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 “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.”

Review of the Album “Safe In Your Arms” by Scott Cossu

December 29, 2015 by Admin

imageScott Cossu, an internationally acclaimed composer, pianist, and recording artist, was born is West Virginia, in 1951. When he was very young, his family moved to the small town of Greenfield, Ohio, where he grew up with his younger brother and two younger sisters. When he was 11 years old, Scott’s father brought home a small grand piano. His parents believed it would be good for the girls. But Scott surprised everyone when he was the one who ended up taking lessons, showing not only talent, but dedication. His solid study of music really began as he studied classical music with his high school piano teacher. He took three piano lessons a week and played for many hours in the evenings on a grand piano at a local church.

He graduated from high school in 1969, eventually attending the Ohio University School of Music. While a student there, he was the keyboard player for a rock group, had his first television exposure, and learned to be disciplined about practicing piano, theory and composition. Music had become the center of his life and he knew that it would be the focus of his future.

While at Ohio University, he also met a teacher that would become the biggest influence on his music career. The teacher was Hamza El Din, who offered a class in the music of Africa. Hamza had immigrated to the US from Sudan, and became a traveling professor at several Universities in the US and Japan, teaching Ethnomusicology (the study of World Music). Hamza was just as impressed with Scott, as Scott was with him. Hamza recommended that Scott travel out west to study Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington. Off he went and then spent the next two years at Washington learning the music of Thailand, Sudan, Korea, China, Romania and Ecuador. And his new love of World Music would also send him on a three month long research trip to the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. He would hike up into the mountains to record the villagers that played ancient music on the Hoja. The Hoja is a leaf from a fruit tree that is blown into by curling it a certain way. It sounds like a reed or brass instrument.

The result of blending World Music with his jazz and classical background resulted in a new style that was unique and hard to categorize. He began to compose his own pieces and perform locally on the weekends in the Seattle area.

imageIn 1978, Scott made a recording to document his many musical influences. It was called “Still Moments.” He originally made this recording as a gift for friends and family, but unexpectedly and surprisingly, it received a lot of radio exposure in Seattle, Los Angeles and other prominent west coast cities. Later that same year, the founders of the Windham Hill record label, Will Ackerman and Alex De Grassi, gave a concert at the University of Washington. Scott was also asked to perform. Ackerman and De Grassi saw Scott’s uniqueness and talent and suggested that when they got their label up and running, he might consider recording an album with them. In fact, Scott signed onto the Windham Hill label the same day as Michael Hedges and they both joined George Winston who was just new to the label himself.

Scott’s first record for Windham Hill, “Wind Dance,” released in 1981, was produced by George Winston and featured Alex de Grassi, among others. It was a big hit. The Boston Globe called it “a sparkling record.”

Then, in 1983, Scott released “Spirals,” with blues, Latin and jazz influences. “Islands” came out in 1984 and made it to #1 on the JAZZ National airplay list. It was also used as the music for David and Albert Maysles documentary film “Islands.” The film was about Christo’s (and Jeanne-Claude’s) 1983 public art exhibition “Surrounded Islands” for which they completely covered eleven scrub pine islands in Biscayne Bay, Florida, with 6.5 million square feet of bright pink fabric.

In 1986, Eugene Friesen joined Scott on “Reunion.” Not only did this album also soar to the top of the charts, but the track “Shepherds’ Song,” was used in the movie Chocolate War; and another track “Gwenlaise” went on to be so popular that it has been included on dozens of music sampler collections released by Windham Hill, BMG and Sony.

