Review of “Signature: Synchronicity” by Fiona Joy

May 3, 2016 by Admin

In May of 2015, we reviewed and “very highly recommended” the album “Signature: Solo” by internationally acclaimed Australian pianist, composer, vocalist, producer, artist, and jewelry designer Fiona Joy. Our general sentiments about the album were stated as follows:

“On this album, Fiona Joy shows that she is a master at using subtle variations in tempo, volume, and intensity to convey the nuances of the thoughts, emotions, and moods she expresses. Her “touch” on the keys is at once gentle, tender, soft, elegant, graceful, passionate, and sincere. There should be no doubt that her hands are fully in touch with her heart – and her emotions – and all of the highs and lows – flow out onto the keys with every note. It is truly an album you will want to listen to over and over.”

Over the past year, the “Signature: Solo” album has been unquestionably successful, and spent some time in the coveted #1 spot on the Zone Music Reporter (ZMR) AirPlay Charts. In fact, the album has also been chosen as the winner of the prestigious ZMR “Solo Piano Album of the Year” award for 2015.

imageRecently, Fiona Joy has released a new and revised version of the album titled “Signature: Synchronicity.” While the earlier version of the album featured mostly solo piano works, the new version, which contains essentially the same songs, includes varied instrumental accompaniment on all of the tracks, provided by a stunning lineup of professional musicians, including Borbala Bodonyi, Eugene Friesen, James Englund, Jeff Haynes, Jeff Oster, Mark Shulman, Nick Hawkins (Fiona Joy’s son), Noah Wilding, Paul Jarman, Premik Russell Tubbs, Rebecca Daniel, Tom Eaton, Tony Levin, and Grammy Award winning guitarist and producer Will Ackerman.

Also, in many cases, the music is magnificently accented by Fiona Joy’s own vocalizations which in our earlier review we described as “whispery, mysterious, darkly sensual, ethereal, and passionate.”

This new version of the album was also co-produced by Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, and James Englund, and mixed by Eaton, at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont (some of the recording was also done at Crash Symphony Productions in Sydney, Australia). Consequently, the production quality is simply outstanding.

You can view a promotional video for the album here.

For Fiona Joy, the “Signature” series of albums was originally imagined as “a very personal expression ” — an examination of her inner life, and how the unfortunate deterioration of the “signature” bone in her left hand was affecting her ability to share her life’s work. However, it eventually evolved into more of an exploration of possibilities, dreams, and fantasies — both good and bad. Whatever the inspiration, there can be no doubt that Fiona Joy has again, as we have come to expect, poured her heart and soul into every song, every measure, and every note.

This new version of “Signature” is quite different from the previous version. First, the original album featured two different versions of the track titled “Once Upon Impossible” – a solo piano version and a version with light accompaniment. In contrast, the new album features two different versions of the track “Grace.” But it is the addition of the accompaniment on the new album that truly distinguishes it from the original version. Generally speaking, while the accompaniment adds complexity and depth to the original solo piano tracks, as might be expected, it also, at various points, adds clarity, passion, energy, tenderness, character, color, drama, excitement, emotion, creativity, and poignancy. Most importantly, it enhances the interest appeal of the music so much so that a truly outstanding album has been made even better.

imageFor example, on the first track “Ceremony,” the addition of strong percussion by Haynes, electric guitar, electric bass, and keyboard elements from Eaton, and ethereal vocal layers from Bodanyi and Fiona Joy, certainly accentuates the energetic, up-tempo, and celebratory spirit of this track. It is, put simply, an exercise in “joy.”

“Grace,” which is, of course, the Fiona Joy song that appeared on Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman’s Grammy Award winning “Winds of Samsara” album, is rendered even more exquisitely beautiful with the addition of cello by Friesen, Levin’s NS bass, and Jeff Oster’s flugelhorn filling in some of Kellerman’s flute elements from the WOS version. But most importantly, it is the addition of the vocal elements – mostly by Fiona Joy – that takes this track to an even higher level of spectacular. Her wispy, profound, intensely emotive, stirring, and captivating vocal solo performance on this track really stands out and makes it our most favorite track on this new album.

According to Fiona Joy, “Grace came to me as a gift at a time when I was feeling down. Someone emailed me to say they had a still born baby girl 10 years earlier and listened to my music to help her recover. She named the baby Grace. Now, 10 years later she has a daughter called Sophie Grace and together they sit and listen my music to remember her baby sister. The message to me was that my music had stood the test of time and that the most important thing I can do with it is to touch and help others. ” Indeed it does!

