Bryan Rowe is not only a musician; he is a poet. Although Songs of the Soul arrives minus any lyrics, the words are illustrated through Rowe’s classically sculpted piano playing. It is a masterwork about life, death, and the renewal of the cycle. The record takes us through the seasons of the Earth – spring, summer, winter, and fall – as it relates to birth and the end of our years. It is an album that chills the heart with overwhelming feelings of loneliness and painful acceptance; in the end, we are left wanting to hold our loved ones next to us, to savor each of those precious moments.

Derek Jensen: What I have heard from you thus far seems to transcend the classical music category in the sense that I hear traces of jazz and soundtrack scores in there. You seem to compose your music without any stylistic boundaries while other classical composers may feel confined. Do you feel a sense of liberation when you write these pieces?

Bryan Rowe: The sense of liberation I feel is simply the product of what I have been feeling or focusing on “inside” and then hearing and seeing how that focus translates into music, the sole expression of those feelings and thoughts. I am, as any other human being, an amalgamation of all the experiences I have lived.  I never feel confined by any form or structure of music, but there is an underlying, logical construction of my music that is perhaps influenced by the classical genre. As a child, my parents listened to all types of music – I inherited their vinyl collection – every genre was represented.  I love soundtracks of movies, particularly those of Morricone and Barry. So all of those musical sounds, coupled with ones I call definitely “Rowe” do represent me as a composer who is naturally influenced by a wide spectrum of genre, including jazz.

Jensen: How do you convey your feelings through the writing of music?

Rowe: There is not much of a plan when I compose. What pours out of my being is essentially the expression of what I am trying to convey.  The piece, “I Lament You,” was written upon my father’s passing just a few years ago. I cannot  express to you how “deep” that piece goes for me.  Sometimes it is utterly painful to hear or play it, but that is what the music is about; it is the conduit of my emotions and experiences.  The music I just wrote for my daugther’s wedding expresses the joy and euphoria of falling in love and the celebration of committing one’s self to another.  The music is grand but dance-like.  So there is no magical formula.  I simply compose what my mind and heart collaboratively decide to convey based on what has influenced me emotionally.

Jensen: There is pain but also acceptance on Songs of the Soul. If you don’t mind, please tell us the story behind the album.

Rowe: Songs of the Soul was recorded in a single take with no music in front of me.  I mention this because the collection expresses an emotional outpouring of  “loss” and “forgiveness” and is based on life events.  The first release of the album was based on my experience of the ending of a marriage and the stages of emotion that naturally accompanied that part of my life.  So it is easy for the listener to comprehend why I titled pieces as I did.  The second release of the album, just last year, was motivated by the losses of my grandmother, mom and dad, and father-in-law, all within 18 months.  Through that span of time, dealing with parents’ illnesses, caring for them, and literally experiencing their deaths was gut wrenching, just as the divorce was for me in the ’90s.  I thought it appropriate to re-release the album with new artwork that expresses the intimacy and personal tragedy of losing someone, and in my case, four important people in my life.

Jensen: Songs of the Soul was recorded in the ’90s. How have you evolved as a musician since then?  

Rowe: When I listen to Songs of the Soul and compare it to the music of Spiorad or even the recent wedding music for my daughter’s wedding, there is for me a marked sense of evolving and maturing into a composer in which there is a sense of “getting to the point” of the music, putting that melody out there and being more economical in my use of notes to do just that.  Living through what life has presented me since the ’90s has naturally contributed to my bank of experiences; so without question I am still evolving into my own as a composer and pianist. And, these life experiences have, I believe, refined my skills as a builder of melodies that  express more intimately than ever those experiences that I have been blessed with by life itself.

Jensen: Growing up, was it always classical music for you? What other forms of music hooked you in during those years?

Rowe: As mentioned previously, my parents always had music playing in the house.  My dad was a very gifted guitar player; he loved Chet Atkins.  My three brothers and I, together with my father, had a band called The Impossibles. We played everything from the Everly Brothers and Nat King Cole to the standards of the ’60s and ’70s.  I even spent several summers during my college years as a cocktail pianist so I had all of “popular” repertoire memorized since I was a child.   My parents were also committed to the family attending church; all of the boys sang in choirs as children and continuing through our high school years. So I was naturally influenced by the music of the church, hence my classical bent.  While I enjoy classical music, I always thought, and still do, that I wanted to pursue my own music, never abandoning the classical background and the music that I grew up listening to and playing as a child with my family band. All of those experiences still contribute and are an integral part of  my evolving as a composer and musician.

http://www.bryanrowe.net

You might peg New Hampshire-based musician Deborah Wyndham as a jazz pianist at first; after all, her album Tenderly radiates with the soulfulness of jazz. However, there is a crystalline elegance to her playing that more than suggests the spectre of classical music. If the idea of listening to another album of piano covers bores you to tears, you might want to hear Wyndham’s work to see it done well.

