Saturday, December 8, 2012

It Won't Be Christmas Without You - John Visconti (featuring Jeff Twardzik)



A lot of people know that my dear friend John Visconti and I, have collaborated on some music and videos in the past. For a long time now, I've been wanting to work on a video for him for his Christmas song, "It Won't Be Christmas Without You", featuring the golden voice of Jeff Twardzik, and this last week, I've quietly pieced together this little video to tell a story with this song. :) John, just released his newest mix of the song today, and I asked him to send it over so I could wrap the video I was already working on, around it. He had no idea, till a little while ago, that I was doing this for him. Sometimes I love surprises. So, here it is and I hope that you all enjoy it! It's become one of my favorite Christmas songs. :) 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Morgen La Civita - Who I Am


Morgen La Civita - Who I Am
Independent Spotlight

I've known Morgen La Civita for a few years now, through musical social sites as a musician and more so as a friend.  She has one of the most soulful and heartfelt voices I have ever heard.  I own her first two albums "From the Basement" and "Old Souls", each being excellent albums, standing on their own as masterpieces sung by this grand voice.  

Just over a week ago, she released "Who I Am"; a collection of solo piano pieces recorded live in studio.  This release covers the finest songs I believe that she has written to date.  I love to listen to Morgen from time to time, when I want to get away from it all and get lost in the stories that she paints with her lyrics, but with the release of "Who I Am", I get taken to a whole different and greater level of emotion.  

From the title track at the start of this album ("Who I Am") all the way to the end with "There Are Angels", you are taken on a great journey of various joys, trials and tribulations through well crafted songs that make you sit back and take in all their glory in simplicity of a voice and a piano.  I have a hard time latching on to a favorite only because I love every song on this release.  What really takes me over the top is the piano playing, because it is so perfectly done for each track.  Every accompaniment is absolutely beautiful and has an emotive quality all its own.  

Listen to the lyrics to these tracks and take in the feelings that Morgen is pouring on the page as she is writing these songs.  "Who I Am", "I'm Okay" and "Pretty Marie" make me well up every time I heard the original versions.  Now they make me feel the lyrics deeper than before.  I believe this change is brought about by the intimacy of singing with a solo piano.  

This is the prettiest singing that I've heard in a long time.  When Morgen sent me this album, I listened to it about 20 times that afternoon, and played it over and over in the car last week until I picked up a new album by Jennifer Thomas.  Both different but beautiful releases.  Today I've returned to Morgen's album, because it is resonating with how I feel at this moment.  I absolutely love the lyrics to "Who I Am" because it's such a powerful song.     


Here is a clip from Morgen's first release "From the Basement" showcasing her bio and accomplishments. 

Morgen La Civita had already made her mark in the world of radio and television voice overs, as well as commercial copy writing, when she made the transition to songwriting.

In only 2 years, she has been featured on 20 albums, has had several songs licensed by various music publishers and has received Radio airplay on major market stations, including WWOZ in New Orleans, Jazz88 in San Francisco and NBC's "Good Morning New Orleans".

Her fusion of Americana, Folk, Blues and World Music, which
she uses to tell the musical equivalent of campfire ghost stories, gives her an edgy and unique sound in today's increasingly competitive market.


Her EPK reflects, both her personal style as well as her ability to collaborate in other genres of music.  

Socially conscious, Morgen provides specialized music, for causes close to her heart. This has earned her the reputation of being not only unaffected, but genuinely down to earth and easy to work with, a fading quality among today's rising stars.

Morgen has a home studio where she writes, records and mixes all her music with her Grammy winning partner Jake R. Tanner.

As with any independent release, I'll tell you to please purchase the album from the artist.  And for the price of $7 on her website, this is a bargain for such an awesome collection of beautifully crafted tracks.  This is worth skipping the venti-5-shot-vanilla-soy-latte any day. 