In 1987, some of New York’s finest musicians joined Scott on “She Describes Infinity.” Then, in 1989, Scott released “Switchback” which soared to #4 on the New Horizons Pick of the Year and made #1 on the Billboard charts. He became a popular artist in the concert circuits and by the end of 1989, he had sold out shows in Germany, England, Japan and Chile.

imageRight at the time that Scott was at the top of his career, with extensive radio play, glowing reviews and just as he was about to embark on a forty city world tour, he was struck by a car while crossing Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Fortunately, he was near UCLA Medical Center and went right into surgery. He had a severe traumatic brain injury. It was life threatening, required months of hospitalization, and several more months of intensive rehabilitation. It would take another couple of years for him to work through the memory loss which had even effected his recollection of some of his own compositions. With much love and support from family, friends and fans, Scott amazed his neurologist with a miraculous recovery.

Returning to the studio was an important step in his healing process. In fact, just eighteen months after the accident, Scott began writing new music and collaborating on a nature video about Mt. Rainer with the acclaimed producer Peter Roberts. Not long after, Scott, with Van Manakas at his side, was again touring — this time Spain, Alaska and Hawaii. And then, in 1992, “Stained Glass Memories” was released. For Scott, it a was a joyous celebration of recovery and powerful evidence that he had regained mastery of his musical language.

In the year 2000, Scott was honored with Ohio University’s Achievement in Music Award. It is given once a year to someone who has made outstanding contributions to music.

When the Windham Hill label was sold, Scott signed with the well-known distributor, Allegro-Music in Portland, Oregon and joined their Alula Visions music label. Since then, he has released “Emerald Pathway (2002),” “When Spirits Fly Again (2004),” and “Tides Between Us (2008).”

Scott has also been doing a lot of recording of music for television advertisements, film documentaries and nature videos. For example, in 2010, Allegro Music released a Blue-Ray/DVD, titled “Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky.” It is the work of the award winning photographer, Art Wolfe. It showcases 300 of his most amazing photographs, taken throughout the world. It is a high definition digital art show and the imagery is accompanied by the beautiful music of Scott’s CD “Emerald Pathway.”

Also in 2010, the world’s largest printed music publisher, Hal Leonard, put out a “Piano Solos for All Occasions Songbook.” Scott’s composition, “Purple Mountain” was included in this book. And he is in good company, since this book also included artists such as John Lennon, Beethoven, and Duke Ellington.

Nowadays, Scott spends most of his time composing, recording, performing, and kayaking, as well as giving lessons, (yes, he loves to have a few piano students). Also, in 2012, Scott went in a very different direction and released “Jazz, Boogie, and Deja Blues,” a superb, pure piano jazz, “jam session” album that is uptempo, upbeat, and way up on the “fun” scale.

With his background in classical music, blues, and jazz, and by incorporating elements of ethnic music from various cultures, Scott Cossu has unquestionably developed a truly distinctive, innovative, articulate, intelligent, and energized musical style.

imageFor the great impressionist painters (Monet, Renoir), their subject matter was typically “simple landscapes” en plein air (outdoors), using a basic palette of colors, and with an emphasis on depiction of light and its changing qualities. This effect was achieved using short and darting brush strokes and freely merged contrasting colors – so that the overall “impression” would take precedence over lines, contours, and details. In a similar way, Scott Cossu’s music creates simple sonic landscapes built around straightforward but innovative melodies, using a palette of contrasting instruments (e.g., keyboards, piano, guitar, flute) — often adding short, darting and seemingly improvised musical phrases — and with an emphasis on the implied impression, atmosphere, movement, and mood, rather than the mundane details of the soundscape.

On Scott’s most recent album, “Safe In Your Arms,” he has re-recorded seven of the most-requested pieces from his Windham Hill years, and added five new songs. The new works have the same “keyboard led,” acoustic supported, jazzy, improvisational, unpredictable, and at times mildly “chaotic” qualities that have become Scott’s signature sound. In sum, the album demonstrates that Scott is indeed an outstanding artist with a superbly honed sense of composition.

