Reviewed by RJ Lannan
I am extremely fortunate. Every review I write is an education for me. If not for my second job I would never delve into religion, architecture, or art in its myriad of forms. Pianist Heidi Anne Breyer has just released a stunning contemporary piano album called Another Place and Time and in it she explains that some of the tracks are inspired by the works of Russian painter Alexander Volkov. So off I go into the cyber world for references and boy, did I really get an eyeful. Incredible paintings that I would not have believed were fashioned by the human eye. For me however, it was the music that made the paintings, not the other way around. And more can be said of her other notables tunes on this 14 track treasure. Every Volkov painting is an album cover and every Breyer song is a striking musical vignette to his illuminated artwork. Furthermore, Heidi’s contemporary scenarios are enhanced by the talent group of musicians of Imaginary Studios as well as Will Ackerman’s extraordinary production values and his guitar.
I usually reserved some space for an artist’s biography, but in this rare case, the music told me everything I wanted to know about Heidi Anne Breyer.
I immediately recognized Jill Halley’s English horn in the opening of All Souls Lullaby. The music is sweetly soft with a hypnotic cadence and an unforgettable melody. This is a song of quietude for every heart, no matter what age they may be. It has that unique quality that allows the spirit to drift along, without a care and with a great sense of comfort.
Time slowed down and the outside world was walled off when I listened to On His Wings. With the help of Charlie Bisharat’s moody violin the tune seemed a bit dark, but when the piano melody unfolded I realized it was just a rest, a brief respite to get your thoughts together and continue on. Sometimes it is a matter of faith.
There are sweet vocals in Conversation. The music is the comforting arms, the friendly ears and the understanding heart of a friend or loved one; the simple words are a promise of sanctuary no matter what. Heidi and vocalist Noah Wilding combined their voices in a soft song of reassurance. “…Come, talk with me, please tell me everything. What are you frightened of?”
No song embodies more of the awe and mystique of Alexander Volkov’s paintings more than the song Winter Light. I have listened to Will Ackerman’s productions long enough to identify most of the studio wizards that compliment his recordings at first hearing and I could recognize Jeff Oster’s flugelhorn even if Chuck Magione was playing the same tune right next to him. His addition to Winter Light is the proverbial frosting on the cake. The music starts out with a simple classical motif. I could feel the angel-kiss coolness of flurries on my cheeks and see the waning light of the short winter’s day. Finally, the flugelhorn was the drawing of nature’s curtain over the light and the sense of the clear, cold night that lay ahead. This is one of my many favorites on the album.
Will Ackerman had an album out in 1988 called Imaginary Roads. He relinquished a song from that album and he accompanied Heidi on a variation called In A Region Of Clouds. The guitar and piano produce a polyphony of gentle splendor. Ackerman offers his signature echoing melody to Heidi, whose piano compliments it extraordinarily well, answering the echoes with a nascent beauty all of its own.
Awakenings, the final cut on the album is another combination of haunting vocals and dulcet melody. The fusion results in an otherworldly sound of seraphic promise. To me it says my eyes have been opened, I can understand better and my heart has room for a little more hope. This may be one of the best on the album, but frankly every one of the fourteen tracks could vie for that honor. This is an album that I will never tire of hearing and I will learn just a little bit more about my world and perhaps myself after hearing it again.
reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/3/2010