Julian Wilson: How long have you been playing the piano?

Wyndham: On and off for about 20 years, professionally for eight. As a teen I didn’t play much at all and almost forgot how to play once. Thankfully that didn’t happen, but I was barely hanging on by one thin thread called “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Wilson: What were the compositions that you learned first?

Wyndham: Some kind of march, I can’t remember, but my teacher didn’t mess around and soon had me playing Bach.

WIlson: What is the jazz scene like in New Hampshire?

Wyndham: What jazz scene? (Laughs.) Well, Boston is where you’d go for live music if you’re in New Hampshire, and I think they do a pretty good job there. I recently saw some big names and of course there is a lot of popular music schools in the area.

Wilson: What other genres of music do you listen to?

Wyndham: Currently, I listen to mostly mellow stuff like ’70s soft rock. I like ethereal pop/rock music, European bands, and jazz fusion, but mostly older stuff, not much past 1985. I’ve listened to very little jazz and like listening to silence since I play so much.

Wilson: Are you considering diving into other styles?

Wyndham: Yes, even though I don’t play classical music and therefore fall more into the jazz category, I actually don’t consider myself a jazz pianist as in what jazz pianists are considered nowadays. My style has more of a classical sound, though, encompassing many styles including contemporary, jazz, and jazz-influenced modern classical (the best way to describe my own compositions).

http://deborahwyndham.com

Reviewed by Julian Wilson

LambBone/Wild Man

It took me a couple of spins to get the hang of LambBone. The self-proclaimed Wild Man of the title, John Lamb isn’t kidding around. Wild Man sounds like what Steely Dan would’ve recorded under the influence of some Summer of Love fumes. Lamb is out of control, slapping together parts of jazz, psychedelia (check out the spaced-out Moog on the title track), Beatles-esque classic rock, Latin pop, and funk. Yet, somehow, someway, Lamb manages to weave the car crash together into a quirky one-man symphony. And who said rock & roll has lost its power to stun, to surprise?

Thankfully, Wild Man is no exercise in studio-musician excess. Lamb isn’t throwing everything into the mix but the kitchen sink just for the sake of it. There are some terrific songs hiding beneath Lamb’s seemingly experimental collages of rhythm and melody. The enigmatic “Object of Desire” has an infectiously toe-tapping beat while the kiss-off “News” disguises its knife-sharp words with percolating tropical grooves. Even the instrumental, “John’s Theme,” moves the heart as well as the mind. It might take a little patience, but Wild Man rewards the ears with every listen.

http://www.lambbone.com

Reviewed by Julian Wilson

Mary Fakhoury/Universal Worlds

The Universal Worlds of Mary Fakhoury is probably referring to the stylish leaps on this five-track EP. Actually, Fakhoury does more than just hop from one style to another; it’s like she transforms into different artists completely, a chameleon who is even more unpredictable than David Bowie and Madonna. How so? Fakhoury opens the disc with a cover of the immortal “Someone to Watch Over Me”; personally, I’m burned out on this track, having heard it a million times and covered by just as many artists. However, I was captivated by Fakhoury’s vocal delivery. There is a prettiness to her longing that gives the moldy standard a fresh coat of polish. After the piano-laden French number “La Vie En Rose,” Fakhoury startles us with “El-Donia,” a Middle Eastern dance track with icy synthesizers and a spellbindingly ethereal beat. 

If the transition from American jazz to classic French pop to Arabic disco wasn’t jarring enough, Fakhoury enters the hip-hop field with “Playa in My Life.” It’s on “Playa on My Life” wherein Fakhoury seems a little uncomfortable; it rolls like an experiment, an artist seeing what she is and is not capable of doing. One can see why it was done, but Fakhoury excels when the words and arrangements match the loving craftsmanship in her singing.

http://cdbaby.com/cd/fakhoury2