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Album Review: Living Temples
David Lanz and Gary Stroutsos
Cover image of the album Living Temples by David Lanz and Gary Stroutsos
Living Temples
David Lanz and Gary Stroutsos
2008 / Sound Traveler
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
It’s fascinating how life sometimes takes us full circle, bringing us back to a place where we began a journey a long time ago, and how this place is familiar and comfortable yet so different - or perhaps it is we ourselves who have changed. Such is the case with Living Temples, a music and video collaboration with David Lanz and Jan Nickman that began in the 1980’s with Natural States and Desert Vision. On that landmark series, David Lanz’s musical collaborator was guitarist/producer Paul Speer, and this time it is flutist Gary Stroutsos, who also worked with Lanz on 2005’s Spirit Romance. All three artists have gone through many changes over the past twenty years, professionally and personally, and have brought an evolved artistry to this project, which is a masterpiece in no uncertain terms. Rather than shooting all of the footage of the Southwest and then composing the music to go with it, or composing all of the music and then fitting the film to the soundtrack, Nickman and Lanz went back and forth, working on both aspects of the project simultaneously. One might think that the music could be weakened without the visuals, but that is not the case with Living Temples. The music and visuals are a perfect fit, but the music stands alone as one of Lanz’s best albums yet. With his own record label, Lanz is free to let his artistry take him where he wants, and the results are spectacular. Gary Lanz, David’s brother, acted as producer and engineer, and Keith Lowe added electric and acoustic bass, Walter Gray added cello, and Glen Velez played various percussion instruments.

The CD opens with “Sun Chasers,” a piece that is both dramatic and very mysterious, setting the tone for the album. Mostly piano and flute, the additional instruments add color and atmosphere. “Rio San Rafael” is a bonus track that paints a picture of the peace as well as the power of rapidly moving water. “Rain Dancer” is a piano and cello duet that is both playful and flowing - a real beauty! “Sea of Mescalero” is another favorite, conveying the wide open spaces of the desert as well as its sparseness and majesty - haunting and aloof as profound beauty so often is. “Temple Dance” is in constant motion, carried on the wind, both strong and delicate. Cello, piano, and flute make this piece soar. “Ancient Voices” depicts vast openness as well as mystery and ritual that go back through time. “Walk In Beauty” is stunning, asking “what is a sacred place?” Darkness is pierced by light in caverns carved into the earth over time, and a sense of reverence prevails. The title track ends this magnificent journey. This piece also appeared as a piano solo called “Ambient Plains” on the Sound Traveler release of Lanz’s A Cup of Moonlight.

A one-word summary of Living Temples is “WOW!” Fans who felt David Lanz was perhaps becoming too commercial with his smooth-jazz albums will delight in the artistry of his newest work. Currently available at davidlanz.com and cdbaby.com, Living Temples should be in wider distribution soon. This is an incredible album, so check it out!!
February 27, 2008
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Kathy's Favorites: 2008
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