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Album Review: The Orchestrist 2 - Burning At Both Ends
Justin Rayna
Cover image of the album The Orchestrist 2 - Burning At Both Ends by Justin Rayna
The Orchestrist 2 - Burning At Both Ends
Justin Rayna
2007 / Justin Rayna
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Orchestrist 2 - Burning At Both Ends is pianist/keyboardist/composer Justin Rayna’s latest collection of original, cinematic pieces. Most of the twelve compositions have a big, sweeping sound and draw on a variety of cultures and musical styles. An experienced percussionist with Drum Corps International, Rayna incorporates interesting and catchy rhythms into his music, making it difficult to classify. World music and Cirque du Soleil also influence the young composer, as do piano legends David Lanz, Wayne Gratz, and John Tesh, and even The Blue Man Group. Rayna is a self-taught pianist and composer who works out of his home studio in PA. He formed First Key Creations to sell his original compositions to gymnasts for competition and to local dance studios for their recitals. With the music’s bright spirit and effervescence this should be a good fit. Rayna has created an interesting body of work and is off to an impressive start in his musical career. My only reservations about this CD are that some of the music tries to do too much and seems a bit overly orchestrated. The piano and some of the string sounds are not too natural, but those limitations can be overcome with better “toys” as Rayna is able to add them to his studio.

The CD begins appropriately with “An Opening Theme,” a bright fanfare worthy of a huge sporting event. Lots of brass and percussion grab the attention, and piano and strings add the more melodic themes. “Fennel” is an energetic piece that its way through a number of themes and styles, leaving you a little breathless. “Abreenings” is also high-energy and a bit frenetic - a great piece for an abstract dance or a lively gymnastics routine. “First Blossom” is much calmer and quieter. “Flowers For Mercedes” begins as a lovely ballad but goes through several big thematic changes. Very visual, this would be great in a movie soundtrack. I really like “The Waiting Station,” which starts out subdued and rather melancholy. After the first graceful and introspective minutes, a bluesy theme appears in the background, comes to the surface, and fades out to return to the original themes. The spirit and instrumentation of “Zshazoom” are a bit Yanni-like. This is one of the strongest tracks, with its infectious enthusiasm and dancelike rhythms. There are a number of themes woven into this piece, but they stay cohesive musically and stylistically. “Lifeline” sounds a bit like the theme for a TV news program or a PBS special - big, lively, and easy to identify. “Oriental Crossover” is an interesting piece, but I find the intermittent percussion kind of distracting and noisy. “Precious Company” closes the set with a sweet, loving ballad that is graceful, simple, and beautiful.

The Orchestrist 2 shows Justin Rayna as a very promising young artist and composer, and it will be fascinating to see how his music career develops. To learn more about Justin and to hear samples of his music, visit his myspace page or email him at firstkeycreations@verizon.net.
August 13, 2008