The other version of “Grace” that appears on this album is dubbed a “Chill Version.” It is a somewhat shorter, more upbeat, less emotional, and jazzier version of the song, with steadier and more prominent percussion, including Fiona Joy’s son Nick on a beatbox, as well as a strong electric guitar solo by Shulman. It also features truly great bass and flugelhorn elements. And Fiona Joy’s vocals are also even more prominent in this version, as are the layered vocal contributions from Bodanyi.

The track “Fair Not” is rendered even darker, and more somber, intense, and dramatic with the additional accompaniment by Friesen on cello, Daniel on violin, and Eaton on bass, keyboards, and percussion. It even more magnificently conveys feelings of despair, devastation, anger, and of course, a sense of “not fair.” It is also easily one of our favorite tracks on “Signature: Synchronicity.”

imageAnother of our favorites is “Once Upon Impossible.” It seems to be a slightly recrafted version of the “accompanied” track that appeared on “Signature: Solo.” It nonetheless remains a sincere, emotional, and expressive lament that is both profoundly touching and disconcerting. The addition of the hauntingly poignant vocalizations of Fiona Joy adds to the unsettling sense of despair summoned in this song.

As did the version from “Signature: Solo,” “Calling Earth” magnificently conveys the feelings of isolation, hopelessness, foreboding, and perhaps resignation that one might expect from someone who is, as the title suggests, desperately “calling out to the earth” from some place very far away. And while the cello, NS bass, and ethereal vocals by Wilding added to this track are less prominent than on other tracks, they nonetheless contribute to and accent the emotional intensity conveyed by Fiona Joy’s piano.

The addition of an EWI (electric wind instrument) from Tubbs, percussion, and NS bass to “Invisible Train” provides more depth, complexity, and intrigue, and truly compounds the energy, spirit, and overall impression of movement conveyed in this work. Even more so than before, one can easily envision a locomotive starting on its journey, a bit slow at first, then gradually picking up speed; then powerfully and rhythmically pushing steadily onward, until, as it begins to approach its destination, it slows to an eventual stop. So just sit back and enjoy the ride.

imageWith modest accompaniment added, “Signature” remains one of the slower, more poignant, more reflective, and more pensive works on the album. An exquisite opening by Jarman on a Taragato (a woodwind instrument from Hungary and Romania) and subtle but nonetheless stylish acoustic guitar contributions by Will Ackerman, fit masterfully with Fiona Joy’s piano, adding beautifully to the magic and overall emotional power of this track.

“From The Mist” and “Little Star” are similar in that they both have a bit more classical music feel and both feature exceptional melodies. The addition of an Irish whistle to “From The Mist” provides more depth, more intensity, and more drama, and certainly emphasizes the decidedly Celtic music influences on this track, especially at the end. And on “Little Star,” even though the accompaniment is more subtle, the bass, and occasional slide guitar elements definitely accentuates the tender, gentle, contemplative, emotional, and dramatic elements of this song, and makes for a wonderful ending to the album.

In summary, both of the “Signature” albums from Fiona Joy are outstanding works, and definitely worth adding to your collection. But with the additional instrumental and vocal elements added, “Signature: Synchronicity” is truly a magnificent album and so we give it our highest possible recommendation.

Review of the Album “The Sunflower Waltz” by Anne Trenning

February 27, 2016 by Admin

imageAlthough currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, exceptionally talented composer and pianist Anne Trenning grew up in Barrington, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago. She began her musical career playing the organ at age seven, and among early influences on her musical identity, she includes not only the rich cultural landscape of the Chicagoland area, but also the values of her parents and her extended family. With Dutch roots, a diligent work ethic, and a staunch religious compass, her family instilled in Anne a strong appreciation for hard work, education, and faith.

At age twelve, Anne shifted her focus to playing the piano. Her father encouraged practicing and “a love of four-part harmony” by paying her a dollar for every hymn she learned to play from a Presbyterian hymnal passed down from her grandmother. “My entrepreneurial spirit insured that I learned to play most of the songs in that well-worn, treasured family collection,” she says with a grin.