Please visit Morgen's website to purchase this release.
You can catch more of Morgen on ReverbNation
Watch videos on her performing on her YouTube Channel 
And join her fan page on Facebook

"Old Souls" can be purchased through Amazon.com

If you listen to the album on Bandcamp, listen to another one of my favorite tracks from "Who I Am" titled "Pretty Marie"...enjoy.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jennifer Thomas

Jennifer Thomas - Illumination
Independent Spotlight

In my 30 years of playing piano and listening to beautiful piano music, I have come across many piano players that have dug deep into the inner recesses of my soul and brought me to a peaceful place where I can escape the daily grind.  Okay, so that was a little melodramatic, but the point is that there is nothing like a good piano CD to take you on a journey and away from your cares and woes.  This album tops them all.  Don't get me wrong, David Lanz, Robin Speilberg, Peter Kater, Kostia, Secret Garden, Kevin Kern and Yanni all have their place in my heart, but there is a new brilliant and wonderful player taking place at the top of the list: Jennifer Thomas.  

I don't know how to describe the magic that I heard in every piece of music on the album "Key of Sea".  Its like a journey played through a beautiful phrasing that crosses over classical boundaries into the New Age and World Music genres.  I recently went to Jennifer's Facebook page to see what was going on with her new release.  I listened to samples of her upcoming 2012 release, "Illumination", and was floored.  

I was first introduced to Jennifer back in 2010 when I heard a song that she had posted on OurStage in one of their instrumental competitions.  Immediately I was hooked.  Sadly, it was a time when I was out of work and could not afford CDs or MP3 albums.  I had put her album on a wishlist at that time.  Seeing and hearing the upcoming release reminded me that I had it on a wishlist for almost 2 years now.  So I purchased the album around the April time frame and had wanted to write the review around "Key of Sea" but time gets away from you sometimes when you want to write.  It is now late July and I had just purchased "Illumination" from Amazon.  I downloaded the album from Amazon in the parking lot of my favorite breakfast spot right onto my phone and hooked it up to my car stereo.  When I pressed play and put the car into gear and started driving away from my parking spot, I was transported from the daily grind of an hour car ride to work, into a whole other world.  I literally don't remember the drive into work.  All I remember is this album.  I purchased this on Friday the 27th, and its is all I have listened too since that date.  Both albums are amazing, and I have to give the tracks to "Key of Sea" some light of day at some point, but I just can't stop playing this new release. It's that good.  

Two words to describe this album: Epic passion!

Track Review:

