Merrill Collins is a composer, keyboardist, producer and publisher who holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. On her latest album, Ethereal Escapes: Echappées Ethériques II (a sequel to Echappées Ethériques), Collins plays grand piano throughout where she is once again joined by Laura Halladay on flute and Maksim Velichkin on cello. Combining classical music with contemporary improvisation, the trio musically interact with each other as if having a dialogue among sixteen compositions of which span an exact total of sixty minutes.

What We Hold Dear is the sixth solo album from composer and keyboardist, Timothy Wenzel. Comprised of twelve new age / contemporary instrumental pieces, Wenzel is once again joined by the talented violinist Josie Quick on most of the compositions, whose signature instrument and style of playing is an integral part of the soundscapes. Additionally, Jordan Schug plays cello on several pieces while Corin Nelsen mastered the album. Much of Wenzel’s music possesses a notable Celtic bent, while drum machines provide gentle backing rhythms on most of the compositions.

Having possessed a seemingly inexplicable fascination with ancient Egypt since childhood, I was particularly excited to receive Origin: One World Turning Project, Vol. 1 by Elise Lebec. With two piano-based recordings to her credit, including 2014’s Heart Song (one of my favorite albums of that year), this gifted pianist and composer ventures into markedly different and mesmerizingly exotic territory on her latest effort. Comprised of nine compositions inspired by ancient Egypt and the middle-east, Origin fuses traditional Arabic music with modern electronica and other western elements, which are often complimented by Lebec’s own ethereally haunting vocals. Joining her on this magnificent adventure are nearly forty guest artists, of which include Abu Zaed, Charlie Bisharat, Mai Mostafa, Mahmoud Marv Ellis, Sheikh Mahmoud El Tohamy and Turon Davis.

When I think of “space music” the first name that immediately comes to mind is Jonn Serrie. With an extensively impressive portfolio that includes award-winning film scores, projects for NASA and numerous concert performances at planetariums, Serrie’s pioneering brand of cosmic electronic music has spawned numerous protégés over the years and consistently remains the gold standard of its genre. Comprised of six compositions spanning just over an hour, The Sentinel is based on Stewart Cowley’s illustrated science fiction series of the late 1970’s that represents a virtual reality audio journey. On this intergalactic sojourn, the listener acts as the commander at the controls of a spaceship navigating the farthest reaches of the universe, guided along by state-of-the-art sound technology that feels incredibly life-like and three-dimensional. While Serrie’s extensive discography includes albums that range from world-flavored to spacy jazz, The Sentinel embodies the classic brand of electronic space music that he’s best known for and is styled in the mold of classics like And the Stars Go with You, The Stargazer’s Journey and Thousand Star.

Born in Portland, Oregon, Tom Grant is among the original pioneers of the smooth jazz genre, having enjoyed a longstanding and successful musical career going back to the 1980’s. In fact, I remember being quite enamored as a child with his hit, “If You Were My Girl”, from his 1988 Mango Tango album, which aired for years thereafter on my local smooth jazz radio station. Nearly three decades and a plethora of releases later, Grant is still expressing his artistic brilliance, this time with a beautiful recording aptly titled, Sipping Beauty. Comprised of ten original instrumentals spanning an hour, minimal smooth jazz is imbued with new age and ambient accents on this exquisitely lovely recording. A talented multi-instrumentalist, Grant plays piano, percussion, keyboards and synthesizers throughout. He is also accompanied by David Captein on bass (tracks 4 and 5) and sitar (track 9), along with Kevin Karrick on guitar (tracks 1, 7, 8 and 10). Mary Suzanne Garvey is credited with the album’s painting and poem in the liner notes.

Musical Nature is the recording alias of Rhode Island based electronic music composer Geoff Varosky. His latest album, Eavesdropping, features six compositions varying in length from seven to under nine-and-a-half minutes, which notably draw upon the ambient-techno style of music pioneered in the early 1990’s by electronica bands like The Orb and The Future Sound of London. Interweaving what could be described as free-floating background and foreground layers of synthesized textures and environmental field recordings, experimental beats and industrial nuances frequently lend both an edgy crunchiness and contrasting bit of chaos throughout.

Californian native and resident Gina Leneé is a classically trained pianist and composer who’s released a handful of albums since the early 2000’s. Her latest album, Red Diamonds, marks her first time working with Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, which was recorded at his Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. Comprised of ten compositions showcasing Leneé on piano, the album variably features guest performances throughout,which includes Ackerman on guitar, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello, Jill Haley on English horn, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn, Marc Shulman on electric guitar, Premik Russell Tubbs on electronic wind instrument and saxophone, Tom Eaton on fretless bass, guitar and vocals, and Noah Wilding on vocals.

Deep (subtitled Music to Heal the Soul) is the latest album by guitarist and composer, Adam Werner, whose signature fingerstyle guitar technique has often been compared to that of the late pioneering guitarist Michael Hedges. Comprised of twelve peacefully reflective and melodic compositions spanning forty-four minutes, the album includes alternating arrangements of both solo acoustic and ensemble pieces with subtle vocals in parts, which variably feature guest performances by Samite, Kris Tischbein, Ken Verheecke, Adam Howe, Michael Manring, Kentaro Otsuka, Jim “Kimo” West and Sydney Easton.

June 2017 playlists for our weekly one-hour programs

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