Feast of Joy & Love
2007 / Sentient Spirit Records
Review by Michael Debbage
Laura Sullivan’s last project, Mystical America, was one of 2004’s best releases. What a way to follow up her impressive Pianoscapes for the Trails of North America. This must have left her pondering “Now what? Where do I go from here?” Sullivan could have played it safe and carbon copied herself and everyone would have been pleased. However, that would have been the easy way out. Instead Sullivan chose a different menu, thus her latest adventure, Feast of Joy & Love. So is it a teasing appetizer or a three course meal?
Unfortunately it is not a three course meal but actually a four course meal divided into starters, first course, second course and dessert continuing, Sullivan’s thematic presentation. Once again she amalgamates her classic roots with her pure piano performances, creating another enticing endeavor that does not stand in the shadows of its predecessors. There are a total of twelve tracks but only seven of them are original compositions.
The most intriguing moments of the album are Laura’s self penned work. Considering that they are in the company of her interpretations of Bach and Beethoven compositions, this is the ultimate compliment. One of the album’s highlights is “Pinot Noir” that features Noel Jewkes on saxophone performing at a low key producing an almost clarinet quality. The beauty of the song is the amiable melody that is echoed back and forth between Laura and Noel and if you listen very carefully there is a soft percussion beat that gives the song a solid but soft heartbeat. The duet is enthralling and the results are similar, courtesy of her blended performance with Anthony Blea’s violin on “Café Des Artistes” as well as nature's soundtrack on the soothing “Morning In The Meadows”.
So you might still be wondering what makes the album any different to her other triumphs? This time around Sullivan decided to elaborate on her vocal abilities. These performances with the exception of “Shalaelah” are explored via her classical interpretation. Her voice is multi layered and more ethereal in its delivery creating a different elucidation with the classical compositions most obviously her tribute to Bach courtesy of the opening track “Bouquet Of Bach”. In addition, she took a huge risk and took over the production duties of Chris Camozzi. Clearly she was taking copious notes and the arrangements are more than suitable. However, while meticulous and of high quality, the tone of Feast of Joy & Love is not quite as warm and cozy as its predecessor. Nevertheless it is a most commendable first effort as a producer.
Though Mystical America continues to be her pinnacle moment to date, Feast of Joy & Love is a banquet of musical pleasures. Continuing to intertwine her classical roots with her organic new age acoustic approach, this is another solid excursion from a musician that is fast becoming one of the genre's most beloved pianists.
July 7, 2007