Reviews 08-22-2009

Music Reviews 




by George Skaroulis

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2009 marks the 13th anniversary of George Skaroulis’ independent label, Evzone Music, and, luckily for us, it also marks the 13th release from the Greek god with the velvet piano touch. Imagine is Skaroulis’ tribute to “all of the songwriters and performers that brought their timeless music to my life, and to yours.” With seventeen mostly solo piano tracks and a sumptuous 75-minute playing time, this album is something of an event! The song selection is mostly songs from the past twenty years or so, but several go back much farther. My only complaint is that there is just one original track, but it’s truly a highlight of the album. George Skaroulis has been one of my favorite artists since I was introduced to his music with “Second Nature” in 2003, and he never disappoints. It is interesting to note that Skaroulis’ music is now the “official” music of the Atlanta Humane Society and that the release party (8/23/09) for this album was also a benefit concert for that organization. I have three feral cats that are often agitated and vocal, but all three are stretched out and dozing peacefully as I write this review. Interesting! 

Imagine begins with “I Have a Dream,” an ABBA hit from the late ’70’s. Skaroulis slows it down a bit and adds string washes to his piano - a lovely start! Next up is “It Might Be You” from Tootsie. Warm, elegant, and deeply emotional, Skaroulis breathes new life into this sweet song. “Unchained Melody” has been one of my favorite songs since I first heard Bobby Hatfield sing it in 1965, and George’s solo piano version updates it while remaining true to the original (which was first featured in an obscure 1955 prison film called Unchained). Skaroulis’ own “The Fire Within” is a passionate piano solo that overflows with deep emotion; this piece is worth the price of the CD all by itself. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is another favorite song and even without the poetry of the lyrics, it really sings. “Both Sides Now” and “Send In the Clowns” are songs whose lyrics have a strong emotional impact, and Skaroulis’ soulful instrumental arrangements wordlessly convey the meanings of the songs. Having seen several Cirque du Soleil performances, it cracks me up that “Let Me Fall” comes from one of their productions. There is nothing funny about this powerful song, though, and Skaroulis captures the compelling drama of the piece - love it! Thomas Albinoni’s “Adagio” is another highlight. A piece that dates back to the 1700’s, the haunting melody is timeless. Skaroulis closes with another timeless classic, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Piano and minimal orchestration express the wistful mood of the song while updating it to the 21st century. 

George Skaroulis has created another masterpiece. May his 13th anniversary and 13th album both be lucky and achieve the recognition they so richly deserve! Imagine is available from It will be available soon from other online sources. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Seven Falls

by Marshall Styler

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Seven Falls is Marshall Styler’s seventh release, but is a first for me. The music was inspired by the special people and places in Styler’s life, and the title comes from the area in New York where his wife is from and where they knew they would spend their lives together. Styler performs his music on seven different keyboards, some of which are older and provide a warmer sound than some of the newer synths. Most of the melodies are played as piano, but they sound electronic to me, too - not a negative, just a little different sound from an acoustic piano. It’s interesting because the newer keyboards are getting better at emulating other instruments, but some of the earlier keyboards had sounds that weren’t supposed to be anything but interesting sounds. Styler’s use of those sounds makes the music seem a little more vintage, but that isn’t a negative point, either. Styler’s “music is designed to relax, heal, and uplift the body, mind, and soul,” so there are no sudden dynamic or tempo changes, making it also a good choice for reading, studying, and quiet background music. 

“Flight of the Great Blue (South Padre Island)” begins the album with a quiet serenity and gentle sparkle. Flowing strings, a relaxed but free piano melody, and various ethereal sounds give an inviting indication of what’s to come. “All I Had to Hear You Say” is unabashedly romantic and tender. Warm string washes behind the piano and keyboards give the piece a contented glow. Greg Walker appears on guitars on “Camden to Monhegan,” providing a nice contrast to the keyboards. “Welcome Back to Dreamland” is one of my favorites. A bit more melancholy than some of the other eight pieces, I like the dreamy, reflective feel of the piece. “Mandala (Mary’s Waltz)” was inspired by the circular nature of the mandalas Styler’s mother makes from her own pressed and dried flowers - again very serene, tender, and contented. The title track is a deeply emotional love song that floats on air. “One Day In One Heart” offers hope and reassurance as the angelic background voices soothe and calm. The closing piece, “Adirondack,” is my favorite track. Somewhat more improvisational, the simplicity of the piece is very effective. The piano seems to meander at will while the background strings and ambient sounds keep it somewhat grounded. It’s a beautiful way to close! 

