Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Multi-Instrumental Music Albums

March 30, 2015 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary Multi-Instrumental Music albums released during the fourth quarter of 2014 (or recently submitted to us directly). We highly recommend each of these albums. To qualify for this list, an album had to be a new release (not a re-release) in either October, November, or December of 2014 (or submitted directly to us since January 1, 2015). They must also feature primarily multi-instrumental music, and be available for purchase on either iTunes, Amazon.com, or CDBaby.com. In selecting these nine albums from over a hundred possibilities, we applied the same rigorous standards that we use in choosing music for play on GAIA Prime Radio. So if you enjoy the music we play on our station, we are confident that you will enjoy the music on these albums as well. Click on the album title or CD cover image and you will be taken to iTunes where you can listen to samples of music from that album and/or purchase it.

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Infinito – Corciolli

Corciolli is a Brazilian composer, producer and musician, and official YAMAHA artist. Born in São Paulo in 1968, he began his piano studies at the age of 13 and developed an interest in jazz and Brazilian popular music. In 1986, while studying to be an architect and urban planner, he began performing as a professional musician. He plays piano and keyboards and has recorded over 30 highly successful albums and sold countless millions of records since 1993. Some of his work has been featured on international compilation albums, with artists like Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, The Alan Parsons Project, Kitaro, Dead Can Dance, Secret Garden, Era, Sarah Brightman, Enigma, Luciano Pavarotti, Andreas Vollenweider and Diana Krall, among others.

In 1993, he also founded the record label Azul Music, releasing his first solo album “All That Binds U.” In 1995, inspired by ancient Latin texts and studies on alchemy, he produced one of his most well known works, the album “Unio Mystica”. This outstanding album features a singular mixture of Gregorian chants, ethereal piano melodies and innovative orchestral arrangements. The album was released in several countries and achieved a great success with both audiences and critics. It also received the Apostolic blessing of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. In 1996, Corciolli played at the America Latina memorial in São Paulo with the Tibetan Monks of Gaden Shartse. With the same group he recorded the album “The New Moon Of East”. This album was an unprecedented meeting of Tibetan sacred chants and music made by a Western artist. In the following years, he produced and released many more albums as a solo artist and several special projects for his recording company. Since 2011, Corciolli has dedicated himself to composing original soundtracks for films, producing the music of other artists, and performing live concerts throughout Brazil.

His newest album, “Infinito” (Portuguese for infinity), is an organic blend of electronic textures, orchestral layers and uplifting melodies, with dreamy atmospheres and a strong cinematic quality. The 14 tracks include 10 new compositions as well as exquisite arrangements of 4 masterpieces of Brazilian popular music: “A Noite Do Meu Bem” (The Night of My Well) by Delores Duran, “Melodia Sentimental” (Sentimental Melody) by Villa-Lobos, “Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Voce” (If Everyone Were Like You) by Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and “Eu Sonhei Que Tu Estavas Tao Linda” (I Dreamt You Were So Beautiful) by Lamartine Babo and Francisco Mattoso.

Enhancing Corciolli’s exquisite piano playing and array of synthesizers are special guests like Georgian flautist Gracieli Valverde, saxophonist Ma3, and Leonardo Padovani on the violin and erhu.

The real strength of Corciolli’s style is his masterful ability to seamlessly integrate multiple sound layers yielding music that is at once subtle, but also complex, sophisticated, mature, and rich in variety, creativity, and interest appeal. The music on “Infinito” in particular demonstrates his magnificent ability to evolve his compositions as they move forward and to allow the various components, e.g., instruments, voices, electronic accents, etc., to softly float into the track’s foreground and then transition into the background, allowing other sounds to take over.

Several of the tracks on “Infinito” have distinct “smooth-jazz-like” elements (Dream of Us, Infinite Love Song, and Solace), while other works, like “Spiral” and “Tucuma,” have a more up-tempo and lively quality that reminded us a lot of the music of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, respectively. “Mono No Aware” “San Telmo,” and “Lacrimae,” on the other hand, feature clear ethnic music elements and influences. “Dandelion,” at the outset, has a more down-tempo “space music” quality that slowly gives way to pulsating rhythms interlaced with orchestration and ethereal voices, in parts reminiscent of the early music of Kitaro. And the four covers of Brazilian popular songs are each, in their own right, particularly beautiful pieces of music, well chosen for this album, and compelling examples of Cociolli’s singular style.

For these reasons, we give this album our highest possible recommendation.

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Night Flower – Nathan Connelly

The music on “Night Flower” features a variety of instruments and sounds, artfully integrated with occasional vocals, in an innovative style. More specifically, powerful rhythms, peaceful piano solos, Native American vocalists (both male and female voices), light electronics, and choir voices, are artfully integrated with unusual and beautiful instruments such as the Duduk, the Erhu, the Bawu, the Shakuhachi, and the Dizi. The result is music that is complex, sophisticated, layered, melodic, powerful, and lightly orchestrated, while also relaxing, soothing, and peaceful, and at times intensely emotional and incredibly beautiful.

