Our April Tigers
2023 / Spout/MWM
Review by Kathy Parsons
A new album from Michael Whalen is always a big deal and Our April Tigers is no exception. The album began with the idea of creating a "super group" of composer/musicians to collaborate on an instrumental recording that would defy style or genre. Whalen selected artists who have had careers in soundtracks, global, ambient, and alternative genres, and the final line-up is bassist Michael Manring, guitarist Michael Brook, trumpeter Jeff Oster, percussionist/remixer Karsh Kale, and, of course, Whalen himself. Whalen started the process by creating a basic framework and snippets of melody for each piece. Then he sent them to Michael Brook, who added his parts and sent them back to Whalen. Whalen formatted the parts and sent them to Karsh in India. The music went back and forth with the other artists, literally going coast to coast and around the world. Then Whalen mixed the final tracks and decided what to keep. Quoting Whalen: "Doing a project collaborating on writing, arranging and performance with some of the BEST musicians on the planet has been such a wonderful experience and opportunity for musical growth.” And we listeners are so lucky to be able to hear the results!
In a nutshell, two-time Emmy Award winning Michael Whalen has had an amazing 30+ year music career where he has produced 42 solo albums. He has created music for hundreds of television shows, dozens of films, thousands of international advertisements and video games as well as producing and collaborating with hundreds of artists. He can (and DOES!) literally do it all!
Our April Tigers begins with "Over Water," a graceful piece with a slow groove and several international spices in the instrumentation. Sometimes very peaceful, sometimes more mysterious, all of the artists seem to have pretty equal roles in the music. There is a gorgeous video for this piece (link to the left of this review). I dare you to sit still while listening to "Disappear"! It begins with a lively drum beat (bongos?) and a variety of interesting electronic sounds before becoming more melodic and/or ambient with a driving beat. Jeff Oster's horn is especially effective on this one! "Morning Bell" is much lighter and is as peaceful as watching a sunrise over the ocean. "Visceral Organ" is another piece that makes it impossible to sit still while listening. Upbeat and almost playful with its driving beat and electronic sounds, I think my computer is smiling right now! Michael Manring and his bass really shine and propel the music! Great stuff!!! "So Fragile" doesn't seem to be overly delicate with its powerful rhythms and strong bass, but Oster's horn gives the piece a mysterious feeling - especially when he's playing with the mute - intriguing! "Hope Haunts" has an easy flow and a gentle uplifting feeling that warms and soothes - beautiful! "Temporality" is very possibly the most difficult piece of the seven to define - not a bad thing at all! Hard-driving, vibrant percussion take the piece spiraling skyward as the bass, horn, guitar and electronics swirl all around it. Compelling is a good word for this one - an amazing piece of music and an awesome album!
Our April Tigers is available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well as many streaming sites including Spotify. A limited number of CDs are available from Michael Whalen's website. Don't miss this one!
March 21, 2023