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Album Review: The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier
Jill Haley
Cover image of the album The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier by Jill Haley
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier
Jill Haley
54 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier is the seventh in a series of albums inspired by Jill Haley's artist-in residence experiences at various US National Parks, Monuments and Sites. Known primarily as an oboist and English horn artist, Haley also features her pianistic artistry on this album along with additional woodwinds and vocals. Guest artists include Jill's husband, David Cullen (guitar), his son, Graham (cello) and Tony Deangelis on drums and percussion. As has been true of Jill's other albums, the music on The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier is varied in styling and instrumentation, but overall, the twelve original tracks are very calming and peaceful as well as reflective of the landscapes and wildlife that inspired them.

Bandelier National Monument is located near Los Alamos, New Mexico and preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of the Southwestern US. Most of the pueblo structures date back to between 1150 and 1600 AD and were carved into light-colored volcanic cliffs at the edge of a narrow, wooded canyon - a tributary of the Rio Grande.

The album begins with "Plaintive Cavate Melody," a haunting piece for oboe, piano and vocals (no lyrics). "Cavate" means "hollowed out" and refers to the cliff dwellings that were created from volcanic rock. Feelings of isolation and solitude flow from the oboe while the piano adds a more grounding quality - a beautiful start! "Frijoles Canyon Awakens" is a peaceful piano solo that incorporates the sounds of birds from Bandelier here and there (my cats love this one!). "Ecotone" refers to the plants and animals from various areas in the canyon coming together to form an "ecotone." Appropriately, a variety of musical instruments - cello, English horn, piano, flute, clarinet and vocals - come together to tell their story. "Fantastical Formations" begins as an energetic piano solo (oboe enters later in the piece) and refers to the rock formations created from volcanic activity followed by erosion. "Vista at Valles Caldera" is a favorite. Mostly a duet for piano and acoustic guitar with some English horn highlights, it expresses feelings of open space and a sense of mystery. "Tsankawi Footpaths" refers to the well-worn paths left by the Pueblo people who trekked up and down the steep-sided mesa. Piano, English horn and light percussion combine to suggest energetic movement. "Parajito Moonglow" is a peaceful duet for piano and English horn that expresses the tranquil feelings that come while watching the moon rise over the Parajito Plateau - a gentle lullaby for the inhabitants of the canyon! "Gratitude for the CCC" is another favorite. A nod to the Civilian Conservation Corps that built roads and facilities in the 1930's and early 1940's, it's a heartfelt "thank you" expressed with guitar, oboe, English horn and cello. The album comes to a close with "Burnt Mesa," a piano solo that describes some of the signs of past fires that can be found among the trees.

Jill Haley is creating a fascinating body of work with her musical interpretations of our National Parks and Monuments - and she isn't done yet! Each of these albums has its own distinctive style and character, depending on the landscapes and creatures of the area. The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and other sites. There are some beautiful scenic music videos on Jill's site and YouTube as well.
March 18, 2021
Contributing artists:
David Cullen
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