  1. √Čtude for the Dreamer - This song makes me want to put on my running shoes and get back in shape.  Why? Because it motivates me.  It's epic nature makes me want to reach for that goal that I am aspiring to reach.  This is great theme music for life and the pursuit of happiness. Every time I listen to this, it puts me into the right frame of mind.  
  2. After the Storm - As I see the clouds parting, the rain ending and the sun shining through again onto someone who is standing atop a cliff looking out over the ocean and pondering life.  Again, another visionary and powerful song.  I feel like I'm transported onto a movie set at the end of a happy moment in time.
  3. Illumination - This is the title track.  Very strong and emotive again.  I can nature blooming all around me, everything awakening, life in all of its glory.  This song and this album are a grand re-awakening.  This is one of those experiences that will move you, if you are open to it while listening.  Listen within the music, not to its structure, but its passion and emotion. 
  4. Gymnopedie No. 1 -  This is the most beautiful version of Erik Satie's music, that I have ever heard.  
  5. New Life - This song starts out so tender and soft.  I love the mix of violins with the piano climbing and the mild percussion in the background.  Its painting another picture of a child being born.  From the moment of anticipation to the birth at the end.  The child pauses and connects with the mother and then takes in the world around them. Brilliant.
  6. Beyond the Summit - I feel like I just climbed to the top of the mountain and am now looking out over the grand vistas and the eagles flying through the valley rising up to the sky again.  What a great picture this paints.
  7. Into the Forest - I love the female vocals on this song and the didgeridoo that floats in from time to time.  I feel like I'm running through the forest as the rest of the forest runs and plays with me.  
  8. Secrets - The first time I heard the opening to this song, I had shivers running down my spine.  Very romantic, very touching and it hits an emotional side of getting in touch with your inner self.  Then it takes you down the rabbit hole and into a whole other world that just bursts with color and sound and all sorts of fantastic creatures playing.  It paints a beautiful storybook world for me. 
  9. Toccata and Fugue - Again Jennifer takes me on a journey and turns a grand Bach piece into an epic interpretation. 
  10. Rainforest - Birds flying between the branches of the trees, spider monkeys jumping from branch to branch, tribal rhythms showing their love and respect for Mother Earth, rain falling heavy, flowing from creek to stream to river.  Life ebbing and flowing.  Awesome song.  
  11. Fire Dance - I'm being transported to Spain, to a flamenco dance being performed by two very talented dancers throwing their hats into the ring and squaring off with each other, till they twirl and dance their way into a passionate embrace.  Very romantic and powerful at the same time.  Taking a breath for only a moment before ending in a fury of fire. 
  12. Pachelbel's Canon (a Duet) - an enjoyable and beautiful version of this popular song.  I like the addition of the drum and how the theme builds, and then the change occurs at the two minute mark.  This transports me to the more traditional and builds upon itself.  Around the three minute mark it turns into an epic piece of music.  I've never really been a huge Pachelbel Canon fan, but this takes me to different places within the structure and has actually brought me into liking this piece of music again.  Not since I heard David Lanz do his rendition on "Return to the Heart", have I heard a version of this song that has made me feel "at home" again. 
  13. Across the Starlit Sky - The first time I heard this song, it actually made me tear up.  Getting lost in the beauty of our sky at night, out in the middle of nowhere, brings peace to anyone's world.  It makes all the problems of our lives fade away, when we realize just how tiny we are in this existence we are in.  You can feel the wonder and love in this song. This has become my favorite track on the album.
  14. Requiem for a Dream - This song has always been a favorite and even more so now.  What a grand version!  I love her interpretation of this theme.  Its so moving and perfect.
  15. Sonata Minore - Another very emotional piece of music that is just so pretty and moving.
  16. Eventide - while Across the Starlit Sky has become my favorite track, this is right alongside it.  I say these two tie for first.  Again, the peace that this song brings, is indescribable.  Kelley Marie Johnson plays some of the most beautiful violin I have heard in a long time on this song.  This is just a stunningly beautiful song.  Tugs on the heartstrings within the first couple of notes and all the way through the song.  
  17. New World Symphony - What a way to end an album.  Jennifer plays an awesome violin solo on this track that takes my breath away.  Just one simple word:  WOW.  Just kick back and listen and take it in.  WOW.  

All the tracks of the album are just heavenly.  I can't say this enough, buy this release, support independent artists like Jennifer Thomas.  Attend their concerts when they are performing and help them bring new music to the masses by turning other people onto their latest releases.  Go to jenniferthomasmusic.com and click on the link to purchase her CDs or MP3s and get lost in the paradise of her compositions.  Oh and make sure you pick up "Key of Sea" as well!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Seasons Come

Seasons Come  This is my latest album.  Its a preview.  Not finished yet, but listen and enjoy. :)


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nils Rurack - Slightly Off Center

Nils Rurack - Slightly Off Center
Independent Spotlight


I was first introduced to Nils when I heard him collaborate with two other friends of mine from Broadjam, Peter Olach (JACK the Blues) and Morgen La Civita.  He struck me as a very talented lead guitarist and composer.  I heard some great blues and hard rocking leads out of Nils that were very powerful, but there was this underlying genre trying to peek out from behind the rock roots.  

Recently, Nils tagged me in a post on Facebook asking me to review his latest effort.  A collection of Jazz and Jazz Fusion instrumentals that he had recorded recently and over the years.  If anyone knows me, I love to review music from people who love to make music.  So I waited for the appropriate time to listen and when I could give full focus to the material.  And while listening to this album, I finally figured out what genre was peeking from his other tracks.  This is where I heard the true beauty of Nils' talent shine through and I can't recommend this collection highly enough.  I know that he is planning to release this album as a release soon, so I will update information on here at the time of that release, as to where you can purchase this CD/MP3 collection when it comes out.

I have been a huge fan of the band Gamalon for years.  Especially their release entitled "Ariel View" which I have written about on this blog.  Another favorite Jazz fusion album from my past is Rob Mullins "One Night In Houston", especially the song "Polka Dot Dress".  What I hear in this album from Nils is both of these fusion powerhouses.  I've listened to plenty of jazz and jazz fusion since the 90s, but nothing has sparked my love of the genre since these two albums, like this album from Nils has.  The skill of playing, the great compositions of the songs, the power behind each track, is just incredible.  Can you tell I loved this?