A singular theme and purpose unites each piece of music. In the artists own words:

“Whether to the high peaks of joy and courage or the low valleys of reflection and sorrow, my music attempts to lead the listener on an emotional journey that is altogether challenging, comforting, rewarding, and inspiring.” Does it ever!!!

Despite this common theme, and many common elements, the music on “Night Flower” is nonetheless quite varied. There are deeply “emotional” songs, e.g.,”The Heart’s Cry,” with it’s stirring piano and plaintiff ethereal male vocal element, and “Two Paths,” again with strong emotive piano accompanied by heartfelt violin; soaring, uplifting, orchestration, e.g. “Strength of The Spirit” and “Adventures”; earthy and mysterious Native American inspired tracks “Running With The Wind,” “Shadows of Light,” and “Voices On The Wind”; and tracks that make use of innovative sounds, melodies, rhythms, and instruments, e.g., “Night Flower” and “Rivers of Grace.” Nearly all of the tracks have some type of vocal component in them, and where it is used, it is simply mesmerizing, beautiful, and exceptionally well-crafted and integrated with the music. The album ends with a stirring piano focused work, “On Mountains High,” which may be the most beautiful track on the entire album.

This is an easy album to listen to, as it moves quickly and provides a highly rewarding musical experience along the way. The only drawback may be that it leaves you wanting more. Very highly recommended.

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Soul Nektar – Diane Arkenstone

As a true multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, guitar, mandolin, wood flutes, dulcimers, percussion), and with work on over 45 separate albums, Diane Arkenstone, from California, is certainly one of the most multi-talented musicians and music producers in the contemporary instrumental, Celtic music, and New Age genres. This is exactly why we chose to make her one of the key “featured artists” on GAIA Prime Radio.

Diane wrote her first song at the age of three and picked up her first guitar at the age of seven, eventually studying music at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California, before moving to Los Angeles. She worked as a photographer for the Fender guitar company for a year, then spent four years running rival Gibson’s West Coast operations office, working with recording artists including Aerosmith, Neil Diamond, Guns and Roses, and Ozzy Osborne.

In the late 1990s, she left Gibson to pursue her own musical career. She experimented with punk, heavy metal, and folk music until she co-formed the supremely successful duo Enaid & Einalem with a musician friend named Melanie (the names Enaid and Einalem are simply Diane and Melanie spelled backwards) and began to focus on Celtic inspired instrumental music. They recorded eight outstanding albums together. Later, she married multi-instrumentalist and prolific musician David Arkenstone and together they formed the Neo Pacifica music label. They then collaborated on many projects, with varied musical styles, including music recorded under the names Earth Trybe (Trance, Electonic), Adventure Cargo (World), and Ah Nee Mah (Native American), as well as albums recorded under their own names separately and together.

In 2001, after a divorce, Diane broke out on her own, and continued her outstanding work.

“Aquaria: A Liquid Blue Trancescape,” released in 2001, is a particularly impressive album and a true work of art. “Jewel in the Sun,” debuted at No. 16 on Billboard’s New Age charts when it was released in October 2002, peaking at number 11. In 2005, her album, “The Best of Diane Arkenstone” went No. 1 on the New Age radio charts.

Her latest release, “Soul Nektar,” features retitled selections from several of her previous albums, e.g., Jewel in The Sun, Echoes of Egypt, and African Skies. At least two of the tracks “Expansion” and “A Million Stars” do seem to be remastered and re-crafted, as well as renamed, works from previous albums. So if you already are a fan of Diane Arkenstone, and have the original albums, you won’t find much new here. But if you are new to her music, we highly, highly recommend this album, since the selections on it are truly representative of her best work, and some the best music that the contemporary instrumental genre has to offer.

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Aurora – Brunuhville

“Aurora” is the eighth album from the Portuguese Neo-classical composer BrunuhVille, pseudonym of Miguel Correia José Bruno. Heavily influenced by Celtic, Fantasy, and Gothic music, and the epic “soundtrack” music of Hans Zimmer, Jeremy Soule, and Howard Shore, the music of Brunuhville masterfully interweaves traditional Celtic music instrumentation, with light electronics, strong rhythms, complex and inspired orchestration (strings, woodwinds, percussion, brass, etc.), angelic choirs, and beautiful and soaring vocals from “Sharm.” The result is a “cinematic music” world of mystical lands, wizards, fairies, dragons, mermaids, romantic heroes, pirates, magical animals, kings and queens, and epic adventures.

