Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In review--Skylarking

Tom Lellis & The Metropole Orchestra
Advenure Music

Jazz crooner Tom Lellis teams up with the 52-piece Metropole Orchestra of the Netherlands on Skylark-an album with a classic jazz sheen. Lellis offers a top-flight performance as his passionate vocals interpret Hoagy Carmichael's Skylark, Chick Corea's Straight Up And Down, Herbie Hancock's Tell Me A Bedtime Story, Tonhinho Horta's Mountain Flight and Antonio C. Jobim's Falando De Amor/Tema De Amor sung in sensual Portuguese. Lellis penned his own lyrics to the instrumental classics and included original material on three tracks.

The orchestra does more then lend its beautiful tones, timbres and colors. The arrangements soar, swirl and shoot stars around Lellis. Just listen to the use of woodwinds and brass on Carmichael's forlorn Skylark. Together the vocalist and orchestral musicians create a romantic and passionate atmosphere that could easily find itself as a soundtrack for Golden Era cinema.

Skylark was originally released in 2002, but I think its 2009 release comes at a good time since this music feels uplifting and would help to relieve listeners of depression due to the economy and other woes we currently face as a planet. In fact, the music is helping me lift myself out of my own despair. It acts as a balm, offers hope and has a tinge of nostalgia. More than an escape, the horns bring a sense of victory looming ahead, the vocals tackle despair, and the musicians giving their all, sends listeners zooming ahead with life.

The cited this album as a "stunning accomplishment", but I think this gorgeous vocal-centered jazz revisiting classic territory and backed by lush arrangements possesses a lot of healing potential. I personally find melodic jazz with positive lyrical content extremely healing. After all the big bands helped a lot of people pull themselves out of the Great Depression and WWII. And once again, jazz will help us get through another dark era so we can reach the other side.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In review--Shimmering Hummingbird Songs

Louie Gonnie with Branson Emerson
Rhythms Within a Turquoise Dream
Peyote Songs of the Native American Church
Canyon Records

Rhythms Within a Turquoise Dream is the third CD by Louie Gonnie that I have heard and reviewed. I feel that Gonnie possesses some wonderful spiritual and musical gifts to share with the rest of us, and on his latest recording, he shares uplifting emotions from one of his dreams. He wrote in the liner notes, "The idea for this album came from a dream I had. I wanted to convey that dream through these songs. The dream made me feel good and that is why I made this recording."

Gonnie, a Zuni-Dine tribal member and traditional musician grabs his inspiration from the natural world that surrounds him. On previous albums, mountains in four directions, and other natural elements inspired him. The peyote songs that appear here sport titles such as, Hopes and Dreams, Humming bird's Gift (I saw my first hummingbird of the year two days ago), and Turquoise Dream to name three. The songs possess a shimmering, dazzling quality that I have not heard in a peyote song prior. The traditional rattle, water drum and harmonized vocals take on some new elements such as Native American flute and whistles. The results are soothing and uplifting. In fact, this music feels healing and powerful to me. The birds outside seemed to enjoy it as well, which is a good thing since in a weeks time, the poor birds will have to deal with fireworks and firecrackers (not exactly peaceful).

I would also like to add that traditional Native American musicians often learn their chants, drumming and songwriting early in life through an oral tradition. They learn how to perform this music, especially prayer chants and peyote songs through elders, often their own parents or grandparents. It takes years of learning and dedication as well as, healing intent and integrity to reach the level of a musician like Louie Gonnie. Therefore when you listen to music from Native American or any tradition, please bring along your own integrity and respect. You will find by doing that, you will reap the healing powers of the music.

This is the type of recording that you play for yourself, your friends, the earth and all of its creatures. And if you would like to learn more about Louie Gonnie, his recordings, and his philosophies, go to and check out the I-Pod interviews. You can also visit

canyon records