600 Years in a Moment
Fiona Joy Hawkins
2013 / Little Hartley Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Initially exposed to the artist way back in 2008 courtesy of the adventurous Ice: Piano Slightly Chilled, the neoclassic roots with the more extravagant drum loops and contemporary edge was risky and for most part just too much. Since then Hawkins has slowly transformed and become more restrained and focused and has finally really hit all the right buttons with the gorgeous, contemplative 600 Years in a Moment that would easily be considered her best to date.
With Will Ackerman behind the production board along with many members of his A Team session players also present, Hawkins does not allow her unique style and playing to be overshadowed by the previously mentioned. Additional musician guests include bass extraordinaire Tony Levin, violinist Charlie Bisharat, flutist Todd Boston and even the keyboards of Philips Aaberg. Add these elements with Hawkins’ elegant piano work and provocative writing material and you have all the ingredients for a magical musical moment.
Despite being Fiona’s most restrained musical exploration to date it has a sly seductive quality which opens with a daring spoken word passage and vocals on “600 Years”. There are some additional vocal appearances but they are for the most part unspoken embellishments that can be found on “The Journey”, the slow winding “Gliding” and the evenly paced “Running On Joy” with a very soft hint of the Australian didgeridoo on the latter.
Vocal moments aside, the focal point is Hawkins and her beautiful piano performance surrounded by the beautiful global instrumentation that includes but is not limited to the didgeridoo, the Paraguayan harp, the Irish whistle, the Native American hopi drum, the Middle Eastern doumbek and Tibetan tingsha bell just to name a few. Place this sense of globalization alongside Hawkins’ most restrained yet charming and tasteful playing and you have an adventurous artist framed but not restrained. This is best illustrated on the titles like “Tango On Wednesday”, the previously mentioned “Running On Joy” and the slow builder “Captured Freedom” whose song title completely encapsulates Hawkins’ performance.
Hawkins’ last few releases have displayed a more contemplative spirit that is ever present on her most current release but for the first time this spirit is present throughout the entire album. She has not lost her wanderlust as this ingredient is present courtesy of the vocal moments and her desire to use ancient instruments from around the world and bring them into the framework of another unique performance we have come to expect from Fiona. The only difference is that 600 Years in a Moment is Fiona Joy Hawkins’s most palatable musical experience to date.
February 15, 2014