Another critical influence on Anne was the excellent music programs at the schools she attended; both in terms of the variety of music oriented experiences provided, as well as the skill, dedication and compassion of her teachers. In particular, Anne identifies her piano teacher, Helen Velleuer, as having had a tremendous influence on her, both in her music and her personal life. Participation in church choir activities also left a strong impression on her.

Of course, like other musicians, Anne’s musical identity was also shaped by the popular music to which she was exposed as she grew up. She notes: “Like a lot of people, my earliest musical memories are listening to my parents’ record collection…..” Mahalia Jackson was a particular favorite, and from her Anne gained a genuine appreciation for Gospel music. Anne’s musical ear was also influenced by the popular singer-songwriters of the seventies: James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Bonnie Raitt, and groups such as Steely Dan, The Guess Who, and The Allman Brothers Band.

Also in the eighties, Anne discovered the new age music of George Winston, David Lanz, Suzanne Ciani, and the Windham Hill and Narada labels, which also opened new musical horizons for her. When she moved to the South to pursue her education at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, she also developed a greater appreciation for folk, Americana, Celtic, bluegrass, southern rock, and country. She states: “These roots oriented genres, while new to me, were part of the musical lexicon of this area. I fell in love with their melodic sensibilities and the “one foot firmly rooted in the past” relationships they explore.”

While at Converse College on a music scholarship, Anne earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music and History, with a particular interest in composers Mendelssohn, Scarlatti, and Ravel. In fact, Anne notes that it is her classical music education that has most influenced the development and structure of the songs she writes. The “resolution to tonic” — the structural characteristic of a song that creates a sense of “tension” and then “resolution or completeness” in the mind of the listener — is “entwined in my songwriting so greatly, that try as I may, it is always my final landing position…”

And while other instruments, as well as vocal music, were critical parts of her musical experience, it was the piano that Anne always came back to as the medium through which she could most comfortably express her thoughts and emotions

After college, and after a few months traveling in Europe, Anne moved to North Carolina and soon began composing her own music.

“I didn’t even own a piano in the immediate years following my graduation from college, but after I purchased my first home, I inherited the family piano. After years of taking lessons, I suddenly found myself sitting at the piano without a set goal for my practicing. That’s when I began experimenting and creating my own music.”

Anne got her first big break when a demo tape she had made was heard by world renowned New Age pianist David Lanz. He liked her style and encouraged her to record an album. The result was her debut album titled “Suite Tea,” released in 1997, and produced by GRAMMY-nominated and DOVE Award-recipient Dave Moody. The title, Anne states, gives “a tongue-in-cheek nod to years of classical studies, and my whole-hearted embrace of the refreshing Southern tradition of sitting back and enjoying a cool glass of sweetened iced tea.”

In 2004, Anne released “All One World”. which was listed among the Top 10 on New Age Reporter’s Top 100 Airplay Chart for 2005, and received widespread acclaim.

Anne’s third album, “Watching for Rain,” an absolutely superb work, debuted at #3 on the Zone Music Reporter’s radio charts and rose to #2, remaining on the charts for 9 months during 2009. The CD was nominated for four ZMR Awards and was a finalist for “Best Instrumental Album – Piano” in 2009. It was also included in Michael Debbage’s “Top Twenty Recordings of 2009.

imageOn Anne’s previous albums, her piano efforts have typically been accompanied by highly talented supporting ensemble musicians. However, her most recent album, “The Sunflower Waltz,” is a purely “solo piano” work. In fact, part of the motivation for this album was to provide Anne with an opportunity for unhindered self-expression via the keyboard. It includes ten new compositions and outstanding solo piano re-imaginings of two pieces each from her three previous albums: “Suite Tea,” “All One World,” and “Watching For Rain.”

Reflecting Anne’s deep and longtime connection with nature, the theme unifying the music on “The Sunflower Waltz” embraces the vibrant and sturdy spirit of the sunflower.

“Adaptability, beauty, and determination are all characteristics of the sunflower. Sunflowers follow the direction of the sun where it leads, and offer a metaphorical optimism of strength in their powerful glory. Their resilience is unparalleled. Today, more so than ever, we must strive as this powerful flora to root ourselves and persevere.”

Crafted and recorded at Piano Haven studios in Sedona, Arizona, by Joe Bongiorno, a masterful pianist, composer, and recording engineer, the production quality is, of course, impeccable.

