Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Multi-Instrumental Music Albums

September 25, 2014 by Admin

Below we present a list (not in any particular order) of our favorite Contemporary Multi-Instrumental Music albums released during the second three months 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 April, May or June of 2014, feature primarily multi-instrumental music, 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.


Mesa Verde Soundscapes – Jill Haley

Mesa Verde Soundscapes is the third album in a series of works from wind instrument virtuoso and accomplished pianist Jill Haley, and inspired by US National Parks. While serving for two weeks as an Artist-in-Residence at Mesa Verde, Jill composed various pieces of music based on the many sacred sites, cliff dwellings, and landscapes she saw there, as well as her imaginings of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived there. The music is rich, nuanced, and beautiful and includes members of Haley’s family on many of the accompanying instruments. Haley performs on piano, guitar, bass, oboe and English horn; Haley’s husband, David Cullen appears on guitar and bass; and her children, Dana, Graham, and Risa appear on horn, cello and viola respectively.

Jill has appeared as a studio musician playing oboe and English horn on many albums produced by other artists. In particular, she has been a frequent collaborator on various projects recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont. So it is not surprising that this CD was recorded there, and co-produced with studio wiz Tom Eaton, who mixed and mastered the album. The hardcopy CD package also includes a 15-page booklet with gorgeous photos of Mesa Verde taken by Jill to illustrate each of the 14 tracks. So it is well worth purchasing the physical CD package, and not just downloading the .mp3 files. Overall, Mesa Verde Soundscapes is an impressive collection of exceptional musical works that invite the listener to experience the incomparable beauty of Mesa Verde by way of masterful musical expression.

Simply Beautiful Collection – Laima Gaizutis
Laima’s parents always wanted her to play the piano. She was born in Lithuania and moved with her family to Cleveland, Ohio. She studied with pianist Andrius Kuprevicius at the Cleveland Music School Settlement at age six. Three years later she made her TV debut on a talent show. In high school she was the accompanist for all the musical events and won first place in piano competitions in Cleveland and Chicago. She graduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, with a B.M. in piano performance and theory. Later, she married and moved to Houston, Texas. Then, with the degree in hand, Laima began a career as a piano teacher and she continues to teach today – hoping to instill her students with the same passion for music that has been a part of her life.

In 1990, Laima got a digital piano as a Christmas gift from her husband. “THAT was the year the composer in me emerged. I was hearing music in my sleep and was jumping out of bed to write it down before I’d lose the melody. I would have to stop whatever I was doing so I could notate it. And so it began… I worked alone and also collaborated with various songwriters, which resulted in a bountiful collection of melodies and songs.”

“By 2013 I knew it was time to share…after all, why write if not to be heard? Each track of ‘Simply Beautiful Collection I ‘ has its own mood and instrumentation. I enjoyed varying the rhythms and the extra piano melody lines. Listen with closed eyes and be swept away by these music gems…”


Namaste Healing – Various Artists
Namasté Healing is a gathering together of inspiring and restorative musical works from several prominent contemporary instrumental artists who record on the Real Music label, including Liquid Mind, Kevin Kern, Kenio Fuke, The Haiku Project, Peter Kater, 2002, Bernward Koch, and Sacred Earth, among others. While some of the music presents a distinctly downtempo, ambient, and contemplative sound, other selections are more uplifting and energizing. And the overall album presents a good balance of the two styles. No matter what type of activity engages you while you listen, you will find sonic tranquility within the boundaries of this inspiring spiritual soundscape.


Uplifting Classical 2 – Gandharvak

Gandharvák is a small orchestra (19-20 members at any one time) based in Hungary and founded in 2011 by chamber drum artist and music teacher Róbert Takáts and conductor, music teacher and linguist Anikó Novák. Most of the orchestra members are both artists and teachers of their particular instruments. The name Gandharvák is taken from Hindu mythology and refers to the celestial musicians (gandharvas) who, at great festivals, would descend from heaven to entertain the people with their delightful music.

