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Album Review: As The Crow Flies
Kenneth Hooper
Cover image of the album As The Crow Flies by Kenneth Hooper
As The Crow Flies
Kenneth Hooper
2022 / Astral Wolf Studios
40 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
As The Crow Flies is the second album from flutist/composer Kenneth Hooper, following his 2020 debut, Directions. Co-composed with Gian Berselli, the six tracks on the album are a brilliant mix of styles that are a tribute to both artists' versatility and musicianship. Hooper performs on flutes, RAV drums, bowls and chimes. Berselli plays acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, sitar and percussion along with recording, producing, mixing and mastering the album. (Berselli is also the founder of Astral Wolf Studios in Berkeley, CA where the album was recorded.)

While many artists grow up playing music, I thought the story of how Kenneth became a flutist was interesting. Quoting his website bio: "It was after a move to Redwood City, California, in 1994... 'that I met a person who was giving a Penny Whistle workshop and picked up my first fluteā€¦ After years of introspection, prayer and a trip to the Amazon jungle where my trusty Penny Whistle accompanied me everywhere, I returned to the states and attended a prayer meeting where I was gifted a Native American Flute. Fortunately the muscle memory from the Penny Whistle translated very well to the NAF.' Kenneth enjoyed learning to play the flute, although his studies in psychology and spirituality ultimately guided him in tapping into his own creative process in a deeper way."

As The Crow Flies begins with "Up Ahead," a fascinating blend of flutes, electric guitars, a driving beat and keyboard sounds and effects. A little bit jazz, a little bit Native American, a little bit rock, world, new age and so on, you can't put this one into just one category - and I really like that! It's a great start! "Forest Temple" is much more ambient and meditative with flutes, nature sounds, chimes and keyboard washes. Images come to mind of being in a forest at night with a campfire, listening to the sounds of the soothing flutes as well as of the various creatures nearby - haunting, peaceful and hypnotic. "Afternoon At Chuck's" seems like a whimsical title, but the piece is very laid-back and relaxing. Ambient musical sounds fade in and out around the flute, guitar and steady percussion rhythms to create a warm, free-flowing atmosphere. "Storyteller" unfolds very slowly over a backdrop of shimmering dark ambient sounds. Hooper plays a very low-pitched flute (bass flute?) as well as flutes in a more "normal" range. Bowls, keyboard sounds, and various hand percussion create a wonderful atmosphere that wraps around this very soothing piece. "Respite" seems to shimmer behind the soft-spoken flutes, creating feelings of stillness and peace. This truly is a place of comfort and relief from the stresses of life. From the very beginning of "Waking Dawn," it is obvious that this piece expresses the warmth and promise of a sunrise. After a very ambient beginning, hand drums, keyboards and guitar give the flutes wings to fly gracefully into the dawn. At just under nine minutes, this exceptional piece has time to go wherever the music takes it, calmly and organically.

If you are looking for some music to quiet your world and soothe your soul, As The Crow Flies is an excellent choice! It is available from Kenneth Hooper's website as well as from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and streaming sites like Spotify.
February 20, 2023
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