Additionally, all of the tracks are played by Anne on one of the world’s finest pianos, the Shigeru Kawai, which Anne calls “…simply a gift to all pianists, a hallmark of excellence personified within a keyboard……”

Put simply, the music on “The Sunflower Waltz” is exceptional. First and foremost, and in a manner similar to renowned musicians such as Terry Oldfield, Bill Leslie, and Fiona Joy, Anne’s compositions have “character” and “heart.” The music is mostly warm, upbeat, optimistic, positive, and most of all “sincere,” with strong, crisp, and memorable melodies. And despite being “solo piano” music, it is nonetheless so adeptly and creatively crafted, sophisticated, and varied in style and temperament that it can easily hold your attention for the entire length of the album without any need for accompaniment.

Moreover, Anne’s piano performances are quite powerful — reflecting a level of confidence, skill, expressivity, and simple grace and elegance in her touch on the keyboard that we find is rare among contemporary new age pianists.

As Anne relates: “I am particularly moved in life and music by the communication of emotion – the powerful impact of a kind word or gesture, the universal resonance of a smile, the conveyance of inclusiveness and acceptance within a melodic phrase….”

Finally, “The Sunflower Waltz” unabashedly reflects the varied musical influences on Anne that were described earlier. At times, the music evokes a sweet nostalgia — with hints of classical music, nineteenth century Americana, and mid-twentieth century pop and country. At other times there are obvious influences of Anne’s faith — in the form of music that would fit perfectly in a Sunday church service. And then at other times the music displays decidedly Appalachian culture infused Irish Celtic music qualities.

The album begins magnificently with a track titled “Max’s Birthday,” which is an upbeat, fast moving, energetic, bouncy, fun, cheerful, up-tempo, stylish, and optimistic work, with charming hints of childhood joy and appreciation for the gift that is life. It was inspired by the happy sounds of an eight year old neighbor’s birthday party, and it is our most favorite track on the album.

According to Anne, “This selection is a testament to the argument that time, however short, is invaluable. I was waiting for a student to arrive one afternoon and took advantage of the extra few minutes to play around at the keyboard. Outside my window I heard the joyful noise of a celebration for our young neighbor Max, who was having a birthday party. Two minutes later my student arrived and kindly announced that whatever I was playing was lovely. In that short moment, a song was born.”

The title track, which is also up-tempo, and certainly “waltz” like, shows a bit more of a classical influence, with just a hint of Americana, and outstanding creative nuance. With it’s flowing, energetic, and buoyant qualities, one is left with the unmistakable impression of a field of tall, sturdy, and beautiful sunflowers joyfully swaying and dancing in a steady breeze on a sunlit day.

In contrast, “Claire Of My Heart,” is a tad slower, with a more straightforward solo piano style, a catchy melody, and as the title suggests, Irish Celtic music influences. But it also at times we hear a slight hint of “music box” music. Nicely done!

imageAnother of our favorite tracks on the album is “Just Fly.” With its implied theme of “just being patient and having faith that things will turn out okay,” it provides a compelling example of how Anne’s solo piano music is so superbly crafted that it is a pure joy to hear. This track is more up-tempo, positive, upbeat, and wonderfully stylish, with a clever and distinctive melody, and a magnificent lyrical quality. And throughout the song, one can easily hear the refrain “just fly,” as if someone was actually singing those words – but , of course, THERE IS NO ONE SINGING! It is simply a testament to Anne’s brilliant ability to express an idea and mood through the careful crafting of her music.

The next track,”Fade To Blue,” which is also one of our particular favorites, again manifests a powerful, creative, and memorable melody, but this time with much more down tempo, gentle, graceful, delicate, tender, reflective, plaintive, and haunting qualities. In fact, it is probably the most reflective and emotional track on the album. It is also just an incredibly beautiful song.

“Letting Go,” as the title suggests, is decidedly more up-tempo, with a bight, energetic, carefree, fun, and uplifting melody. It is also a good example, as is “Just Fly,” of how Anne’s music often has narrative qualities–little stories without words.

“Cowgirl Daydream” is a much more down tempo, contemplative, country music infused, and romantic “slow dance,” with very pronounced “waltz like” qualities – but the type of slow, swaying waltz you might hear at an old-time country or Old West suaree, square dance, or “barn dance.” It clearly reflects Anne’s passion for Americana and will most likely bring a smile to your face.