Uplifting Classical, a relatively new sub-genre of contemporary instrumental and world music has been created by and is best represented by Gandharvák. The word ’uplifting’ reflects the joyful, elated spirit of the genre, while ’classical’ refers to the fact that all pieces are composed for symphonic instruments first, with the modern chord and rhythm accompaniment added to it later. More specifically, the music is distinctly orchestral at its core (violins, violas, cellos, flutes, oboes, French Horns, English Horns, etc.), but with clear ethnic influences from Spanish, Celtic, Baroque, Renaissance, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Far Eastern traditional music, and more contemporary instrumental expressions and rhythms.

Uplifting Classical 2 is the second album of this style of music from Gandharvák; the first having been released in 2012. While this album is in many ways much better than the first, the blending of the classical and ethnic themes with contemporary styles and rhythms works better on some selections than on others. On “Sunrise” and “Flow”, for example, the mixture of different styles is magnificently integrated, but on others such as “Lancelot” and “Legions”, the distinctively traditional music cobbled together with overly prominent modern jazz/Rock percussion accompaniment and/or ill-conceived and ill-placed drum solos most definitely does not work. Nonetheless, on “Renewal”, which is aptly the last song on the CD, it all seems to come together with a brilliant integration of Celtic dance music with Classical undertones, a modern Celtic fusion feel, and traditional acoustic instrumentation, that invokes in the listener imagery of a substantial line if Irish Step Dancers hoofing across a stage somewhere.


Ritual – Peter Kater & R. Carlos Nakai
Legendary musical artists R. Carlos Nakai (Native American flute, eagle bone whistle, chanting) and Peter Kater (piano) reunite for their first collaboration in over ten years. They are joined by much-acclaimed reed player Paul McCandless (soprano sax, oboe, and English horn) along with talented cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and vocalist Trisha Bowden. Ritual is a wholly improvised recording that doesn’t feel like one, and features exceptionally beautiful and spiritually expressive music. Kater states (in the liner notes) “It is an offering and invitation for us all to meet in this place of pure beingness that transcends time, duality and concept. It is an expression of the totality and gift of each moment and the awareness that the experience of this journey is its own reward.”

Sometimes uplifting and joyful, other times somber and reflective, the music is, for the most part, unapologetically downtempo, drifting, meditative, and sometimes dreamlike. Throughout, the music reflects the instinctive connectedness that the players have with each other, even as one steps into the spotlight and the others recede into the shadows. As Bill Binkelman of the Zone Music Reporter puts it, this music shows “a melding of intelligence with heart, a musical hybrid that speaks to both the listener’s mind and the listener’s soul.” The physical CD package is also accompanied by some exceptionally beautiful artwork.

UPDATE (December 6, 2014): We learned today that this album has been selected as one of the nominees for the Grammy Award for the Best New Age Music Album for 2015.


Waiting For Yesterday – Myristica

From East Sussex, UK-based composer, Mei-Ling Grey, started writing music at a young age after discovering piano at three years old. Her parents fueled her passion for writing her own melodies by encouraging her to perform, at the age of 12, in summer concerts at school. She began writing music under the pseudonym, ‘Myristica’ in 1998. After taking a break to concentrate on her family she started composing again in 2011. Since then she has gone on to compose three instrumental albums featuring gentle, spacious, melodious, and other-worldly piano instrumentals, lightly orchestrated and infused with Celtic and Medieval passages. This particular album is dedicated to her father, who spent many years in the British Royal Navy. It is her musical interpretation of his memories at sea as a young sailor, thousands of miles away from home. Through her melodious piano vignettes and ambient soundscapes, Myristica translates her father’s tales of beautiful sunsets, the friendships he made on-board, and the experiences that he gained while sailing around the world. Guest artists include Phil Thornton and Chris Philpotts.