Below is my track by track review of the album.  


World of Phreaks - What a great feel this track has.  Brilliant fusion.  Very original and driving.  Great opening track.  Strong and vibrant.

Al Dente - I'm digging the clean and sustained lead.  I always love songs that have a composition like they are climbing to a peak of a mountain.  Scaling...pardon the pun.  Great track.  I love how Nils' ends this song.

JC - This song features the excellent saxophonist Dave Frank.  The keys are awesome.  The song is nicely constructed.  I'm definitely hearing flavoring of Rob Mullins in here.  I hear some Steely Dan and Larry Carlton too, and that's a good thing.  I love the heavy lead guitar toward the end.  A kick ass song!

Rhodes Rage - This one flows in an extremely funky way.  I really dig the Rhodes.  Strong snare driving the beat and just another great track.  I love how Nils pieces together the phrasings in his songs.  One section leads to another and each flows in its distinctive Jazz mix.  This takes me back to 70s Jazz/Funk/Fusion.

Eleven - This kicks some major ass all the way through.  Pure and simple.  One of my favorite songs on this album.  No other words here, except, just listen and enjoy.

Fishies - I love this track. Very smooth intro with the drums kicking a nice groove.  This one definitely takes me some place outdoors, cruising along a beach highway, convertible top down, sun setting in the distance... yeah, I need a glass of wine with this one.  The mix is perfect and the tonal quality of the guitars is excellent.

Funky Farm - Again, Dave Frank is kicking my ass with that sax.  Nice runs together with the guitar.  This song kicks ass! :)  There are some seriously powerful moments in this song.  Another favorite track on this album.  

Wok - Nice drive back to a groove.  I love the way this goes back and forth between driving guitar and softer jazz guitar.  This also has become a favorite track.  I had to listen to this 4 times before I moved on to the next one. 

October Day - This is a great title for this track.  It takes me to an October day.  Fall colors, leaves falling, winds picking up, temperatures changing, darker days, it captures it nicely.  I love where this goes.

It's All Wrong - No, its all right. This guitar sings, no, really, it does.  Nice breaks between the sections, and nice tie-backs with the drum breaks. Loving the wah/tremelo on the backing guitar.  The lead not only sings, it walks and talks.

247365 - I like this song.  Strong opening.  I love the switch-up and then to the bass break.  Great chicken strut (Jagger style) at the halfway point.   

I think this is some of the best Jazz I've heard in years and I've listened to a lot of stuff in the last 20 years.  


Update 2-23-2014: 
The album is now available for purchase and download from CDBaby:  Here is the link to this great album. Please go and buy this, and support independent artists who work very hard at releasing their material, like Nils has.  You can also purchase his latest release "Thrillseeker" at CDBaby as well.  Another stellar album that deserves a review from me soon.

 "Slightly Off Center" (CDBaby)

"Thrillseeker" (CDBaby)
 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Jango

Jango

It's time for me to share a favorite way that I share my music with new listeners: Jango

 If you have not checked out this valuable asset in music marketing, then think about trying it out for a couple of months and see how many email addresses, comments and new fans you get from that short period of time. I was always doubtful of whether my music would be listened to by a broader world-wide audience and if it would even be liked. Since joining Jango I have received many emails to let me know just how much some people appreciate and love what I produce. They have even bought CDs, downloaded tracks and watched videos that I have created.

There are a great set of statistical analysis tools, marketing and promotion tools that will help you reach greater audiences. I'm only tapping just a little bit of what this site has to offer. If you gig you can promote your upcoming events. Jango is also working on a way to help artists license their music.

What's nice, is the ability to target your audience to people who are listening to specific artists. This allows you to hone in on that person who you most sound like and let the person who is listening to that artist be turned on to your material.

