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Album Review: The Blue Rose
Al Conti
Cover image of the album The Blue Rose by Al Conti
The Blue Rose
Al Conti
2013 / Shadowside Music
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Grammy-nominated artist Al Conti (Northern Seas, 2011) has released his fifth album, The Blue Rose. His previous release, Scheherazade (2010) received four nominations from the Zone Music Reporter Awards, including Album of the Year. Like the two earlier recordings, The Blue Rose was inspired by a legend, this time one from China that Conti encountered as a child. Finding that its message of hope and perseverance lent itself so well to music, Conti set out to tell the story without words, utilizing a variety of instruments (including keyboards) and a little help from friends Ann Licater (flutes) and Hannah Beth Crary (fiddles). Two years in the making, The Blue Rose is certain to garner Al Conti a fresh assortment of accolades and awards. Although the music is a bit more understated than Conti’s previous releases, it presents an interesting East meets West blending of musical styles and instrumentation.

A quick summary of the story is that an emperor had a daughter that he cherished dearly, and knowing that he would not always be around to care for her, he sought to find her a suitable husband. The princess did not want to marry and leave her father, so the emperor allowed her to name one requirement that her future husband must meet. Thinking it an impossible task, the princess stated that the man she would marry must present her with a blue rose. Only a few suitors even tried to fulfill this requirement, and all failed until a young minstrel came to town and captivated the princess with his songs. They fell in love and wanted to marry, but the princess knew he would still have to bring her a blue rose. Undaunted, the minstrel promised to return the following evening to meet with her and the emperor in the palace’s blue room. At the appointed time, the minstrel arrived bearing a white rose, but as he professed his love to the princess, the light from the setting sun shone through a blue stained glass window and turned the rose to a gorgeous shade of blue.

The album begins with “The Princess and the Emperor,” a piano-based piece that starts with a simple Asian melody backed with strings and becomes more orchestrated as it evolves - an intriguing start! “Silk and Jasmine” is a bit more ambient, creating a setting for the story to unfold within. “The Merchant’s Rose” is lively and upbeat with a female voice singing in a Chinese operatic style in sections throughout the piece. “Bamboo Night Garden” is about the princess’ introduction to the minstrel after she heard him singing outside the palace walls. Piano, strings, and Asian instrumentation set the scene as Ann Licater casts a spell with her flute magic. “Minstrel’s Song” is indeed captivating in a gentle, hypnotic way that touches the heart. “Last Suitor” is my favorite track. This elegant combination of piano, strings, and Asian instruments evokes images of love, grace, and mystery. The title track closes the album, conveying an understated joy and the triumph of true love.

Al Conti has created another musical work of art. The Blue Rose is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
April 16, 2013