.) Additionally, Darlene gives of her time and talents not just as an entertainer but as an advocate contributing her efforts to charities and worthy causes dear to her heart, such as her Music Matrix Foundation, to help make the world a better place.
Having already produced and recorded twelve albums on her label TimeArt® Recordings, one of which I had the pleasure of reviewing in 2021, an exquisite production for solo piano titled The Grand Piano Spa, Darlene returns with yet another masterful creation to add to our collection, this time in the New Age category with an all instrumental album of twelve tracks titled Traveling the Blissful Highway.
Darlene’s experience and exposure to varied cultures, countries and traditions have contributed positively to her broad and diverse vision of humanity and our world which comes through in her musical compositions, and especially shines on this album. She performs on keyboard synths, background vocals, singing bowls, Australian rainstick, Native drum and shaker. Four of the tracks are accented with Darlene’s vocalese which adds a subtle ambience to the pieces. She also surpasses herself in this project as producer, engineer, composer, and arranger. Collaborating on the album is an impressive ensemble of accomplished and award-winning musicians, detailed on the liner notes – such as GRAMMY® Nominated multi-flautist Ron Korb and GRAMMY® Winning violinist Charlie Bisharat, among others – incorporating a fantastic variety of instrumentation throughout the album.
A lover of travel myself, I was excitedly drawn to the theme of the album. As a long, expansive highway stretches before our musical horizon, we can sit back, relax, and embark on a scenic “auralscape” allowing our imagination to take us to our desired escapade. An uplifting melody, “Cheerful Mohana” opens the album, inviting us to leave our cares behind and embrace a more spontaneous, bohemian side of life. The album offers a nice combination of lively and soft, meditative songs which keep the listener actively engaged in the process but also promotes a carefree and calm state of being. As we glide alongside the musical notes, sounds of birds and nature, native flutes and drums, and a vast array of exotic instruments add to the wonder of our sensory cruise.
“Jade Dreams” the third track for example, transported me to balmy beaches and tucked-away coves in remote places, Bali comes to mind; while “Tropical Chill” with its ocean wave sounds, flugelhorn and breezy rhythm presented for me a relaxing beach sunset view somewhere in the Caribbean enjoying a favorite tropical beverage. “Dot Calm” took me to the rainforests of Costa Rica, reminding me of my late father’s beautiful birth country. Along the way there are ancient stars to gaze at as in “Native Star” the tenth track with its haunting flute melody, and Irish green misty mornings to savor as in “Highland Mist.” My favorite track on the album, “Osmium Glow,” is as rare and precious a melody as the precious metal it’s named after. There is indeed a glowing quality and mystique to this lovely tune. “Blissful Highway,” another favorite with its transitory feel, ends the album, but the blissful sensation endures as we return from our musical excursion refreshed and renewed, ready for the next adventure. It’s only another listen away.
Traveling the Blissful Highway is an album you will want as your musical companion, to help make your life journey a more enjoyable and beautiful discovery.
~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes