by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC
NATIONAL PARK SOUNDSCAPES
Jill Haley offers us an interpretation, in sound, of the breathtaking vistas and intimate landscapes which are part of our National Parks, and she does quite a good job. One can almost guess which parks her musical poems are describing without the title list. However, the photo booklet included (photos taken by Jill Haley) is equally enjoyable. The feel of these pieces are as varied as the landscapes that inspired them. ‘Prairie Grass Dance,’ ‘Waters of Acadia,’ ‘Shenandoah Stillness,’ ‘Towers and Kivas,’ ‘Waves of Wind,’ and ‘A Soldier’s Sacrifice’ are just some of the titles for pieces which so aptly describe the light, sounds and ambience of some of our great National Parks.
Her band of musicians includes David Cullen (guitar and bass), Tony Deangelis (percussion and snare drum), Dana Cullen (horn), and Graham Cullen (cello), with Ms. Haley offering a fine oboe, English horn and omnipresent piano. It is a real treat to sit down and spend some time with this recording and the images included. Recommended!
THE WISDOM OF MY SHADOW
The Wisdom of My Shadow is a collection of piano solo work that is richly evocative, dramatic, and soulful. In her liner notes, Ms. Downing writes “Set aside your thoughts of how things should be, and travel to your internal land of what is.” This sets the stage well for the musical inner-adventures to come. Actually, Ms. Downing writes quite extensive notes, complimenting musical compositions that easily stand on their own, but are nonetheless enriched by her words.
These pieces carry one away; yet not to a dreamy state, as they demand a level of attention. I found myself listening to certain cuts more than once, not wanting to have ‘missed’ something. In addition to her original compositions, there are also some interesting covers, including Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World,’ Cat Steven’s ‘Sad Lisa,’ and Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers’ ‘Harlem Nocturne.’ Ms. Downing is a well skilled pianist and adept at getting her messages across in the language of the piano; a language that seems second nature to her. Some of her standouts include ‘Black Wedding,’ ‘Mischief,’ and ‘Moonrise.’ Truly a special album; one to visit again and again.
BEYOND THE CLEARING
Beyond the Clearing is a truly lovely acoustic guitar album. Gentle, intimate pieces (masterfully mixed by Corin Nelsen) feature accompaniment by Sara Milonovich (violin), Heidi Breyer (piano), Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Kitty Thompson (cello), Adam Miller (guitar), Jill Haley (English horn), Stephen Katz (cello), and Jeff Pearce (ebow guitar). It should be explained that each of these additional instruments partner individually in their own tone poem with the revelatory Mr. Linton, so each piece is essentially a duet.
Enchanting in its simplicity, the titular song is especially entrancing, but, from beginning to end, this offering is sweetly warm and comforting. Mr. Linton plays with exquisite finesse – heart and soul are laid bare in his performances. Amid the Stillness actually brought a tear to my eye. A beautiful album.