On “Aurora,” while a few of the selections have a much more energized and upbeat quality, e.g., “Tales of Ice and Blood,” “Falls of Glory,” and “Fields of Elysium,” other tracks have a distinctly more melancholy feel to them, e.g., “Blue Rose” and “Black Heart.” Cry of the Dragons” is a particularly poignant and powerful track with a distinctly uplifting quality and may stand out as one of Brunuhville’s best works to date. And the Celtic version of “The Wolf and The Moon” is simply beautiful, and the non-Celtic verion is quite good as well. It is always a pleasure to review an album of such unquestionable careful crafting and sophisticated production quality. Every track on Aurora is simply outstanding. Highly Recommended.

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Trail of Dreams – 2002

Over the past 20 years, the New Age/Neo-classical group 2002 has continued to evolve artistically with increasingly creative, complex, inspired, and sophisticated instrumental arrangements, infused with elements from World, pop, folk and rock music. Each of their nine albums has seemingly raised the standard higher and pushed the boundaries of the genre. This is nonetheless true of their most recent release, Trail of Dreams. This album is simply outstanding.

Until recently, 2002 was the project of husband and wife team Randy and Pamela Copus. Randy plays piano, electric cello, guitar, bass, and keyboards and Pamela plays flutes, harp, keyboards, and a wind instrument called a WX5. Both musicians have also frequently provided ethereal and carefully crafted vocal harmonies on their albums, layering their voices multiple times to create a “virtual choir” with a celestial and distinctly angelic quality. Their vocals often have many dimensions, including not only words, but also artfully integrated chants in Sanskrit, Spanish, Latin and Japanese, representing sacred traditions from throughout the world.

However, on Trail of Dreams, their remarkably talented 10 year old daughter Sarah is now featured prominently. In addition to playing one of the harp tracks, she is now also the primary vocalist. In fact, she created many of the harmonies and vocal arrangements. With qualities reminiscent of the voices of the various Celtic Women, Sarah’s vocals are mature, sophisticated, angelic, and have a distinctly Celtic quality. And backing up these vocals are innovative, crisp, and memorable instrumentals — as we have come to expect from 2002 over the years.

Trail of Dreams is about “that great journey into the unknown, to find one’s destiny.” The first two tracks – “Into The Light” and “Forever Sky” – featuring the stunning voice of Sarah, are quite beautiful. “Wait For Me,” which is mostly instrumental, is exceptional. And the title track, which features the voice of Randy, is an exquisite, upbeat, masterfully crafted work. It is based the great spiritual epic “Autobiography of a Yogi,” where Yoga Nanda travels to far away America to bring the spirituality of India to the west. The Celtic qualities of Sarah’s voice really come through on “Ta Me ‘Mo Shui” and “Follow Your Star,” the latter being our favorite track on the entire album. It tells the story of Honera O’Flynn, who is kidnapped from her homeland of Ireland and brought to America, where she ultimately finds her destiny, and true love. “Navagatio, ” which is also a particularly strong track, recounts the voyage of Saint Brendan from Ireland in the sixth century, setting out to find the “terra repromissionis sanctorum,” the Promised Land of the Saints or the Earthly Paradise. The album ends with “Ever Onward”, a life-affirming anthem, again performed by Randy, about following dreams, and always moving forward.

Trail of Dreams is an emotional, relaxing, distinctly spiritual listening experience worthy of our high recommendation.

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Journey – Kelly Andrew

Kelly Andrew, originally from Denver, Colorado, is an accomplished musician, composer, pianist, producer, and sound engineer. Although previous albums from Kelly have leaned more in the direction of a “Trance” style (The Incursion) or an “epic music/soundtrack” style (e.g., Epoch Dawn), the music on “Journey” is a distinct departure, in that it has a more classic “New Age” feel. The music artfully integrates innovative melodies with elements of jazz, ethereal vocals, modern phrasing, tribal rhythms, world music, occasional electronics (synthesizer, electric guitar), and sophisticated and rich orchestration (especially strings and flutes). The result is music that is not quite as “ambient” and certainly not quite as “soaring” as some of Kelly’s previous work. Nevertheless, the result is outstanding contemporary instrumental music that is powerful, memorable, varied, uplifting, engaging, inspiring, and captivating, and represents a clear maturing of Kelly’s musical talents. In fact, we would rate this album as his best work to date.

“World of Discovery” and “Promised Land”, for example, feature exceptional and emotionally evocative “string” elements, while “Glistening Waters, “Keepers of The Veldt,” and “Sail Away” have a delightful and distinctly “jazz” quality reminiscent of some of the music from the early days of New Age/Jazz crossover music. “Dreamscapes, “Rainforest,” and “Dancing Dunes”, in contrast have clear world music influences — Asian, South American, and Middle Eastern, respectively. And “Into The Sun” and “Along The River” are enlivened by pulsating percussion and amazingly beautiful vocals. The title track, in particular, which is arguably the best on the album, along with several of the other tracks, e.g., “Expedition,” easily calls to mind the early music of David Arkenstone, especially from his “Echoes of Light and Shadow.” And it is every bit as good!!!

“Journey” truly carries the listener on a exciting, wondrous, and worldly musical adventure. For that reason, we give this album our highest possible recommendation.