Yes Jango is pay to play, but its a great investment. If you sign up through SonicBids or a few other sites, you get loyalty credits. If you spend $30 a month, you'll get 1000 credits plus the 200 loyalty credits. That's a pretty fair shake for a month worth of 1200 people listening to your songs. I yield about 25 to 50 brand new fans each month. The traffic to all my sites has picked up 10 fold since I've signed up with Jango. I have more email addresses now that I ever did. Plus I have a great tool for sending out promo information about upcoming releases when they occur and just staying in touch with my fans.

Dig in, try it out. There is a free trial of 100 credits (song plays), so what does it hurt to even do that? If you sign up, you have options after the trial, of purchasing some manual credits or having an auto-fill monthly option. This way, it works for you when you want it too and under your budget.

I'm inviting you to join below. When you invite other musicians to join, then you are able to receive credits as a bonus too, but only if the person signs up for the paid service. If you decide to do this, then great, we both get something out of the deal. If you don't; at least try the free service, so that you can get your music out into the world. I have over a 1,000 new fans this last year and they are from all over the world. Its a great way to meet some new people and share your gift of your music.

Click here: Jango

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shy - Shy

As I sit here and listen to this masterpiece of melodic metal, I can't help to think what a tragedy befell this band in October of 2011. The guitarist extraordinaire, Steve Harris (not to be confused with the bassist from Iron Maiden), died from a brain tumor. He leaves behind a 13 album discography that spans almost 30 years. I loved this band in the 80s and still do.  When I heard this latest offering last year, I was floored. The songwriting on this album is well crafted. Great lyrics with excellent guitar playing and the powerful voice of Lee Small.

Some of the greatest highlights from this album are, "Save Me", "Sanctuary" and "Blood On the Line". The latter being one of my favorite tracks. This song just rocks from beginning to end. The riff at the end of the song is just killer as well as the chord structure in the last few minutes. You'll find yourself banging your head up and down with the horns up in the air as they come out of that last solo. "Sanctuary" is an epic song, from beginning to end. The bluesy lead guitar work through the whole song and the fist pumping power after the intro, just remind me of standing in front of a stage at a concert and screaming songs like this at the top of my lungs, banging my head to the band.

All of the songs on this release are great and the hooks in each track are reminiscent of the glory days of the late 80s, when this style of music ruled the airwaves and it took us away from our everyday worries and cares.

If the band or the family ever reach this little review, I hope they know how much this album means to one of its fans. Steve will be sorely missed, but his legacy lives on in a masterpiece that I will listen to quite a bit over the rest of my years. I just love this album! RIP Steve Harris, thank you for rocking us all!

Please support Shy by purchasing their music from Amazon or iTunes

Visit their official website.

Blood On the Line




Sanctuary

Seventh Wonder - The Great Escape



This is one of my favorite progressive rock releases for 2011. Hands down, some greatest songwriting, storytelling, singing, arranging and musicianship I have heard in years. I have listened to this album a countless times this year. There are some moments of grandeur here that just shine an immense brightness on this band. "Alley Cat" is one of those tracks that has a catchy progressive rock hook that I have not heard in a chorus in a very long time. 


The talent in this band is very technique oriented with a strong sense of emotion.  This is something that is lacking in some progressive rock bands who chase the "angry chipmunk" with their flashy chops.  Not with this band. The bass player, Andreas Blomqvist, is a monster on the six-string bass and Tommy Karevik has one of those voices that just pierces the veil when he sings. I don't know how else to describe his vocal style, except that he is one of the purest tenors I've ever heard sing outside of Jon Anderson of Yes.

"The Great Escape" is an epic prog-tale of 30 minutes which is an ode to a dying Earth. The song starts with our Earth Mother singing her song of sorrow to us as we leave her behind to die. Just that piece of the song alone has a power in its lyrics that bring a tear to your eye. I kid you not. I loved the melody line so much when I first heard this piece, that I had to look up the lyrics. When I read the story behind the album and this song, it brought a tears to my eyes. A very profound statement on how we are destroying our planet and for what.

I can honestly say that there is not a bad track on this album. The harmonies are excellent as well as the music itself. I look forward to listening to this album many more times in the future and cannot wait for new music to come from these gentlemen. Please support bands like this and purchase their music.

Official Site: Seventh Wonder


Buy this album at Amazon.com or iTunes

The Great Escape:




Alley Cat: