2018 / Mark Freshwater
Review by Kathy Parsons
Native Connections is the seventh album from Arizona pianist/keyboardist/composer Mark Freshwater. Nine of the twelve tracks were compiled from Mark’s first five albums and are based on Native American or spiritual themes. Two of the pieces from previous albums were remastered for this collection. The son of a piano teacher and a professional trombonist, Freshwater started taking classical piano lessons at the age of five and has been musically active ever since. From rock bands, praise bands and church choirs to fronting a “weekend horn and party band,” Freshwater has had a very eclectic music career. He stopped composing music for almost forty years until his muse and inspiration returned in 2012. He released his first solo project, Nuevo Piano in 2013 and has released at least one new album each year since then.
Native Connections begins with “Talisman,” a haunting piece from Freshwater’s 2015 release, Legacies and one of my favorites from that album. Dark and mysterious, it is played on piano and keyboard with some ambient effects. “Pilgrims Winter,” from 2016’s The Diary, was a favorite on that album, too. You can almost feel an icy wind blowing off this piece! The steady cadence of the piano rhythm combined with a simple piano melody, droning cello, and acoustic guitar cry for the hardships the early settlers had to deal with. “Native Meditations” from Trees of Life (2014) tells a beautiful but poignant story with piano and keyboard instrumentation. “Petroglyphs” utilizes a strong percussive rhythm along with flute and piano to suggest being transported back in time. “Mandalas” is a new arrangement of an older piece and features piano, bass guitar and flute - hypnotic! “Poison Arrows” is one of the three new pieces and begins with choral voices and tambourine. The music becomes very intense as it develops, adding more instrumentation and bolder voices to the piano and cello (or bass) that play throughout. Very cinematic and powerful, I really like this one! “Warriors March” is also new. Very slow and solemn, this is no victory march. Feelings of loss, tragedy and defeat run through the mournful piece. Orchestrated with piano, strings, percussion and keyboard, it’s beautiful, but very sad. “Solace” is soothing, but also expresses feelings of loss and sadness. “Progress of Man” elevates the mood considerably with its driving beat and lively rhythms. Electronic effects add to the spirited fun of this one from Biosphere (2013). “Amerind Elegy” is a newly-remastered version of an earlier Elegy with some very effective additions to the instrumentation - graceful and deeply heartfelt. The closing track, “Spirit Rising,” is also new. Piano, keyboard instrumentation and ambient effects combine to create a piece that is dark and funereal at the beginning, but ends on the hopeful, ethereal side as the spirit breaks its earthly bonds and soars heavenward.
Native Connections is quite an interesting retrospective of Mark Freshwater’s work of the past six years and is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.
October 29, 2018