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Sacred Nation – Ah Nee Mah / Diane Arkenstone

Ah Nee Mah is the “Native American culture and music” inspired project of musicians Diane Arkenstone (of Cherokee heritage) and David Arkenstone who provide the sounds of flute and keyboards respectively, along with Tom Torre on violin and guitar, David Kaplan on drums/percussion and Seth Osburn with additional keyboard and percussion accompaniment.

Their latest album “Sacred Nation” continues the outstanding work that the collaboration between these two master artists has yielded in the past. while most of the the tracks on this album are renamed selections from previous albums, a few of the seem to have been remastered and recrafted as well. The music, while prominently featuring Native-American instruments and rhythms, is nonetheless complex and sophisticated, creating a musical environment that is both rich and filled with emotion. If you are not a familiar with the work of Ah Nee Mah, but are a fan of Native American influenced music, this album will be an excellent starting point. We highly recommend Sacred Nation.

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Summon The Wind – Timothy Wenzel

American born artist Timothy Wenzel, who also holds a is Ph.D. in chemistry, radically changed direction in life recently by embarking on a pursuit of his other passion: music. His debut album, “Mountains Take Wing” was selected as a Best New Age Album of 2012 by New Age Music World. His second album, “A Coalescence of Dreams” (October 2012) received widespread airplay and acclaim, climbing to #6 in the International New Age Charts (Zone Music Reporter) in 2013. His third album, River Serene, also jumped into the top 10 at ZMR. It was mastered by Grammy Award winning engineer Corin Nelsen and was released November 23, 2013 on the Coyote Floe label. And as Timothy continues to pursue his musical passions, he is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the top keyboardists in the new age genre.

This album, “Summon the Wind,” is his fourth and explores the general theme of “wind,” as well as the themes of love, dreaming, exploration, inventions, and the earth and nature. It also continues Timothy’s tradition of creating excellent contemporary instrumental ensemble music that is innovative, thoroughly developed, sophisticated, and well produced. Again Mastered by Grammy Award winning engineer Corin Nelsen, the music displays a variety of instrumentation, including keyboards, synthesizers, violins, cellos, flutes, harps, bells, guitars, bass, and percussion, as well as wordless male and female voices. Electric guitarist Michael Rud from Denmark makes a special guest appearance on one tune.

The music on “Summon The Wind” is varied, complex, melodic, well-crafted, innovative, visual, and at times emotional and gentle, but also with a quiet power behind the compositions. Mariner’s Lament,” “Still The Wind,” and “All That Might Have Been” are emotionally evocative compositions with an undercurrent of sadness. “Crystal Man” was inspired by poor workers digging for diamonds in Africa and features lush piano accompanied by soulful violins. “Elven Dance” and “Tesla’s dream” are more upbeat and lively with an obvious Celtic music influence. While the music does make a bit more use of light electronics than what we usually prefer, the use of electronics is not overly done, with those elements typically serving more to accent the main instrumental theme, and not carry it. Ranging from lively to serene, the album takes the listener on a contemporary instrumental music journey rich with emotional peaks and valleys yielding a powerfully rewarding and memorable sonic experience.

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Total Serenity (Music for Meditation) – Niall

Born in Luton, England, Niall (pronounced Nee-Al) is a prolific writer and producer of World, Relaxation and New Age music. He began learning the trumpet and recorder at the age of 7. As a teenager he progressed to playing drums, flute, guitar and keyboards. In the early 90’s he started writing and producing music for various production companies, as well as music films, radio, television, and computer games, and taking on location recording projects for choirs, orchestras and bands.

His first full album release in 2007 was “Spirit of the Shaman,” a Native American inspired album with Native American flutes and chants accenting a powerful musical underscore. With several other successful album projects completed over the past few years, in January 2014 Niall released his first independent album titled “Earth Angels,” an album of stunning and diverse music as he pushes the boundaries of New Age music. We reviewed Earth Angels in May of 2014 and described the album as “a truly compelling work of art.”

Niall’s music can generally be described as uplifting, relaxing and hauntingly beautiful. He plays the majority of the instruments featured on his albums, and works in a style that blends ethnic, world and new age together. “Total Serenity” brings you over 75 minutes of beautiful meditation music. Specially timed 5, 10 & 20 minute tracks are ideal for sitting, standing & walking meditation. Working closely with meditation expert, Susan West, each track is designed to take you on a slow, relaxing journey of discovery and an unfolding of your body and mind. The music sets out to encompass different meditation disciplines and draws on influences including Buddhist Sutras, Asian, Native American and ethereal landscapes. The goal of the album is to help you experience the benefits of deep relaxation and inner peace.

While the music on “Total Serenity” is generally speaking down-tempo, ambient, “meditation” style music, two of the tracks – “Sacred Spirit” and “Buddha Temple” – display the same hauntingly beautiful music masterfully integrated with spiritual chants (Native American, Buddhist, etc.), and innovative rhythms that we have come to expect from Niall’s music. These two tracks, along with “Star of Siam,” which is simply mesmerizing, are particularly poignant and powerful examples of Niall’s singular and compelling style – music that we thoroughly enjoy.

