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Album Review: Gioia
Sandy Owen
Cover image of the album Gioia by Sandy Owen
Sandy Owen
1996 / Ivory Records
53 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Gioia is Italian for joy/happiness, and this CD exudes both. A combination of vocals and instrumentals, solos and ensemble work, this recording is almost as upbeat and fun as Sandy Owen’s earlier “Boogie Woogie Rhythm and Blues.” A few of the tracks are a bit more subdued and introspective, but most of the music is an expression of unbridled “gioia.” There are also more electronic sounds on this recording than on Owen’s other work, but it certainly doesn’t overshadow his pianistic wizardry. I would also mention that Owen belongs much more in the jazz realm than the new age category, although there are crossover moments. The ensemble pieces include Paul Carman on sax, Ted Owen on drums and percussion, Steve Crum on trumpet, Penny Watson Crum on background vocals, Tom Evans on oboe and flute (gorgeous work!), and Tom Ravel on drums.

The CD opens with solo oboe on a shortened version of “Renewal”, segueing into the title track - an energetic and rhythmic dance to the joy of life. “What You’ve Done” is an upbeat and slightly bluesy love song with Sandy Owen on vocals as well as keyboard. With bass, percussion, sax, and background vocals, this is a jazzy charmer. “Tuolumne Calls” slows the pace ‘way down with a beautiful memorial to Dr. Carl Sharsmith - the oboe is especially effective on this piece. “C-Thing” picks up the rhythm again with a happy-go-lucky ensemble number. One of the two cover pieces is a soulful version of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere”; the other is a bass and drum-driven “Third Stone from the Sun” by Jimi Hendrix - both are exceptionally fine arrangements. The second vocal piece is “I Know It,” which is a slinky blues-style love ballad. Great stuff! “Laura’s Birthday” is a sweet solo piano waltz. “Remembrance” is the only really downbeat piece, but is touchingly beautiful. “Lolita” is a livelier jazz ensemble work, and then the set closes with the full-length version of “Renewal.” There isn’t a weak track on this CD, and the variety of styles makes for a rich listening experience. Sandy Owen is an incredible artist, and should be much more widely-known and recognized. Very highly recommended! Gioia is available from sandyowen.com and amazon.com.
September 2, 2003