Joseph Akins and Sherry Finzer
2023 / Heart Dance Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Earthbeat is a collection of seven previously-released singles and one piece not released as a single by pianist/composer/professor Joseph Akins and flutist/composer Sherry Finzer. The tracks "celebrate the many gifts brought to us by the earth" (quoting the Heart Dance Records website) and feature a variety of flutes, piano, and occasional synth enhancements and orchestrations; one track, "Angel Moon," features the vocalizations of Unita. Both Joseph Akins and Sherry Finzer have been prominent artists for quite a few years - both separately, with other artists and with this current series of singles and album - and they create musical magic as a duo.
Joseph was a frequent performer in my house concert series here on the Oregon Coast (BC - Before Covid!), and I've always loved his honesty and easy humor (both of which flow through his music) almost as much as I love his music itself. In addition to composing and recording, Joseph is a professor of Recording Industry/ Audio Production at Middle Tennessee State University. Sherry Finzer owns Heart Dance Records and has recorded a large number of albums and singles, both solo and with an impressive list of other artists. Obviously, both Joseph and Sherry are seasoned artists at the top of their games, and this beautiful collaborative album is a tribute to their artistry as well as a celebration of earth and its many wonders and blessings.
Earthbeat begins with "Shanti Moon," a peacefully exotic piece with a Middle Eastern flavor. In addition to the flute and piano, a hypnotic percussion rhythm and string washes run throughout the piece, enhancing the magical mood of the music. "Rain Cloud" includes the atmospheric rain stick along with the piano, Native American flute, and occasional wordless vocals. Darkly mysterious yet soothing and relaxing, I really like this one! The title track was the first single from the album and was originally released back in 2020. This track is also dark and mysterious, and I can easily imagine it providing a powerful soundtrack for videos of many of the native habitats that are disappearing all over the world. "Cafe Spa" goes in a much different direction. After a short solo piano intro, the easy percussion and strings support the flute and piano in a relaxed but compelling jazz style. I don't know how much of the piece is improvised, but it feels very spontaneous. "Eventide" expresses the peaceful calm of the world as it winds down at the end of a day. Sherry plays several different flutes on this track, creating an enchanting and very soothing mix. "Who Am I" is the previously unreleased track and is another favorite. Piano, flutes, cello and other strings, and a gentle percussion rhythm soothe the mind as they create a peaceful ambiance that's easy to lose yourself in. Love it! "Two Wolves" has a strong Native American influence in both the flute and percussion styles, and Joseph's piano fits right in. I'm not sure if the wolf sound was created with a flute, but it is very effective! This excellent album comes to a serene close with "Angel Moon," one of the more orchestrated pieces that also features the angelic wordless vocals of Unita. I think I could set this album on "repeat" and let it run all day without getting tired of it!
Earthbeat is available from Heart Dance Records, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Bandcamp, and many streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
August 9, 2023