Scott is accompanied on the album by thirty year music partner, guitarist Van Manakas, alto flutist Ann Lindquist, and John Croarkin, who adds bass, concert flute, and harmonica

The album begins fittingly with the title track, a new work, which is well-crafted, moderate in tempo, and with a simple, but nonetheless memorable and catchy melody. Scott’s keyboard is magnificently supported by Manakas’ occasional electric guitar riffs, Scott’s own improvised acoustic piano phrases, Lindquist’s flute, and other electronic accents. With its overall “impression” of tenderness, it is easily one of our favorite tracks on the album.

One of the seven re-recorded tracks from Scott’s Windham Hill Days, “Angel Steps” is a keyboard and flute driven “lullaby” with noticeable improvisational jazz influences, light support by acoustic guitar, and masterful instrumental layering, creating a light, airy atmosphere. Again, the melody is fairly straightforward, but nevertheless clever and memorable.

“Fawn,” originally from Scott’s “Islands” album, is a slightly more up-tempo, flowing, and occasionally improvisational jazz influenced work, with a sweet melody, and exceptional layering of the instrumentation. Occasionally, some of the instrumental components (guitar, flute, acoustic piano) quite cleverly break off and go in a slightly different direction, only to rejoin with the main melody later on. With its quite beautiful “mood” of gentleness and playfulness, and its mildly unpredictable qualities, “Fawn” is another of our particular favorites.

image“Little Sunshine Girl,” another of Scott’s new works, features exquisite acoustic guitar contributions by Manakas in support of keyboards, piano and flute. Also with a simple, keyboard driven melody, this track does a exceptional job utilizing the simple palette of contrasting instrumental voices – as each moves to the front to have their short say, only to recede into the background as another voice steps forward to speak.

“Purple Mountain,” which originally appeared on Scott’s “Wind Dance” album nearly 35 years ago, is a bit more down tempo, and leaves a more reflective, emotional, and melancholy impression. In a manner similar to “Little Sunshine Girl,” it strikes just the right balance between “melodic” predictability, and the mild chaos of improvisation. Occasional spirited guitar accents from Manakas and short fluttering flute riffs are nicely integrated into an overall outstanding work. This is another of our favorites.

Another of Scott’s new songs, “Sweet Pea Lullaby,” has a strong piano opening, a beautiful keyboard driven melody, an outstanding blending of instrumentation (acoustic guitar and piano), and creates an overall impression of peacefulness and contentment. It is easily one of strongest overall tracks on the album and it is certainly our most favorite of the new works.

“Gwenlaise,” which was originally recorded in 1986, is re-crafted and re-recorded on this album as a magnificent trio for piano, guitar, and flute. It easily recaptures the magic of the original version — the magic that has made it Scott’s most well known work and definite New Age Classic – and one of our all time favorite pieces of music. With its powerful layered flute opening, distinctive and unforgettable melody, and superb integration of various instrumental voices, it easily stands out as the single best work on the album.

“A Child’s Eyes,” from the 1989 album “Switchback,” has a gentle, rolling quality, with various instruments occasionally serving as the lead voice, and with some particularly interesting and attention getting harmonica and guitar riffs by Croarkin and Manakas, respectively. Somewhat less melodic than other tracks on the album, and with more interweaving of instrumentation, it nonetheless achieves a decidedly “haunting” atmosphere that catches your attention and holds it.

Another of our particular favorites is “Christo’s Theme” originally from the “She Describes Infinity” album. It is probably the most melodic work on the album, with an especially strong opening, and much less improvisational qualities. It is also a particularly good example of Scott’s use of varied instrumental voices making short, seemingly improvised, clever, and perfectly placed expressive contributions that together suggest and build toward the overall impression left by music.

The album concludes with “Sanctuary,” also originally from the album “Switchback.” And what an ending! With a pronounced and more steady rhythm, much stronger jazz influences, an exquisite melody, and a strong equally well-spoken trio of instrumental voices (piano, flute, and guitar), “Sanctuary” is a magnificent way to cap off a stunningly magnificent album. We very highly recommend Scott Cossu’s “Safe In Your Arms.”

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