In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a few of Christopher James’ recent albums, “Grace from Persistence” and the most wonderful, “Better Days: Music for Small Ensemble.” I can’t say we would be able to categorize these two as typically “New Age,” and in the same light, the album, “A Rose In The Canyon” is decidedly “Jazz.” But Christopher James is a brilliant composer and musician in every direction, so here we are again.
Here is a little about Christopher from his bio, so you can have a better understanding of this album: Christopher James Roberts is an ex-CEO of Universal Music Group’s Classical and Jazz division. He’s also an accomplished classical pianist with a B.A. in Music and German Literature. He did his graduate studies in Musicology at the University of Illinois. Traveling to Germany for post-graduate research, he stayed there for several years and composed and produced music for the film and television industry there.
This album is 8 tracks and about 43 minutes. The compositions were initially improvised by Christopher at his piano and then sent to the orchestrators and collaborators to add their magic. As well, there were four live recording sessions that took place at Power Station Studio A in New York City. It’s important to understand that these are full orchestrations here, with a huge list of well, known, impressive collaborators – like Gil Goldstein, Rob Mathes, and Bob Stark – which I will include at the end of this review, so you can get an idea of how epic a production this is. That said, there is one big element that shines radiantly through in the entirety of the album, and that is simply the pure joy there is in creating music, for perhaps no other reason than simply creating music.
The album opens with “The Enigmatic City.” There is some very nice jazzy piano here along with smooth and silky orchestration. (Bob Stark). It all flows beautifully and leads us into the journey. What is a (blue) rose doing in a barren canyon anyway? Among other things, one might interpret it mainly to be unexpected hope.
“Adjunct/Disjunct” follows. This is uplifting, fun, and fabulously orchestrated. (Gil Goldstein). “Blue in the 2nd Degree” is light, elegant, and a favorite. “Saudade” (Longing) is just sweet and lovely in every way, as the title implies.
Quinn Martin was one of Hollywood’s most successful producers of action-adventure series for television. And “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” was a song written by Bob Dylan in 1967. As I understand it, the song is about an Eskimo named Quinn who changes despair into joy and chaos into calmness and order. On this album, “The Mighty Quinn (Martin)” is probably about both. There is great build in this composition, along with a certain degree of suspense, as well as inherent tranquility. At almost 7 minutes, this is a wonderful song with twinkling, scintillating piano and the outstanding orchestration we find throughout.
“Baile de los Peros” has a jazzy “waltz” kind of feel. This is fun, happy, and melodic, with fabulous movement and a standout clarinet solo by John Nastos. “Dr. Blowhard Stumples” is light, yet with cinematic moods as well.
The album closes out with the title track. This is just gorgeous in every single way. Beautiful piano, graceful strings, and emotionally evocative, this is my ultimate favorite on this very enjoyable album from Christopher James, who I find to be a fascinating and brilliantly creative artist. More please.
Release date August 19, 2022. (Val Gardena Music).
Official artist website where you may listen and pre-order: http://christopherjamesmusic.net/
The huge list of collaborators:
Gil Goldstein – Piano/ Conductor
Cole Davis – Acoustic Bass
Antonio Sanchez – Drums
Alex Sopp – Flute
Helen Campo – Alto Flute
Nuno Atunes – Clarinet
Mark Dover – Bass Clarinet
Kevin Cobb – Trumpet
CJ Camieri – Trumpet
Ryan Keberle – Trombone
Mike Davis – Bass Trombone
RJ Kelly – French Horn
Joyce Hammann – Violin
Sara Caswell – Violin
Louise Schulman – Viola
Garbiel Cabezas – Cello
Rob Mathes – Conductor
Jim Beard – Piano
John Patitucci – Acoustic Bass
Antonio Sanchez- Drums
Alex Sopp – Flute
Aaron Heick – Clarinet/Bass Clarinet
Dean LeBlanc – Clarinet
Liam Burke – Bass Clarinet
John Upton – English Horn
Don Downs – Trumpet/French Horn
Jon Owens – Trumpet/French Horn
Tony Kadleck – Trumpet/French Horn
Brad Gemeinhardt – French Horn
Ryan Keberle – Trombone
Joe Fiedler – Trombone
Joanna Mauer- Violin
Justin Smith – Violin
Lisa Kim – Violin
Peter Bahng – Violin
Julia Choi – Violin
Conway Kuo – Violin
Jun Sun You – Violin
Matt Lehman – Violin
Ann Lehman – Violin
Devin Moore – Viola
Irene Brewlaw – Viola
Robert Meyer – Viola
Sumire Kuo – Cello
Susannah Chapman – Cello
Sarah Kwon – Cello
Additional musicians recorded in Portland, OR at Bob Stark Sound
Mike Snyder – Percussion
Reinhardt Wolfgang Metz – Percussion
Bob Stark – Guitar on Baile de los Perros
John Nastos – Clarinet solo on Baile de los Perros
Nestor Vaz – Bandoneon
Recorded at Mastodante Producciones, Montevideo, Uruguay
Gaston Ackerman – Engineer
Vayo Raimondo – Coordinator
Scott Thompson, Scott Thompson Public Relations
(203)400-1818 [email protected]
Management: Paul Foley – [email protected]