Coming Soon: Our favorite albums released in the first quarter of 2015.

Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Piano Music Albums

February 26, 2015 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary Piano Music albums released during the fourth quarter of 2014. We highly recommend each of these albums. To qualify for this list, an album had to be a new release (not a re-release) in either October, November, or December of 2014, feature solo piano music (or solo piano with light accompaniment) and be available for purchase on either iTunes, Amazon.com, or CDBaby.com. In selecting these five albums from over a hundred possibilities, we applied the same rigorous standards that we use in choosing music for play on GAIA Prime Radio. So if you enjoy the music we play on our station, we are confident that you will enjoy the music on these albums as well. Click on the album title or CD cover image and you will be taken to iTunes where you can listen to samples of music from that album and/or purchase it.

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Saving Tiny Hearts – Paul Cardall
Pianist and official “Steinway Artist” Paul Cardall is known for his original, sincere, sophisticated, intensely spiritual, and emotionally uplifting musical style. This particular album presents a collection of remastered piano works from several of his previous albums and would be highly recommended based on the exceptional quality of the music alone. However, there is another reason why we strongly encourage you to purchase this album

For every album sold, $1 will be donated to the Saving Tiny Hearts Society whose mission is to raise money for grossly under-funded, lifesaving grass roots research of congenital heart defects (CHD’s). Congenital heart defects are the #1 type of birth defect affecting more than 1,000,000 babies every year. This is a cause for which Paul is an especially appropriate advocate, given that he was born with essentially half of a functioning heart. That life-threatening congenital defect, a series of difficult surgeries and heart-related illnesses, and recent heart transplant surgery, have all shaped Paul’s musical style and inspired this collection of outstanding melodic compositions and arrangements.

Featuring largely piano music with extensive and elaborate and “real” orchestral and choral accompaniment, that at times has a “classical” feel, Saving Tiny Hearts is one of those albums where it is truly impossible to choose one favorite track. Each selection reveals a level of careful crafting, sophistication, expressiveness, and genuineness that we have come to expect from Paul.

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Eternal – Steve Banks
“Eternal” is a collection of original piano/orchestral compositions from the heart and the deepest emotions of gifted composer and talented pianist Steve Banks. Each work, as evidenced by the song titles, is a reflection of the wide spectrum of emotional experiences – joy, sorrow, and love – from the artist’s own life. Each song has special meaning to Steve, telling the story of family, heritage, faith and love.

Somewhat reminiscent of the orchestral works of Yanni, and perhaps in the spirit of the album title, “Eternal” features grand, powerful, dramatic, and sweeping melodies with a decidedly cinematic quality, and showcases well developed and exceptional orchestral accompaniment (with occasional, but not overdone, synthesizer). While not so much “music for relaxation,” the music is nonetheless soothing and uplifting with just a slight hint of a “classical” tone. On “Adoration” and “Reminiscence” in particular, the melody is simply “breathtakingly” creative and beautiful, and with just the right amount of support from strings and woodwinds. These two songs alone would be a worthwhile purchase, but there are nine other works that make this entire CD one that we highly recommend you add to your collection.

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Seasons of The Heart – Renee’ Michele
Co-Produced by Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, and Oregon based composer and pianist Reneé Michele, and recorded at the legendary Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, Seasons of the Heart is the most technically accomplished and emotionally intimate album of Reneé Michele’s career. The accompanying ensemble players are some of Imaginary Road’s best and include Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Noah Wilding (vocals), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Michael Manring (fretless bass), and Tom Eaton (bass).

Renee Michele started playing the piano at the age of six and continued through college as a music major. She later added a degree in Occupational Therapy, which led her to teach piano to children with special needs. One of her proudest achievements is having developed teaching strategies that allowed a musically gifted autistic child to learn to play the piano and later perform in a school talent show.

On Seasons of the Heart, Renee delves deep into her most personal memories — recollections both beloved and painful. The focus is on the emotional depth of the music rather than a “flashy” playing style, and the result is music that might be best described as sentimental, reflective, introspective, sometimes wistful, intimate, complex, sophisticated, uplifting, memorable, and always deeply felt.

