Review of the Album “Water and Light” by Loren Evarts

January 29, 2016 by Admin

imageLoren Evarts, who lives in Meriden, Connecticut, has a Master’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Bridgeport, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Music Education at Boston University. At the University of Bridgeport, he studied jazz under award winning, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant recipient, and Grammy nominated Jazz Pianist and Composer/Arranger Neil Slater, and composition with renowned concert pianist and composer David Barnett. He has even studied jazz piano with Anthony Davis, noted composer/jazz pianist, and professor of music studies at the University of California, San Diego.

Loren has also performed as a professional musician for over forty years. Starting at age 15, as part of a Portuguese band, he has played and sung in rock, jazz, and even disco groups. He was leader, composer and arranger for the new age/jazz ensemble Confluence, and Sliders, an eight-piece band featuring five trombones. Besides keyboards, he also often performs on trombone and hammered dulcimer, and sang second bass in Chorale Connecticut. For ten years he was also the organist/pianist at North Guilford (Connecticut) Congregational Church and currently serves as keyboardist in residence at Milton Congregational Church in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Over the past 14 years, and following in the footsteps of his mentors, Loren has also taught music related courses (e.g., American music history, music appreciation, and jazz) at several public and private schools, and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Post University (Connecticut), the University of Bridgeport, Tunxis Community College (Connecticut), the University of Maryland, and Springfield Community College (Massachusetts).

He has also been fortunate to have been involved in performances with artists such as Dave Weckl (Chick Corea), Gerry Neiwood (Chuck Mangione), Everett Silver (Chuck Mangione), Aaron Copland, Dave Brubeck, Eddie Bert, Mike Davis (Rolling Stones), Don Elliot, Mo Snyder, Bill Reichenbach, Billy Hart, Danny Stiles (Bill Watrous), Sonny Costanzo, Fred Vigdor (Average White Band), Morton Gould, Elie Siegmeister and Gwyneth Walker.

In addition to doing studio work, Loren has previously recorded three albums of his own. His first album, recorded in 1985, “Water Music,” was a solo piano album. With the band Confluence, he recorded an album of the same name in 1988, which featured a collection of Jazz/World music influenced songs. Again with Confluence, in 1992, he recorded “Sojourn,” also featuring Jazz and World music influenced tracks.

One of Loren’s pieces was also a finalist in the London Chamber Music Ensemble competition.

Longtime friend, trumpet player, percussionist, and occasional accompanist, Don Hackett says
“(Loren) has always been a very gifted musician. — back in middle school and high school…when everyone else was still learning to play their instrument……he was writing horn arrangements for the band he put together. We’ve played together ever since.”

Loren’s most recent album “Water and Light,” which he dedicates to the memory of his parents, contains a collection of all original works; some of which are all new, and others of which are re-crafted and re-recorded versions of songs from his previous albums. This new album was produced by Grammy Award winner Will Ackerman (Windham Hill Records) at Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, and so, as expected, the production quality is impeccable.

“I just emailed him,” said Loren of Ackerman. “It took me a while to do it, I was nervous about it. He was very accommodating and welcoming.”

While most of the works on “Water and Light” feature Loren’s Steinway B piano as the primary voice, including three piano solos, most are ensemble pieces that include a star studded lineup of accompanying artists, including Grammy award winning musicians such as Eugene Friesen on cello (Paul Winter, Trio Globo), Rhonda Larson on many types of flutes (Paul Winter, Ventus) and Jeff Haynes on various types of percussion (Pat Metheny, Pete Seeger). In addition, Grammy-nominated bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson) contributed on two tracks. The album was also engineered, mixed, and mastered by Tom Eaton, who also performs on bass on two of the tracks.

imageOverall, we would rate “Water and Light” as an outstanding album. The music is mostly energetic, up-tempo, and lively, with a few tracks that are a bit slower and more contemplative. Even the piano solos are, for the most part, more upbeat and lively, which we truly appreciate. The music certainly has an innovative and distinctive style. And most importantly, the music is sophisticated, complex, and reflects an exceptional level of maturity that is rare. The music also shows a variety of influences, including light jazz, piano jazz, Celtic music, classical music, and ethnic music (especially in the wide array of non-traditional instrumentation used on the album).

The album begins magnificently with one of Loren’s totally new songs, “Innisfree.” The title is taken from the 1892 poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The poem is about a longing in one’s heart for the peacefulness and tranquility of being alone with nature, in a rustic cabin, surrounded by a simple garden, veils of morning due, and the relaxing sounds of lake water lapping a shore “where the cricket sings.” And “Innisfree” most assuredly captures the mood and sentiments of the poem. With its reflective, emotional, melodic, and captivating piano opening — eventually and masterfully blended with Rhonda Larson’s charming and Celtic tinged crystal flute elements — the song wonderfully conveys a sense of longing, peacefulness, calmness, and tranquility. The piano is mesmerizing and the crystal flute (a flute made from glass) provides an exquisite and truly magical sound that at times seems almost vocal. This is definitely one of our favorites.

