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Awareness Magazine
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MUSIC REVIEWS

 
By Michael Diamond

  

Various artists

For Our Children:

A Benefit for Sandy Hook

www.forourchildren.bandcamp.com

 

The Sound for Good record label has partnered with Healing Newtown (healingnewtown.org), a division of the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission, to help support the community by offering this new release, “For Our Children: A Benefit for Sandy Hook, available to everyone who donates just $1 (or more). Under the direction of Jack Hertz and Sita (Magnetic Wind), 30 artists from around the globe have come together to support the healing process of those impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy of

December 14th, 2012. This album serves as sound healing comfort for children and adults throughout the world.

Sound for Good is a record label that publishes and promotes new music as a means to support good causes. This is an independent project that is supported directly by the artists and is not for profit or monetary gain in any way. I am honored to have my instrumental com-position, “Deep Diver Suite” on the album. All the artists’ music is given freely, and proceeds from this album are directly donated by the Bandcamp system to Healing Newtown, supported by the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut and the Connecticut Office of the Arts. The message of the album is to shine your light.

 

Healing With Harmony

www.healingwithharmony.com

Healing With Harmony is a non-profit organization that provides custom configured healing music programs to health-care providers. According to director Wendy Bartlett, their mission is aimed at addressing the body mind and spirit needs of those facing difficult, serious, and life-threatening medical challenges as well as those facing end-of- life issues. They do this by making available what they call a Harmony Kit. Each kit includes a collection of specifically chosen music and spoken word CD’s, players, and accessories. The CD’s are selected individually for each kit, based on a comprehensive assessment form. Best of all, Harmony Kits are provided free of charge to qualified providers, such as hospitals, cancer treatment facilities, nursing homes, hospice, dialysis centers, and more.

According to founder Mark Lindemer: “Now, patients can close their eyes and be surrounded by the comfort of music, thereby replacing potential stress and anxiety with the joy of music.” I first became aware of this organization through staff member Kathryn Toyama, a classically-trained pianist whose “Hope For Harmony” CD is part of their extensive catalog. The Healing With Harmony staff is all-volunteer and their work is supported by donations — very inspiring!

 

Laura Sullivan

Love’s River

www.laura-sullivan.com

Love’s River is a sparkling new release by Laura Sullivan, a gifted pianist and composer in the Contemporary Instrumental/ New Age music genre. This is her 6th album and finds her in fine company with an all-star cast of accompanists. Her graceful style, tinged with elements of contemporary classical music, has been compared favorably with Liz Story and Suzanne Ciani. In addition to piano, Laura also adds additional orchestrations.

While the Grammy-winning founder of Windham Hill Records, Will Ackerman played a role as producer on four tracks on this project, he also lends his formidable talent as an acoustic guitarist on an introspective ballad called “Blessed.” The gentle flow of the title track is graced by the cello accompaniment of Eugene Friesen, a member of the Paul Winter Consort, who also plays on two other tracks on this album. The elegant English horn playing of well-known session musician Jill Haley additionally adds to the composition. One of my favorite musicians, Jeff Oster, adds soulful trumpet and flugelhorn on “Awakening to Love.” Grammy-winning artist Nancy Rumbel weaves sonorous oboe melodies around Laura’s piano on “Secrets from the Deep.” Laura Sullivan’s ”Love’s River” is an emotional and soul touching listening experience.

 

Scott August

Hidden Journey

www.cedarmesa.com

Among the players of Native American flute music, such as Carlos Nakai and Coyote Oldman, Scott August ranks as one of the foremost in the world. Scott is inspired by the natural beauty of the landscapes where he lives in New Mexico, and his latest CD, Hidden Journey, has been described as: “an exciting and invigorating adventure into the secluded backcountry of the American Southwest. The album includes evocative ancient flutes, Latin guitars, piano, powerful tribal drums, synthesizer textures, and an assortment of exotic world instruments. One thing I appreciate about Scott’s music is that it can be both relaxing and energizing at the same time — a rare quality.

While Scott’s flute playing is generally in the Native American style, it is his utilization of all these various instruments and rhythms that sets him apart from many other Native flute players, who are often more minimalist and traditional in their music. The airy ambience of the flutes and electronic textures, along with the various drums and ancient world instruments create a perfect fusion of earth and sky. Hidden Journey captures the spirit of the Southwest and extends it into a broader musical context, making for an expansive and uplifting musical experience.

 

Arun Shenoy

Rumbadoodle

www.arunshenoy.com

Any description of Arun Shenoy’s current GRAMMY-nominated CD, Rumbadoodle would have to include the word “fusion.” Arun’s music is an intriguing cross-cultural experience. As the title implies the predominate flavor of this mélange is Rumba flamenco, but is generously spiced with dashes of pop, rock, worldbeat, and new age that is sure to appeal to fans of artists like Santana, Ottmar Liebert and the Gipsy Kings.

Things get off to a lively start as a funky syncopated beat and gypsy violin create an intriguing intro leading into a full band laying down a familiar rumba groove. The music is instantly engaging and draws you into its earthy and fiery Afro-Cuban ambience. On “The Violin Song,” the Latin air, tinged by slight Celtic traces makes for intriguing alchemy. I appreciate his sense of composition and dynamics, which can build in intensity, then drop into a more chilled space without missing a beat. The ensemble playing on the entire album is extremely tight and perfectly arranged. I was seriously impressed with Arun’s talents as a musician, composer, arranger, and producer. The music is not only incredibly innovative and extremely well performed, but the recording and production values are first rate. Bravo!

Michael Diamond is a music producer, recording artist, and music journalist in the San Francisco Bay area with over 30 years of experience writing for nationally-published magazines and more recently worldwide on the internet. He currently has five CD’s including two with new-age music pioneer Steven Halpern. For additional reviews of CD’s, DVD’s, and more, please visit: www.michaeldiamondmusic.com