The next two tracks go in a very different direction and are reflective of Anne’s profound faith. In addition to sharing a religious theme, both have clear “church music” influences. While listening to “In The Gloaming Light,” which is a bit slower, more sedate, more reflective, with a hint of country music melancholy, and a strong melody, one can easily envision hearing this song being played on a church organ. In fact, on the inside of the CD cover there is a quote that could perhaps serve as an alternate title for this track — “In the gloaming light you can see the face of God.” Similarly, “Sing To The Lord,” features another strong melody, but with a less energetic style, and an undercurrent of joy and praise. And given the title, and the distinct lyrical and prayer like qualities of the music, this track refects just a hint of “church choir.”

Another of our favorites, “Backyard Dreamer,” is a very contemplative, dreamy, relaxing, and at times wistful track, with a much much slower tempo. One can easily envision silently lounging in a backyard hammock, on a bright, sunny, Sunday afternoon, and just daydreaming, while sipping on a Mint Julep or a glass of lemonade.

As Anne notes, “All artists are dreamers. For me, dreams becomes music, and within, there is beauty to behold. So often our best thoughts manifest themselves in the dreamiest way.”

“Where Rivers Run” and “Days Gone By,” both originally from the “Suite Tea” album, are slow, reflective, and at times pensive, but yet subtly cheerful, positive, and optimistic. With their strong and memorable melodies, and occasional clever playfulness, they are again both good examples of the subtle narrative qualities of Anne’s music. And “Days Gone By” is also quite simply an exquisite work that leaves you wanting more.

The next three songs are also works from Anne’s previous albums that have been recast brilliantly as fairly straightforward solo piano works, but with somewhat different styles. “Ben’s Song,” originally from “All One World,” is somewhat down tempo, beautiful, and reflective, with a powerful melody and at times definite lyrical and narrative qualities. “How Fair My Love,” on the other hand, also from “All One World,” has more obvious Irish Celtic music influences, but also at times shows hints of classical music — 18th century dance music in particular — or music you might hear coming from a harpsichord. “The Welcome Song,” originally from the “Watching For Rain” album, is in some ways similar to “Ben’s Song,” with a strong, memorable melody, an upbeat, warm, loving, and positive spirit, and magnificent emotional expressivity. It is also one of our most favorite tracks.

The album ends perfectly with Anne’s faith inspired, beautiful, tender, peaceful, contemplative, and sincere “A Prayer For The World.” Also from “Watching For Rain,” it is a slower, more dramatic, and masterfully crafted work that plaintively calls for us to heed the message of concern, love, and hope that Anne desperately and genuinely wants to convey.

“This is my prayer for humanity. When things seem most disheartening, let music fill your heart with hope, and with this profound gesture, may hope help you see your way forward. May you persevere as a sunflower in all its radiant glory.”

We very highly recommend “The Sunflower Waltz.”

Review of the Album “Dividing The Darkness” by Steve Rivera

November 22, 2015 by Admin

6PAN1T-C_Steve_rivera_F.inddSteve Rivera, a composer and pianist from southern California, began learning to play the piano at age eight, taught by his father, who was also a musician. By the time Steve was thirteen he was playing at church functions and in bands ranging from punk rock and alternative music to blues and jazz. After high school and his experience with various styles of music, Steve realized that music was what he wanted to pursue in life.

Steve says “My ambition was no longer to be the best garage band player I could be, but the best musician I could possibly be”.

This decision led Steve to enroll at Hope International University, where he studied composing and conducting with Dr. Don Sewell. While attending Hope, Steve was a member of a singing touring group and served as an intern at several different churches, as an assistant to the music directors.

In July of 1997, Steve created Ya Right Productions to produce his first album, “The S Collection”. That summer over 1,100 copies of “The S Collection” were sold exclusively through Nordstrom’s Gift Gallery. Three songs from the CD were chosen by Nordstrom’s and played nationwide through their Muzak System.

Steve’s exposure at Nordstrom’s and the success of his CD manifested into several performance opportunities. Some of those opportunities led to Steve playing at such locations as: The California Club (Los Angeles), The Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey & Laguna Niguel, and The Wyndham Resort in Palm Springs. Steve has also performed solo piano concerts at the Crystal Cathedral and various locations throughout Southern California. In 2008, Steve also scored the music for the independent film “Scorned.” Currently, Steve is also a featured pianist at a restaurant in Dana Point, California.

Steve’s latest project, “Dividing The Darkness,” is his second CD, and essentially his debut album, as it is the first released for general distribution. It is dedicated to his mother and his brother. Two important things you should know about this album right up front.

