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Album Review: Ritual
Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai
Cover image of the album Ritual by Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai
Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai
2014 / Mysterium Music
62 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Although they have recorded at least eleven albums together over the past twenty or so years, Ritual is the first release in more than a decade from pianist/composer Peter Kater and Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai. On several of the seven tracks, the duo is joined by legendary reedsman Paul McCandless, cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, and/or vocalist Trisha Bowden. All of the music on the album was improvised and Kater states in the liner notes that “It is an offering and invitation for us all to meet in this place of pure beingness that transcends time, duality and concept. It is an expression of the totality and gift of each moment and the awareness that the experience of this journey is its own reward.” I have always found it fascinating that Native American flutes can work so beautifully with an instrument as different as the piano. Of course, both artists are beyond being masters of their respective instruments and are very much in synch creatively, but I still find it amazing that the much simpler flutes can hold their own with the very complex grand piano. This music is a coming-together of musical cultures that share and celebrate their differences as well as their similarities and unite as one. I have always given Peter Kater a ton of credit for being so open to such a wide range of musical expression, and even after fifty-plus recordings, he is still going strong! R. Carlos Nakai also does quite a bit of chanting on the album and there is a translation of his chant in the liner notes.

Ritual begins with “Meeting At Twilight,” a beautiful trio for piano, Native American flute, and oboe. Beginning with a brief flute solo, Kater then enters with a dark rhythmic pattern in the bass of the piano. McCandless’ English horn plays a gorgeous counterpart to the flute in a piece that is sometimes mysterious and sometimes more lively and upbeat - a great opening that sets the tone for the album as a whole. “Standing As One” starts out with a mournful cello and piano duet - very smooth and haunting. Once the flute and Bowden’s lovely voice have made the ensemble a quartet, the piece becomes an emotional powerhouse. “Invoking the Elements” returns to the trio of Kater/Nakai/McCandless and is impossible to classify into a specific genre because jazz and blues add subtle flavors to make this a tasty stylistic stew, if you will. I really love this one - fairly soft-spoken and subtle, but so expressive! “Space Within” is a 12 1/2-minute improvisation that is smooth and gentle and includes Nakai’s poetic chanting. “Dream Dances” is another lengthy improv that this time includes the whole group. At a bit over eleven minutes, the piece has plenty of time to evolve and move in a variety of directions, bringing the album to a satisfying close.

Longtime fans of the Kater/Nakai collaborations will be very happy with this new installment. Newcomers will find this a great place to start. Ritual is available from peterkater.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
April 29, 2014
This review has been tagged as:
Grammy NomineesZMR Winner
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