Learning to Fly
2015 / Tatar Associates
Review by Kathy Parsons
Learning to Fly is guitarist/pianist/composer Neil Tatar’s second album following his #1 ZMR charting Where Did the Time Go with cellist David Darling. Learning to Fly was recorded at Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont, produced by Will Ackerman, and mixed and mastered by Tom Eaton. Surrounded by Ackerman’s stellar group of musicians, Tatar’s nine original tracks are mostly peaceful, mostly acoustic ensemble pieces that reflect on the moments in life when we realize that change is upon us. Light jazz and ambient styles are very evident, but overall, this is simply beautiful music that should appeal to a very broad audience. Although this is only his second album, Neil Tatar has been a professional musician and teacher for more than thirty-five years. The biggest surprise for me was Tatar’s eloquent piano playing. I knew he was an outstanding guitarist, but he plays piano on five of the nine tracks and guitar on the other four.
Learning to Fly begins with “Wait for Me,” a tender and heartfelt piano piece enhanced with cello (Eugene Friesen), English horn (Jill Haley) and bass (Tony Levin). “Breeze in Blue” find Tatar with his guitar, making musical magic with Premik Russell Tubbs on sax, Tony Levin on electric bass, and Noah Wilding’s haunting vocals. A bit more rhythmic, this is smoooooth jazz at its most relaxed - gorgeous! “Ode to My Mentors” returns to piano with alto flute (Tubbs), cello, bass, and percussion (Jeff Haynes). At 6 1/4 minutes, it’s the longest track, and what a graceful beauty it is as it intertwines several themes into an emotionally powerful whole. “Missing You” begins as a soulful guitar solo, then a poignant duet with Charlie Bisharat and his violin, peaking as a quintet that includes guitar, violin, cello, bass and percussion and then reversing the order. I love this one! “Twilight Dance” has a jazzier feel, although still very sultry. The title track is a breathtaking piano and violin duet with Charlie Bisharat that is worth the price of admission by itself! The first half of the piece is a lovely piano solo and then Bisharat enters and takes it heavenward. Tatar returns on piano for the ethereal “Morning Peace” along with Haley, Friesen, and Wilding - the stillness of a new day captured in music. Will Ackerman joins the ensemble in the breezy “Summer Strut,” adding a second guitar to the sax, bass, percussion and wordless vocals. Ah, the lazy days of summer! “Falling For You” brings this excellent album to a close with a love song that is both tender and sweet.
Learning to Fly is a joy from the first note to the last and should bring Neil Tatar a much bigger audience. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
July 9, 2015