2017 / Gina Lenee'
Review by Kathy Parsons
Red Diamonds is the seventh release by pianist/composer Gina Lenee’ and her first album produced by Will Ackerman and recorded at his Imaginary Road Studios. The ten original pieces on the album are a romantic mix of piano with ensemble and are strongly melodic, passionate, and very beautiful. Ensemble players include the always-wonderful Charlie Bisharat (violin), Ackerman (guitar and vocals), Eugen Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Marc Schulman (electric guitar), Premik Russell Tubbs (EWI and sax), Tom Eaton (bass, guitar, vocals), and Noah Wilding (vocals).
It is both interesting and inspiring to learn that Gina Lenee’ has been using her musical gifts in support of a wide range of causes that are dear to her heart. In her words: “I’ve always had the desire for my music to be more than entertainment or background ambiance. I look for opportunities to make a difference using my music.” Essentially a self-taught pianist, the California native is obviously doing her best to make the world a better place one note at a time - and more power to her for making that effort!
Red Diamonds begins with “A Thousand Days Without You,” a graceful ballad that is mostly solo piano with occasional enhancements provided by English horn, cello, and voice. “Soulmates” is a tender love song that starts out as a piano solo and then soars as a piano and violin duet - a favorite! “Carry Me Away” opens with a dreamy solo piano prelude. For the second movement, the tempo is bumped up a bit and most of the ensemble is featured. The EWI (electronic wind instrument) is out in front for most of this movement with a beautiful flute-like sound. Piano and EWI combine beautifully in “The Moment,” a haunting and sensual piece that features most of the ensemble creating musical magic. The title track is beautiful, but while Bisharat’s passionate violin is stellar, the piano plays mainly a repetition of the same phrase throughout the piece. (I’m not sure why this is becoming a regular practice, but it drives me nuts!) “The Beautiful, The Broken” is heartbreaking with a slow, very spare melody that comes from deep within - also a favorite. “What No One Knows” is my favorite track on the album. Mostly a duet for piano and violin, it includes English horn, voices, guitar and washes of other instruments. The powerful emotional quality is sincere and compelling - Gina Lenee’ and Charlie Bisharat are an amazing duo! “Forever” overflows with warmth and tenderness, bringing the album to a very satisfying close.
Red Diamonds is the first of Gina Lenee’s albums that I’ve heard, and I’m very impressed with her expressive playing and composing style! The album is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
May 8, 2017