Will Ackerman summed up Reneé Michele’s talent for soulful evocative music when he stated

“The first piece Renee’ Michele sent me was simply stunning. It revealed a composer capable of brilliant and accessible melody and hands that had clearly matured in classical discipline. This experience proved to be just the first of many as I became acquainted with more of her work. As a producer, one dreams of encountering such talent. The recordings for “Seasons of the Heart” all display the same remarkable combination of rich melody and stunning technical ability. At the center of all of her work is an intense and very personal emotional connection to both composition and performance that is breathtaking to experience. Renee’ has 4 solo piano albums prior to producing an [this] album with accompaniment. This is as powerful a CD with ensemble as anyone could hope for…”

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Treasures of Peace: The Stanton Lanier Collection – Stanton Lanier

After starting piano lessons at age six growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, award winning composer and pianist Stanton Lanier’s love for basketball made him want to quit at age twelve, but his parents wouldn’t let him. So he began writing songs and singing at age fourteen. Playing and composing continued as a hobby while majoring in chemistry at Georgia Tech and completing an MBA at the University of Georgia. After five years working in consulting and insurance, in 1994, at age thirty, he embarked on a ten-year career as a financial planner. However, the piano continued to serve as an life refuge. When he began composing instrumentals, he wanted them to convey a sense of God’s peace and hope. As people began to share powerful stories about how the songs were impacting their lives, he realized that “scripture inspired piano” was a unique way to share God’s story and his own story.

In this spirit, in 2004 Stanton and his wife founded the non-profit ministry Music to Light the World to offer God’s peace, rest, hope and healing in the church, the cultural arts, and the lives of cancer patients. Since that time, nearly sixty thousand CDs have been donated to cancer patients and families through Get Music Give Hope℠, where one CD is given away for every one purchased.

Stanton Lanier’s signature piano melodies are sure to refresh your spirit. This re-mastered collection offers sixteen listener favorites from his eight albums and ninety-nine singles. Listen for peace, rest, hope and healing with touching piano solos and exquisite accompaniment from nine acclaimed guest artists, including three Grammy winners. Many of the selections are from albums originally produced with the assistance of Will Ackerman at Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, and feature such notable accompanying artists as Philip Aeberg, Eugene Friesen, Noah Wilding, Jeff Oster, Jeff Haynes, Tom Eaton, Richard Gus Sebring, and, of course, Will Ackerman. Highly recommended.

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One Journey – Ryan Stewart

Raised in Salt Lake City, Ryan Stewart says his mother is his inspiration. A classically trained pianist herself, she wanted to share her love of music with her children. Sadly, she passed away from breast cancer when he was just 13. Ryan says this was a poignant moment in his life and he realized the gift she had given to him. “As a teenager I missed her and I would sit at the piano on the stage at my school and play and think about her.” His father encouraged him to continue to pursuing his talent.

After graduating from high school, Ryan was awarded a full-ride scholarship in music to the University of Utah. He perfected his piano skills as he studied, and played and taught piano lessons. He especially enjoyed teaching students with an affinity for composition and song writing. Although Stewart eventually left the music department and pursued a career in computers, he never lost his desire to compose and play the instrument he loves. Today, his spare time is spent with music, and his passion has become something his wife, Cindy, and their two daughters cherish when spending time together. He has also composed and arranged music for film documentaries, Cellist Stephen S. Nelson (ThePianoGuys), Paul Cardall and other artists, and several dance studios.

On “One Journey,” Ryan presents us with uplifting rolling piano melodies, thoughtful chords, and carefully crafted orchestral and vocal accompaniment. The result is music that can most definitely provide a soothing effect on one’s soul and clear the mind of stress. The music is innovative, sophisticated, multi-layered, relaxing, peaceful, but also at times superbly powerful.

In the artist’s own words, “YOUR individual experiences sum up your ONE JOURNEY in THIS life. This album represents some of my more poignant life experiences found within my on-going journey. Make the best of YOUR JOURNEY.”

Coming Soon: Our favorite “Contemporary Instrumental: Multi-Instrumental” albums released in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Solo Instrumental Music Albums

January 31, 2015 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary Solo Instrumental Music (non-piano) albums released during the fourth quarter of 2014. We highly recommend each of these albums. To qualify for this list, an album had to be a new release (not a re-release) in either October, November, or December of 2014, feature solo instrumental music (or solo instrumental with light accompaniment) and be available for purchase on either iTunes, Amazon.com, or CDBaby.com. In selecting these seven albums from over a hundred possibilities, we applied the same rigorous standards that we use in choosing music for play on GAIA Prime Radio. So if you enjoy the music we play on our station, we are confident that you will enjoy the music on these albums as well. Click on the album title or CD cover image and you will be taken to iTunes where you can listen to samples of music from that album and/or purchase it.

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Firelight – Terra Guitarra
Terra Guitarra, as their name implies, focuses on two things — guitar explorations and planet earth. The music encompasses their love of nature, travel, fiestas, the outdoors, journeys of personal growth, and spiritual reflection. “Usually the melodies first come to me when I am outside experiencing nature,” says Bruce Hecksel. “We travel constantly and we find each place has its own musical feeling. Our music celebrates the landscape and the people there. The melodies are reflective of the earth’s energy and vibrations.”

