Suzanne Ciani and The Wave: Live!
1997 / Seventh Wave
Review by Kathy Parsons
Suzanne Ciani is one of my all-time favorite composers and musicians. I was very excited to learn that she was going to do two concerts in San Francisco this past March with a hand-picked super-group called The Wave (Paul McCandless, Teja Bell, Matt Eakle, Michael Manring, Kalani, Jeremy Cohen, and Doug Harman). These concerts were the setting for Suzanne’s first-ever live album and DVD. At the concert itself, I was surprised that such phenomenal musicians were using sheet music, and commented in my review of the concert (in the first issue of Wind and Wire) that it seemed too controlled. Suzanne told me later that she was following the classical tradition of keeping the music as written, and feels that too much improvisation in her music takes the backbone out of it. Her vision was certainly clear and absolutely correct when it came to the recorded version of the concerts. This album is gorgeous! Contents-wise, this is a wonderful overview of Suzanne’s many composing styles, and the live performance gives each song a fresh take. There are electronic elements in several of the pieces, most especially “Samukee” and “Mosaic”, which keep them true to their original form, but the live instrumentation makes them much warmer. Old favorites such as “Neverland”, “Eagle”, “The Velocity of Love”, “Hotel Luna”, and “Anthem” all take on a new life with Matt Eakle’s soaring flute and Paul McCandless’ variety of wind instruments, as well as the other artists’ strings and percussion. The three new songs on the album, “Butterflies”, “Stream”, and “Folk Dance” indicate that Suzanne is continuing to evolve in new directions. Her more recent work seems to me to be somewhat more complex and classical, but still continues in her own melodic and soothing style. “Butterflies” is my favorite of the new pieces, and it is easy to visualize the fluttering of tiny wings while listening to it; each of the band members also has a short solo here. “Folk Dance” has a very unusual rhythm, and is great fun (composer/pianist Ira Stein arranged this piece as well as “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Eagle”). “Sailing to Byzantium”, “Go Gently”, “Drifting”, “Stream” and “Inverness” are all smooth as silk, and Matt Eakle’s and Paul McCandless’ playing are again outstanding in their tenderness and insight into the music. “Time Stops” and “Anthem” are the two encore pieces, and both provide a gentle but stirring conclusion to this excellent album.
As with any live album, the applause between pieces keeps it from being an album to doze off to, but the quality of the music should more than make up for that. I really like the way the album is laid out, with the quiet and flowing pieces alternated with the more upbeat, lively, or abstract songs. Longtime Suzanne Ciani fans will be thrilled with this collection, and for those not familiar with Suzanne’s work, it is a great introduction!
January 1, 1997