First, it was recorded at Imaginary Road Studios in Windham County, Vermont, co-produced by Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, and world renowned producer Tom Eaton. Consequently, the production quality on the album is, of course, outstanding. And moreover, there is a stellar group of professional musicians supporting Steve on the album, including Charlie Bisherat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Tony Levin (NS bass), Noah Wilding (vocals), Jill Haley (English Horn), Tom Eaton (electric bass, electric guitar, and keyboards), Premik Russell Tubbs (EMI), Gus Sebring (French Horn), and Will Ackerman (guitar).

Second, the album is, to put it simply, an exceptional work; easily one of our overall favorite piano centered albums released in 2015. Not since Fiona Joy’s “600 Years In A Moment” have we come across an album with piano as the primary voice, where it was so difficult to choose any one track as the best one on the album. And for what is essentially a debut album, it particularly stands out.

Steve’s musical style is at once innovative, sophisticated, contemplative, complex, creative; and at times emotionally intense and passionate, and at other times delicate and calming. In fact, his piano work is sometimes reminiscent of that of Fiona Joy, with a particularly strong sense of the use of variations in touch, pace, and silence as expressive of mood. But most of all, and something we always appreciate, Steve’s music is intensely personal, reflecting both his profound faith in God and his faith in humanity.

As he states, “I have journeyed amid life’s lessons, trudging through desolate valleys and exploring new mountain tops….may God continue to teach and guide me.”

The nine songs on “Dividing The Darkness” — eight accompanied and one solo piano work — vary in style, tempo, mood, and intensity, and collectively demonstrate that Steve is a pianist with masterful composition skills, and a bright musical future ahead.

The album begins with “My Way Home”, one of our favorites. With a moderate tempo, a strong, emotional, solo piano opening, and innovative and catchy piano phrasing throughout, it is one of the more melodic, deeply emotional, and reflective tracks on the album. While Steve’s piano clearly stands out as the lead voice, the accompaniment is particularly prominent throughout on this track with Bisherat’s passionate violin and Friesen’s droning cello each taking the lead at times. Ethereal vocals from Wilding near the end of the piece emphasize the contemplative qualities of the track while adding a profound, mysterious quality.

Similarly, “Help Me To Listen” has a moderate tempo, strong and prominent accompaniment, especially from Tubbs and Eaton, and a clever and distinctive melody. Also one our favorites, it is truly a magnificent work and is perhaps the best on the album. On this track in particular, one really senses Steve’s genuine faith and his passion for his craft. And I am sure we can all think of someone who is definitely in need of the same type of guidance.

In contrast, “This Ancient Road,” is a bit slower and more piano focused, with softer piano phrasing and lighter accompaniment. Nevertheless, it is at times also intensely passionate and reflective.

“Skyward”, “So Quickly Gone” and “Beautiful Years” are each outstanding tracks and easily demonstrate Steve’s innovative and powerful skills as a composer. While the first of these three is a decidedly more up-tempo than the latter two, each work displays strong piano components and clever, mellow, and memorable melodies, artfully woven together with strong accompaniment, especially by Will Ackerman’s guitar on “So Quickly Gone.”. Each work is also a powerful example of the general “intensity” characteristic of Steve’s signature style.

“Delicate Force” goes in a very different direction and as the apparent contradiction in the title suggests, is a bit of a study in contrasts. At some points, it has a much more delicate “classical piano” feel, but also reflects an intensely darker and more somber mood. With much more percussion behind it, Steve’s prominent piano eventually rising in intensity to a climax, and minimal accompaniment except for some intensely passionate and mysterious vocals from Wilding, this track is certainly the most unabashedly dramatic “force” on the album.

With a lighter, upbeat, and more cheerful mood, “Valley Of Light” then brings us out of the darkness, with Steve’s bouncy piano opening and core melody, and strong accompaniment by Gus Sebring on the French Horn, and Eaton on percussion, bass, and keyboards.

In summary, Steve Rivera’s “Dividing The Darkness” is a magnificent “debut” album from a composer and pianist who demonstrates an astonishing level of sophistication, intensity, and heartfelt emotional expressivity. The music is innovative, varied in style, and consistently distinctive and memorable. Thus, the album is an “easy listen” and will certainly leave you wanting more. That is why we give it our highest possible recommendation.

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