“Firelight” begins with the sunrise and ends with the sunset. In the space between them lies a sparkling instrumental journey of Spanish guitar and world music textures to ignite the moment with passion. The natural, energetic, all-instrumental sound artfully blends the strong rhythmic steel string guitar of Julie Patchouli and Bruce’s nylon-string Latin-styled acoustic guitar, with elements of jazz, new age, folk, classical and world-fusion. Augmented by drums, ethnic percussion, bass and Native American flute, the result is music that is warm, passionate, fluid and melodic.

Fans can also purchase recordings by Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli’s alter-ego group, the eclectic acoustic singer-songwriter duo called Patchouli which has more than a dozen albums available.

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Sanctuary III: Beyond The Dream – Sherry Finzer
Award winning flutist Sherry Finzer is one of those rare musicians whose approach to their art is so inspiringly beautiful that you just can’t wait for new musical works to hit your senses. In the words of others:

“If the sound of peace seems to escape, then you put on Sherry Finzer’s album and find just what you are looking for. It is music that produces a feeling of quietude that lets you dream, grow, think or heal with the press of the PLAY button.” – RJ Lannan – Zone Music Reporter

“I can’t go a day at work without listening to Sherry’s music. It has such a subtle, peaceful sound that I find it creates calm in my mind & body, which is always helpful during a hectic work day.” – Lenora Whitmire – New Leaf Distribution

With the clear exception of Terry Oldfield, no traditional flute player can create music that so stimulates both the heart and the mind with such subtlety and “Grace.”. With Sanctuary III: Beyond the Dream, Sherry expertly blends the ambient sounds of her flute, sounds of nature, and ethereal electronic textures to create timeless, soul-soothing music for the even the most discerning listener.

Sherry was born in Syracuse, NY and moved to Rochester with her parents when she was 13 years old. She attended Charles H. Roth High School, where she participated in numerous All-County and Area All-State Music Festivals. Classically, Sherry performed with the Brockport Symphony Orchestra from 1986-1988, and with the Greece Symphony Orchestra from 2003-2004. While in Rochester Sherry studied under Glennda Dove-Pellito, flute professor at SUNY Geneseo. Sherry now lives in Arizona where she has a private flute studio in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix.

The album features a mixture of songs composed and performed by Sherry, and a few well-known tunes such has “Hallelujah”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Wayfaring Stranger”. Sherry arranged and recorded “Frost Runes”, written by composer Tom Febonio, who also wrote “White Sky in November” which Sherry recorded with Darin Mahoney on their duo album Transformation (winner Best Album of 2013 – One World Music). She also arranged and recorded “Grace” written by internationally known Australian pianist Fiona Joy. Guitar tracks on “Amazing Grace” were recorded by Darin Mahoney.

Original compositions on ” Sanctuary III” include “Another Time and Place”, “The Way”, “Beyond the Dream”, and “Song for Rex”, which was written for Sherry’s first grandchild, born in December of 2014.

Like Terry Oldfield, Sherry Finzer is a woman who exudes sincerity within every note of every song she ever performs. She is clearly a woman who knows her musical heart, and has produced an album here that can best be described as an outstanding work of art.

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Tapping At The Edge Of Paradise – Jerry Rockwell

Jerry Rockwell is a world class mountain dulcimer custom builder, player, teacher, and advocate who lives and works in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. He also regularly teaches mountain dulcimer at workshops across the country, and has authored several books, numerous articles, and instructional videos teaching and promoting the mountain dulcimer. In July of 2007, he performed, taught, and lectured at a folk festival in Siglufjord, Iceland.

Jerry specializes in the gentle, soothing, and hypnotic sounds of Celtic airs, waltzes, and folk tunes, and is committed to helping his students explore the dulcimer in the deepest and fullest way possible. And when we we first heard the music of “Tapping at the Edge of Paradise,” there was no question about it being music we wanted to play on GAIA Primr Radio.

And it is indeed impressive to find such a talented musician who not only composes and performs such exceptional music, but does so on instruments of his own construction. In Jerry’s own words:

“I did many annual 17-day runs at the Ohio State Fair in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, showing my dulcimers and selling my cassette albums. I would actually be building some dulcimers right behind my table…” The important connection that they had to make was “This guy actually builds his own dulcimers and makes albums with those same instruments! I think when that connection is made, I have gained a customer, or a fan, or a listener.”

Tapping at the Edge of Paradise features innovative, sophisticated, well-crafted, well-produced, and highly memorable instrumentals on both acoustic and electric (acoustic with electric pickup) mountain dulcimers, with occasional spot of electronic accompaniment. However, the synths are used with such care and precision, so as not to overpower the gentle sound of the dulcimer, that they are hardly noticeable. The first song, called Surfing at the Savoy Arcade, and one our particular favorites, has an upbeat, modern, and catchy melody and a decidedly “chill” ambiance. It readily demonstrates what a versatile and beautiful instrument a mountain dulcimer can be when in the hands of a talented musician. Highly recommended.

