Zion and Bryce Canyon Soundscapes
2012 / Jill Haley
Review by Kathy Parsons
I have been familiar with Jill Haley’s contributions to other artists’ albums for almost as long as I’ve been reviewing, so it was a very pleasant surprise to receive an album in her own name. Zion and Bryce Canyon Soundscapes is the second in series of recordings inspired by our precious National Parks (the first was for Glacier National Park in 2010) and dedicated to the National Park Service, which is celebrating its centennial in 2016. Haley’s soulful oboe and English horn have been regular fixtures on many Will Ackerman-produced albums, but I had no idea that she is also a composer and pianist. She is joined on this lovely album by guitarist (and husband) David Cullen as well as Dana Cullen on French horn and Graham Cullen on cello, making this a most impressive family project. The beautiful package includes twelve of Haley’s photos that show the inspiration for each piece along with a brief description of each place. So, although the National Park System is quite a large entity, Zion and Bryce Canyon Soundscapes is a very personal (and impressive!) tribute expressed in the universal languages of music and photography.
Zion and Bryce Soundscapes begins with “Floating in the Narrows,” a piece for piano and English horn, both performed by Haley. The piano seems to express the flowing water while the English horn provides a lilting melody that conveys the feeling of floating effortlessly - a beautiful start! “Hoodoo Silhouettes” gracefully describes the changing light on the pinnacles that rise up from the amphitheater of Bryce Canyon. Composed for cello, piano, and English horn, it’s a beauty and one of my favorite tracks. “Watchman Trek” (for piano and oboe) is sometimes soaring and sometimes very haunting - a fascinating combination! French horn brings a feeling of majesty to “Queen’s Garden.” Piano and English horn provide the other voices to this stirring and very visual piece. My favorite track is “Spilled Sunshine on Red Rocks,” an energetic and upbeat composition for guitar, fretless bass, and oboe that exudes joy, freedom and warmth. I also really like “Navajo Loop,” a haunting duet for guitar and English horn that seems to tell of places that are both intimate and vast. The sound of the whistle on “Emerald Pools Mist” provides an interesting contrast to some of the other instrumentation. Accompanied by piano, guitar, and oboe, the sound is refreshing and light. “Waves of Wind” closes the set with piano, guitar, cello, and oboe describing the effects of wind swirling the sand and setting everything in motion - a colorful ending to a great album!
Zion and Bryce Soundscapes is excellent from start to finish and the beautiful photography makes for a very special package. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
October 22, 2012
Review by Kathy Parsons