Balsam Pillow's blog
Recording activity at Balsam Pillow includes live recording for The Voices In The Laurel children’s choir, the Lake Junaluska Singers, and Asheville Community Band.
More recently, jazz pianist Bill Bares has been in recording his debut CD project. Bill, who has a doctorate in ethnomusicology from Harvard, is a fantastic player and composer as well as adjunct professor of jazz piano at UNC Asheville. This recording is making great use of the studio’s 7’9” Petrof II grand piano.
Do you see those sunbeams? (Actually they are called crepuscular rays) Can you imagine what they sound like? This pic was taken from my home one summer afternoon. Click here for a free download of this song... (if you can call it that... its more like a sound) and don't forget to bask...
This video is a tune from my new CD "In The Day of Small Things" which I hope be released in 2011. The title comes from a verse in the Bible... "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Update 5/13/10 - Click on links to listen to clips, songs, or to see videos... and please blog by leaving your comments, compliments and/or critiques!
Note: the audio clips will play full versions for one time only (with a few exceptions) then after that they go to :30
1. “Quit” by Brad Mehldau, “Art of the Trio, Vol. 5: Progression”
I fell in love with this tune the instant I heard it. With a plaintive wistful melody, played simply by Mehldau, the beauty and symmetry of the melody are underpinned by a fiercely tugging rapport between bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy. Brad floats above this lockstep in his own world, seemingly oblivious to the quiet riot going on underneath him. Yet, as a whole, the trio breathes and connects as one. This tune also features one of the most highly developed improvised piano solos I’ve ever heard... breathtaking long arching lines, great phrasing, duotonic bursts of notes using both hands, and his trademark “triple striking” unison notes (I don’t know what else to call it) puts this tune on a desert island level for me. Simply outstanding. The piano trio format does not get better than this!
2. “The Miracle of the Octave”, by The Azusa Plane, “Tycho-Magnetic Anomaly and the Full Consciousness of Hidden Harmony”
This piece is an ambient gem... a wonderful loopy guitar-based meditation.... a bit trippy but the tune brings me to a very special place. This is blissful music, with the moniker for this project ringing true: hidden harmony. Great cover art too.
3. “Expansion”, by Pat Metheny, “Orchestrion”
A complex rhythmic tune with interesting harmonies... with yet another artfully hip Metheny melody first played by guitar then doubled with the electro-mechanical marimba and glock that is part of this instrument Metheny had custom built from the ground up. Called an “Orchestrion”, it resembles a 19th century instrumental player piano, drums, bottle pipes, robot guitars, etc. all in one instrument. The entire project is wonderful but does suffer from a lack of live human interplay, especially in the piano department. A sequenced Yamaha Disklavier piano is no replacement for Lyle Mays on a Steinway, and the lack of dynamic range (especially in the ride cymbals and the slower ballad oriented material) ultimately holds the music back from what it could be. But as a recording, the entire album is amazing to behold and is a testimony to Metheny’s creative genius.
4. “Come See”, by Michael W. Smith, “Stand”
Bookended and weaved throughout by gorgeous orchestrations and synth textures, this song is a comforting anthem that sounds a bit like “Let It Be” in the beginning with its straight ahead quarter note piano chording. Although unremarkable in its early moments, the arrangement surprises by building gradually to an epic crescendo. The beauty of the vamp at the end is awe-inspiring and brings to the edge the best of Christian worship music. Well mixed and produced... the end is worth waiting for. It is like a golden cloud.
5. “The Temporal Continuum”, by The Azusa Plane, “Tycho-Magnetic Anomaly and the Full Consciousness of Hidden Harmony”
Similar to #2 on this list, this song evokes archetypical chromatic “inner harmonies” which I cannot verbally define other than it sounds strangely familiar, and evokes longing. Wordless, non-melodic, it has a sound ambience that is transportational. An interesting electronic hum starts the tune off and ends it... sort of like an electric motor or transformer and it acts as a pedal tone. Patience is required for the sound of the music to reveal itself. And if you are listening to a :30 clip, tough luck.
7. “Be Little With Me”, by Stars of the Lid, “Gravitational Pull vs the Desire for an Aquatic Life”
This is 6:27 of harmonic sunshine... an uplifting and bright tune that actually sounds to me like the sun would sound if it made a sound. The color yellow comes to mind. It is light, joy and peace in the key of Ab major. This sound was a primary inspiration for me to compose “falling asleep in the sun” (on my CD Lucid Dreaming) which has similar elements and focus. I also love the title, which focuses me on humility and contentment. I think God is in this music.
8. “The Trumpet Child”, by Over The Rhine, “The Trumpet Child”
This minor key jazzy ballad is a powerful song alluding to the return of Jesus Christ to this weary planet. Evoking images of the sounding of Gabriel’s horn of fire and the Bride “leanin’ in” its word pictures paint a vivid scenario that is true to the words of the book of Revelation in the Bible. All of this from a band that, to the best of my knowledge are not disciples or followers of Christ. Amazing.
9. “Silene”, by Biosphere, “Substrata”
A haunting four chord vamp is the backdrop to this interesting ambient piece which fades into the crackling and snapping of burning sticks on a fire.
10. “Virtue”, by Eldar (entire CD)
This is a video I created to go along with the music on the song "trust Me" which is on my Lucid Dreaming project. It was premiered at our worship service at the Vine of the Mountains church (Waynesville, NC) on July 19, 2009. Along with the track of the tune (which you hear on this video) I played a melody and left-hand bass along with drummer Carl Powell who provided a propulsive backbeat to the percussion track. The text is based on Proverbs 3:5-6 which says "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." May the sounds and sights of this video be beautiful for you this day!
"...Ray’s music is absolutely incredible... some of the most wonderful and beautiful music I’ve ever heard... soulful and heartfelt, “Beginning To See” is an amazing collection of songs... a must have for your music library."
"...the album is absolutely perfect... what a virtuosity and mastership in piano performance... unforgettable and ingenious... Ray sets his own milestone in contemporary jazz."
Check out the premiere issue of the CJA newsletter (Christian Jazz Association). The publisher, keyboardist David Arivett, of songsofdavid.com has featured my composition The Yearning Sky as a free mp3 download along with the chart to the song (published as a .pdf file) so you can see what's happening note for note. There's also an interview with me that's posted. To get the interview, click here.