In contrast, “Confluence” is light, energetic, fun, and decidedly up-tempo, with a powerful melody and clear “jazzy” qualities. It also makes spectacular use of Eugene Friesen’s cello as a counterpoint to Loren’s piano. It was originally recorded on the 1988 album of the same name. However, this version, which is more complex, also features Tony Levin on NS bass, and with subtle percussive contributions from Jeff Haynes on a variety of instruments, including tubano, udu, tam tam, frame drum, talking drum, rainstick shaker, and maraca. It is also definitely one of our favorites.

“Lonely Road,” which is the first of the piano solos on the album, has a strong opening, a more moderate tempo, and a straightforward and memorable melody. It is also perhaps a bit more “positive” and cheerful than the title implies. Nevertheless, it is a very engaging piece of music.

Originally recorded in 1992 on the album “Sojourn,” the song “New Irish Waltz” again shows strong Celtic music influences, and features engaging contributions from Rhonda Larson on whistle and flute, Levin on bass, and Friesen on cello, and of course, Loren on piano. However, the track also at times shows jazz influences which makes for an interesting and superbly crafted contrast with the Celtic qualities. In fact, one of the things we particularly like about this track is the way the various instruments weave in and out while reprising — with variations — the recurring theme. Nicely done!

“Windmills,” another piano solo, is very upbeat, energetic, positive, and with a fast tempo and clever, recurring piano rhythm easily suggestive of rotation and movement.

Our favorite track on the album is “The Cat and The Moon.” In fact, the backstory on this one is quite interesting.

imageOne day Loren decided to look through a book of poems by William Butler Yeats from his son’s Irish Literature course. One particular poem stood out to him, and so he decided to create a song based on it. The 1919 poem is titled “The Cat and The Moon,” and it’s about a black cat named Minnaloushe encountering and eventually “dancing with” the moon. Yeats sees the black cat and the moon as kindred spirits.

The musical track “The Cat and The Moon” is easily one of the more complex works on “Water and Light.” It is upbeat energetic, stylish, and with an exceptional use of percussion. In fact, “The Cat and The Moon” is performed on an unusual variety of instruments that includes bansuri flute (Rhonda Larson), djembe, tubano, hand drum, temple blocks, bata, shekere, djun djun, and a cowbell (Jeff Haynes), and even some Windham County black birch firewood (Will Ackerman) which Will Ackerman cut down himself. The sound of the bansuri on this track is thoroughly engaging. And overall, this is a simply an exceptional work. We truly hope to hear more like this one from Loren in the future.

Originally recorded on the 1985 album “Water Music,” the track “The Pond in Winter” is a beautiful piano solo. The title is taken from a chapter in Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden.” It is slower, more deliberate, more contemplative, and expressive, graceful, powerful, creative, and melodic, and wonderfully captures the penetrating chill and stillness of winter. One can certainly envision walking along a snow covered road, encountering an ice covered pond, and standing there in the cold just to admire its natural beauty.

The track titled “91 North,” which undoubtedly refers to Interstate 91 that runs from Connecticut, through western Massachusetts, an into New Hampshire and Vermont, features a distinctive, and repeating piano rhythm that is appropriately suggestive of driving on the highway or the spinning of wheels. Also originally from the 1992 “Sojourn” album, it is a lively, joyful, layered, energetic, innovative work, with a great melody, strong piano, and superb percussion. Great fun!

Our favorite of the solo piano tracks is “Big Black Rapids.” Also originally from the 1985 “Water Music” album, it is an energetic, upbeat, melodic, creative, expressive, vibrant, and sometimes poignant piece, with slight classical music influences.

“Sojourn,” which is another duet for piano and flute, is also a re-crafted version of a song from the 1988 “Confluence” album. It has exceptional energy, and again the masterful flute of Rhonda Larson at times sounds like an ethereal voice. In fact, the exceptinally well done blending of the piano and flute, in music with clear jazz influences, is very reminiscent of the music of Scott Cossu.

The album ends magnificently with “C Effigy.” With a superb blending of instruments, a steady stylish rhythm, a creative and memorable melody, and wonderfully attention holding percussive contributions by Haynes (tubano, bongos, shaker, congas, and tam tam) and Eaton’s electric bass, it is another of the more complex and sophisticated works on the album. We particularly like the way the various instrumental voices — piano, flute, bass, and percussion — effortlessly hand the focus off to each other. In fact, unlike many tracks we hear on other albums, this track has a real quality of “completeness” — a sense that it is truly a “finished” work. And with a lighthearted and fun mood, that perfectly demonstrates that Loren truly enjoys playing with other musicians, it makes a great ending to the album.

We very highly recommend the album “Water and Light.”

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