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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Napa Valley Duo

An American in Paris

Review by Gary Hill

Perhaps this set is classical music. The duo in question is Jeffrey McFarland-Johnson who plays stringed instruments (I've often labeled it as cello, but I might be wrong in places) and Terry Winn on piano. They create a mix of sounds here that is unique and quite compelling. While this isn't really my kind of music, I found that parts of it really drew me in.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hotel
The piano and cello both work together well to create a pretty and rather sad musical texture on this piece. This instrumental is fairly short and a good way to start the set in style.
An American in Paris
While the opener was short, the same can't be said for this. It's almost 15 and a half minutes long. It's quite a musical ride with some rather crazed instrumental sounds at play at points. It conveys a lot of modes and textures along the ride. Both the cello and the piano find plenty of opportunities to shine. They certainly capture a lot of different sections of the soundtrack to the film.
It Never Entered My Mind
This is such a pretty piece. It has a certain sad air to it. There is a real majestic quality, too.
JMJ Suite: Prelude Perfume
Piano starts this one with an almost magical kind of vibe. The strings lend a new air as they join. The cut continues to evolve as it drives forward. This is quite classical and a bit odd at times. It is also oddly compelling.
A Soft Message to You
This has a lot of beauty and is another effective number. I particularly like the piano melodies on the cut, but everything works well.
Star Trek Anthem / I Love Lucy
Combining "Star Trek" and "I Love Lucy" might seem odd. The fact is, they were connected. Lucille Ball believed so strongly in "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry that she signed him to her Desilu Studios for the series. So, combining these two pieces of music makes sense in a rather unique way. I love the twist that this arrangement brings to the "Star Trek" sounds. It's just a short bit of the music, though. Then they take it into an upbeat and fun romp of the "I Love Lucy" theme.
Meritage Estate
Coming in slower and rather melancholy, particularly in contrast to the previous number, this works out after the introduction to some more crazed sounds as punctuation to the mellower, more melodic segments.
Preparing For the Day
The classical tones on this are fun and energetic. There is a playful air to this piece.
Vesper For Janelle

Slow moving, sedate and rather melancholy in tone, this is also quite a pretty number.     

Chimera
I love the piano textures that start this. The strings add so much as they join. This has more energy and a lighter tone than the previous number did. There is a real moving vibe to it. It feels almost like "traveling music."
See Me Feel Me / I Will Fight and Never Slack
The strings start this, playing the familiar Who passages in a slow and measured way. The second half of this brings an almost Celtic angle to things. It's not until that movement kicks in (and nearly two minutes in) that the piano joins. They work things to a fast paced and playful jam from there. Then, just after the three minute mark, they bring it back to the Who melodies, this time with the piano added to the mix. That movement takes the cut to its end.
Moderatamente
I love the classical elements on display here. This is a pretty and rather reflective piece. It is packed with emotion.
Romanza
Another that's on the sedate and classical end of the musical spectrum, this is a pretty track.
The Lady Caliph
This is also quite a pretty piece of music. It's a satisfying way to end the set.

 

 
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