Arctic Sunrise – Kerani

This is the third album from Holland’s pianist and composer Kerani, and is inspired by the austere beauty of the desolate Arctic – the long awaited Arctic Sunrise, the Majestic Aurora Borealis, the legends and culture of the native Inuit peoples, and the spirit, bravery and unimaginable sacrifices of polar explorers such as Knud Rasmussen, Roald Amundsen, and Col. Robert Falcon Scott, the last of whom, along with his crew of four, perished in the unbelievably harsh conditions of one of the last true wildernesses on Earth. While the music has “electronic” elements (but not overly so), Kerani brings warmth and depth to the music with her delicate and captivating piano segments, the use of a quintet of musicians playing acoustic instruments (cello, flute, horn, guitar, violin), as well as ethereal, whispering voices for added mystery. There’s an intensely spiritual essence to everything here–a deep appreciation for the awe and wonder of the icy world of the Arctic.

Coming Soon: Our favorite albums released in the third quarter of 2014.

Our Favorite Recently Released Contemporary Solo Instrumental Music Albums

August 13, 2014 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 second three months 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 April, May, or June 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 four albums from several 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.


Hidden Treasures – Hans Christian
Passionate, sophisticated, and richly textured music with Hans Christian’s unmistakable cello as the lead voice. The music spans a four year creative time period in which Hans recorded various musical ideas and archived them for future completion. Featuring a strong orchestral blend of layered strings within a contemporary instrumental style production, the music ranges from gorgeous melodic structures to deeply felt emotional renderings on solo cello. Hans Christian fans in particular will be extremely pleased with his breathtakingly beautiful and carefully crafted performances on Together We Were, Cathedral Of Tears (recorded inside Chartres Cathedral in France), and I Lift Up Mine Eyes.

Bare Wood – Ottmar Liebert
Originally born in Cologne, West Germany, Ottmar Liebert began playing classical guitar at 11, and flamenco guitar at 14, after he “found a Flamenco LP in the bargain bin at a local supermarket”. As a young adult, he moved to Boston where he performed in various rock clubs. Then, after a few years, he settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he began to create an original musical sound. The result was a new, more accessible style of “Nouveau Flamenco” guitar that has netted him 38 Gold and Platinum certifications, five Grammy nominations, and the best selling Flamenco Guitar album ever.

Bare Wood is a compilation of pieces originally created between 2002 and 2012 by Liebert. However, for this album, all of the songs were completely re-crafted, remixed, and re-recorded. All electronic instruments and electronic sounds were removed from the original recordings, as well as anything that was not Flamenco guitar or cajon. Additional Flamenco guitar parts and upright acoustic bass parts were added for every piece. The result was an entirely new collection that expresses the essence, the soul, the “bare wood” of the music — with only light (handheld) percussion, stand up bass, and of course acoustic Flamenco guitar.


Moonsongs – Jonny Lipford
Jonny Lipford is an award-winning instrumentalist who specializes in music produced with various world flutes hand-crafted using wood and bamboo. His movements and melodies are done with such grace and agility, one can’t help but be engaged in his music. On this album he conveys the qualities of “the moon” and creates lush nightscapes, romantic melodies and deep introspection using Native American style, Persian, Mojave and Irish flutes.

Guitars – Stamatis Spanoudakis

Stamatis Spanoudakis – Σταμάτης Σπανουδάκης – is a modern Greek classical composer. Early on he studied classical guitar, went through a rock music phase, but then continued classical studies at the Würzburg State Conservatory with Bertold Hummel and later in Athens with Konstantinos Kydoniatis. Over the past few years, he has followed a prolific, multifaceted and personal path in music that has included collaborations with the greatest singers in Greece, music for the cinema and television, but also ecclesiastical works of Byzantine music. In addition, he has performed at some of the greatest venues such as The George Enescu Hall of Bucharest and The Royal Albert Hall in London where he gained further international recognition for his work and gave international audiences the opportunity to experience his unique relationship with Greek music.

This album features a collection of musical pieces where Stamatis plays acoustic, amplified acoustic, and electric guitars in his unique melodic way “surrounded” by rich orchestration and choirs. While some of the works have a slight “traditional Greek music” feel to them, and a few others with decidedly “rock” qualities, most are multifaceted works that transcend cultural and musical boundaries, especially those that are largely acoustic. The result is a unique glimpse at this “hidden side” of the composer.

Coming Soon: Our favorite “Contemporary Instrumental: Piano” and “Contemporary Instrumental: Multi-Instrumental” albums released in the second three months of 2014.

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