Seven Falls has been a delightful introduction to Marshall Styler’s music and is available from,,, and iTunes. Check it out!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions



by Kori Linae Carothers

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Listen to Trillium on Lala


Trillium is multi-instrumentalist/composer Kori Linae Carothers’ third album to date. Produced by the legendary Will Ackerman, the album presents a vibrant mix of acoustic and electronic instrumentals ranging from delicate piano pieces to sweeping Native American-inspired soundscapes. Recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios, the album features an impressive list of supporting artists from all over the US. Carothers performs on piano, synthesizer, Native American flute, and vocals, as well as programming and production. The package contains a beautiful booklet with stunning photography and liner notes explaining the origins of the music as well as who played what on the recording. 

“Crystal Fields” is the opening track and draws you in from the first notes. Passionate, elegantly flowing piano accompanied by Eugene Friesen on cello and Jeff Oster on flugel horn clues you in that this is a special CD! “Blue Ice” picks up the rhythm a bit and paints a chilly portrait of the arctic. Carothers provides synth and programming while Tom Shinness, Jeff Silverman, and Corin Nelsen support on an assortment of instruments. I love this piece! Carothers returns to the piano for “A Roses Tale,” a gorgeous telling of her garden’s roses lamenting their plight at being cut back. This delicate piece includes Malcom Dalglish on hammered dulcimer - a treat for the ears! “Midnight” begins with Jeff Oster creating a mood of dark vast space. Piano and cello enter with a moving tribute to Carothers’ muse - another beauty! “Nez Perce” was inspired by watching “I Will Fight No More Forever” and is dedicated to the Nez Perce Nation and Chief Joseph. This cinematic piece features a wide range of synth sounds, Native American flute, and vocals, and runs almost seven minutes - impressive! “Tangled Up” is another favorite and features Scarlet Rivera on violin, Jeff Haynes on percussion, T Bone Wolk on bass, and David Cullen and Will Ackerman on guitar. Graceful and evocative, the catchy rhythms keep it moving forward. I also really like “The Long View,” which features Carothers on piano and wordless vocals, and Ackerman on guitar. Very spare and melodic, the simplicity of the piece conveys deep emotion. “Carpe Diem” is stunning with layered wordless vocals by Aeone, synth, guitar, a wide variety of percussion instruments (including water bottles!!!), and bass and a sweeping sound. More ambient than some of the other tracks, it evokes passion and longing. “3 Degrees” closes the album with piano, guitar, and tam tam bidding a warm, affectionate adieu. 

Trillium and Kori Linae Carothers are an exceptional discovery! See what the buzz is all about at ,,, and iTunes. Recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Set On a Hill

by Chad Lawson

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Set On a Hill is Chad Lawson’s debut solo piano CD, but Chad is no newcomer to the music industry. A session and back-up musician as well as the lead in his own jazz trio, he has scored film and television soundtracks and has toured the world with Julio Iglesias. It was during a concert with Iglesias that Lawson had the epiphany that he needed to get back to writing his own music and to making the solo piano CD he had always wanted to do. Many pianist/composers are content with composing music that will ultimately end up as background or mood music, but Chad Lawson’s music, while gentle and laid-back, was composed for more focused listening. Don’t get me wrong - this is wonderful music for the quiet moments in life whether alone or shared - but do yourself a favor and take some time to listen to this CD with closed eyes and no distractions. Produced by the legendary Will Ackerman, this is one of the few piano CDs he has done that is strictly solo piano. The open spaces are almost as important as the notes in Lawson’s music, and I can’t imagine any of these nine pieces as anything but solo piano.  

Set On a Hill begins with “Will,” an open, roomy piece that starts with a single repeated note that evolves into a simple melody played with one hand in the treble clef. That melodic theme recurs throughout the piece in a kind of theme and variations form that is completely unbound by rules or requirements. It develops slowly and organically, and I suspect is mostly improvised. It’s a gentle and subtle invitation to settle down and listen to some extraordinary music. “Sojourn” conveys a quiet sense of anticipation and optimism with a rhythmic left hand and flowing melody. My favorite track on this excellent album is “Change of Season,” a moody minor-key piece that expresses melancholy, solitude, loneliness, reflection, and maybe acceptance near the end. This one makes my fingers ache! Sheet music??? The title track has a very graceful, lyrical feel and a sense of warm contentment. “She Walks in Beauty (The Wedding Song)” is the music Lawson composed for his wedding. Serious without any hint of heaviness, it is composed in an elegant, minimalistic style that must have been stunning in a wedding setting. The whimsically-titled “A Goldfish Named George” depicts the changing pace of fish swimming and how hypnotic it can be to watch them. It’s a gorgeous piece that leaves the listener wanting more.  

Set On a Hill is generating a lot of buzz, and has already been nominated as Album of the Year by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, so check it out for yourself. It is available from, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


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