2017 / Jim Daneker
Review by Michael Debbage
Inspired by earlier epic recordings of Yanni’s Keys To Imagination, David Foster’s Symphony Sessions, David Arkenstone’s’ In The Wake of The Wind and Bradley Joseph’s Rapture initiated this reviewers exploration of instrumental music. With fewer full production gems to be found over recent years, albums such as Michael W Smith’s Freedom, Jennifer Thomas’ Illumination, Paul Cardall’s A New Creation and Thomas Bergersen’s Illusions continued to give hope in the struggling genre. After just one listening experience of the utterly moving and inspiring music of Jim Daneker’s solo debut Ad Alta immediately places him in the great company of the previously mentioned artists and albums.
While totally uninitiated as a solo artist, Jim Daneker has been around quite a while. His first break came back in the 90’s when he was offered a job as a technician with Christian artist Michael W Smith, which over a 21 year period progressed into being a keyboard and music director to the artist. Add to his musical experiences of scoring for trailers and movies, there is no doubting that both of these avenues have heavily influenced his solo debut. His music is inspiring, emotional and moving with a valiant approach to his arrangements and production. But to stop here would be an erroneous shortcoming in attempting to explain the kaleidoscope of brilliant colorful musical motifs you are about to be engulfed by.
Our musical journey commences with the reflective mystical wordless vocals of Caitlin Daneker on “The Adventure Begins”. It slowly and smoothly translates into a mid tempo canvas of broad stroke orchestral arrangements countered in fine detailed instrumentation. Topped off with the punch of Scott Williamson’s pounding drums, Daneker’s arrangements and compositional abilities both here and throughout the album is nothing but bold and top shelf material.
The emotional outpouring of melodies and full blown arrangements are larger than life and it is not until track 5 that you are able to catch a somewhat reflective breath with “Prayer For Mercy”. The trend continues with the piano driven melancholy ballad “For Those We Love”. But only for a moment as we jump into the moody soundtrack influenced “Shadows And Light” only to be further lifted by the almost worship like “Through The Fire” that follows. Fans of Michael W Smith will hear strains of his influences in this rapturous psalm-like composition. We even have the Celtic toe tapping “Dance Of The Redeemed” that is more than just a jig in Irish pastures. It is an utter full on celebration that is interlaced with pounding percussion, Uillean pipes, whistle, Irish fiddle, and handclaps with Daneker’s arrangements that will make you soar.
Ad Alta in Latin translates “to the summit” and every gorgeous invigorating 67 minutes of this music will inspire you as you journey along these continuous musical mountain peaks of 15 delirious compositions. While the year is somewhat young Ad Alta is currently the clear candidate for album of the year. And even as the album concludes with one of its most reflective moments in the form of “The Homecoming”, as it fades to conclusion you will be asking yourself “What just hit me and where is the dang repeat button!!!”
June 30, 2017