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Album Review: Illumination
Jennifer Thomas
Cover image of the album Illumination by Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas
2012 / Tickled Ivory Music
72 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Four years in the making, Jennifer Thomas’ spectacular second solo release, Illumination, has burst upon the music scene overflowing with passion, fiery colors, and a big gutsy sound. A few of the seventeen tracks are more tranquil and soothing, but most are fully orchestrated and worthy of a blockbuster soundtrack. Thomas penned most of the music herself, but she has also included her arrangements of a few classical pieces and a couple of contemporary works. She also created the orchestrations, played the piano and violin, and produced the album. Live cello, violins, and wordless vocals also appear, giving the string parts a much more natural sound than straight digital recording. The accompanying 14-page booklet is also spectacular, with photography by Jennifer’s father, Ron Southworth, some of which inspired the music. It’s a stunning package from the cover inward, so I strongly recommend buying the CD rather than downloading it. Thomas explains that “Illumination is all about light, empowerment, and goodness.... The music and art in this album spans the time of one day - beginning with dreams and ending with the fiery sunset and the evening stars.” It’s quite a day and a very inspiring journey.

Illumination begins with “Etude For the Dreamer,” a heart-pounding piano and orchestral piece that exudes excitement and drama. What a way to start the day! “After the Storm” is a bit more peaceful, but piano and strings create their own kind of edgy (and very beautiful) drama. The title track cranks the intensity back up, sometimes swirling and sometimes lightly dancing - always passionate and very alive. The first classical arrangement is Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie #1,” that composer’s most famous piece. The original is a very spare piano solo, and Thomas’ arrangement includes the original plus her own new additions backed by a full string section. “Into the Forest” introduces the wordless vocals of Felicia Farerre behind piano, strings, and an intense rhythm track - a very stirring piece! I’ve always loved JS Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” and Thomas’ arrangement does not disappoint! Instead of a heavy organ solo, this one is for piano, strings, and percussion and is just as exciting and dramatic. “Fire Dance” combines the musical pyrotechnics of Isaac Albeniz and Ernesto Lecuona into a Latin tour de force for piano, violin, and light percussion. Hot stuff! “Across the Starlit Sky” is cool, graceful, and very dreamy. “Requiem For a Dream,” also known as “Lux Aeterna”) is one of the most compelling and intense film themes I’ve ever experienced, so finding it here was a fantastic surprise! I used to watch the trailer for the movie over and over just to listen to the spine-tingling theme. Originally recorded by The Kronos Quartet, Thomas has fully orchestrated it with piano, choir and the maximum intensity allowed without blowing out your speakers. I LOVE IT!!! “Eventide” welcomes the end of the day with a gentle grace. Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” closes the album on a sweet and soothing note. An excerpt of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto #3” is also included in this dynamic arrangement.

If you like bold, intense classically-styled music, you’re going to love Illumination! If this isn’t Jennifer Thomas’ breakout album, I’m really going to be shocked and disappointed! It is available from jenniferthomasmusic.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
August 13, 2012
More reviews of Jennifer Thomas albums
Cover image of the album Key of Sea by Jennifer Thomas
Review by Michael Debbage
Debut Albums
Cover image of the album The Lullaby Album by Jennifer Thomas
with Carolyn Southworth
Review by Kathy Parsons