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Acoustic Light – Dan and Sandy Adler

Dan and Sandy Adler have been performing together since they were married in 1984. After the outstanding response they received to their first instrumental project featuring Native American flute and guitar, “Wind of the Spirit” – which features the flute as the solo instrument on almost every song, they decided to do a project with the focus switched to acoustic guitar as the main instrument and then decorate around it with lush and lovely vocals and soaring Native American flutes instead.

The result is “Acoustic Light” – an ethereal, moderately ambient, sophisticated, and sometimes breathtaking blend of deeply spiritual music with Jazz, New Age and Native American stylings, intertwined with lyrical messages of hope and peace. All guitars were performed by Dan who also engineered and produced the project and played all the instruments except the congas, which are played by Angel Diaz, and all the flutes, played by Sandy. Dan and Sandy perform all of the vocals as well. If, like us, you are true fans of high quality contemporary instrumental music, this album should be a no-brainer addition to your collection.

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Pirate’s Bay – Luna Blanca and Richard Hecks and his Nouveau Flamenco Band

Luna Blanca, the project of German guitarist Richard Hecks and his Nouveau Flamenco Band, is known throughout Europe for producing energetic melodies using a variety of different instruments. Their previous release, “El Dorado,” was the recipient of the Best World Album award by Zone Music Reporter for the year 2012. Helmed by classical guitarist Richard Hecks and co-written with pianist/organist Helmut Graebe, Luna Blanca has become one of the most popular World Music bands on the planet.

Their new album “Pirate’s Bay,” continues the band’s penchant for combining music and mystical storytelling. In fact, while listening to the music of “Pirate’s Bay,” one cannot help but visualize Captain Jack Sparrow and the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” especially with song titles such as “Fighting Jack” and “Black Pearl.” In addition to Hecks and Graebe, Luna Blanca includes Bino Dola on rhythm and lead guitar and Clemens Paskert on bass, percussion and keyboards. Guest artists on Pirate’s Bay include Uwe Gronau on organ on two tracks, Davina Carolin on piano on two tracks, and Gundy the singing mermaid on the only track that includes vocals. A few pieces include nature and other sounds to further illustrate the story.

Pirate’s Bay features carefully crafted melodies that most definitely have the ability to reach listeners of all ages through its energy and attention to detail. The music, put simply, overflows with joy, adventure, and a strong sense of fun.

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Midnight Rhumba – Johannes Linstead

From being named “Guitarist of the Year” in the prestigious Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards (2007), to four top-ten Billboard charting albums, Johannes Linstead (who also records under the name Sevaji) has become recognized internationally as one of the greatest guitarists and composers in the Instrumental and World Music genres. The Canadian based musician was also named “World Artist of the Year” in the T.O.M.A Awards (The Ontario Music Awards), and was the recipient of “Best World Album” and “Best Instrumental Album – Acoustic” in the Zone Music Reporter (ZMR) Awards. Further accolades two NAR Lifestyle Music Awards, a nomination for a Juno Award, and in 2010 Johannes signed an “Influential Artist” endorsement agreement with Yamaha Corporation of America, the largest musical instrument manufacturer in the world.

Midnight Rhumba is an exotic escape to the energizing sounds and sensual rhythms of Flamenco style acoustic guitar music. the gorgeous melodies and fiery rhythms, accompanied by a top band of international players on Gypsy violin, Afro-Cuban percussion, and joyful accordion, give the music a truly world-fusion sound.

This is warm and fiesta-flavored music. Listening to it is the next best thing to taking a trip to any of the Latin countries of the world – Spain (“Siempre – Now and Forever” and “El Lobo”), Italy (“L’Italiana”), France (“Balzac’s Brew”), South America (“Radio Argentina” and “Midnight Rhumba”) and The Caribbean (“Calypso Island” and “Bewitched”). The melodies are catchy and fun to listen to. Highly recommended.

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Wildflowers – Painted Raven

Painted Raven is a contemporary Native American and World Music trio led by Annette Abbondanza of Orlando FL, in collaboration with Marsha Harris of North Carolina, and Holly Harris of New Smyrna Beach, FL.

Wildflowers” is this trio’s first album release together, and Annette’s 5th album released as Painted Raven. All three of the artists come from different backgrounds and different musical styles, each bringing something a little different to add to the eclectic mix.

As colorful and attention getting as a breathtaking meadow of vibrant wildflowers, so is the music of “Wildflowers.” Featuring the Native American flute as the lead instrument artfully combined with Spanish and Western acoustic guitar, mountain dulcimer, keyboards, Native American and World drums and percussion, and other modern and ancient instruments, the music is vibrant, upbeat, cheerful, and lively. Unlike many other albums we have reviewed featuring the Native American flute, the music of “Wildflowers” is melodic and catchy, with a distinct complexity, sophistication, and variety that makes it not only easy listening, but leaves the listener definitely wanting to hear more of the from Painted Raven in the future.

Coming Soon: Our favorite recently released “Contemporary Instrumental: Piano” and “Contemporary Instrumental: Multi-Instrumental” albums.

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