is now over 30 years since George Winston's "Autumn"
became the first piano release of the Windham Hill
label. This collection was put together in 2001 to
celebrate 25 years of consistently high standard
piano releases from this small company led by
Guitarist Will Ackerman at the helm. He has since
relinquished his responsibilities at the label, and
has taken to producing the music for up-and-coming
pianists, who might well have found their way onto
the Windham Hill roster if they had composed their
music decades ago.
For the Windham
Hill label itself, time has not been kind and, in
line with many other labels covering the New Age
genre, it now ceases to exist. It is through
wonderful CDs like this one, that the music lives on
to be enjoyed by future generations.
relaxing music" are words synonymous with the label,
and the collection does not disappoint.
The CD opens
fittingly with a contribution from the legendary
George Winston. "Dubuque" is taken from his "Plains"
CD from 1994. It is a catchy and melodic piece which
gets the listening experience off to a great start.
Track 2, "Wedding Rain" is arguably Liz Story's most
popular composition. Classically trained, this
influence shines through in her compositions. Few
people can have changed style as much as Jim
Brickman, the creator of the album's third track,
"If You Believe". Brickman's original releases were
solo-piano. Since then, he has gone on to a
lucrative career with the label, reverting to more
"pop" music. This change in direction might not be
appealing to piano lovers, but it certainly has had
an effect on sales. He has sold more than three
million records in seven years. No wonder the label
is content with his new style! Happily, this track
is from his early days and is a spritely little
number. Øystein Sevåg provides the curious fourth
track of the CD. "Children's Song" is a very
beautiful piece and is full of innocence.
"As For Us" is
a track by Fernando Ortega. It is a very pleasant
little number, originally from Piano Sampler II.
Track 6, "In Flight" is by Michael Harrison, not to
be confused with Michael Allen Harrison. Listening
to this, the listener can picture themselves soaring
through the sky with the migrating birds. It's a
wonderful, imaginative and free spirited piece.
Michael Harrison later went on to focus on piano
compositions written purely in intonation, but this
track is far more accessible. "Inside Out" is
another offering from the ever-popular Liz Story.
Again, there is a catchy melody, and her classical
influences are apparent.
It's back to
Jim Brickman again for Track 8, and the composition
he credits with launching his career. "Rocket to the
Moon" is a lovely, extremely melodic piece and
quickly became a favourite amongst his hoards of
fans. W.A. Mathieu (Walter Allaudin Mathieu, but
sometimes known as Allaudin Mathieu) features in the
collection's ninth track- "To the Well". There can
be no disputing the fact that this is his most
popular composition and very beautiful it is too.
Originally written as a solo-piano piece, both
Allaudin and Will Ackerman agreed that the track
needed that little extra something. Together, they
concurred that wordless vocals should be added, and
they managed to secure the services of
internationally acclaimed composer and vocalist
Bobby McFerrin. The addition of the vocals allows
the composition to reach new heights and, as such,
has become one of my all-time favourite tracks. It
has a timeless quality. It's also worth noting that
"To the Well" is one of Will Ackerman's favourite
tracks in the entire Windham Hill catalogue- and
that runs into several hundred tracks.
are certainly looking to the future by including the
debut track from a talented 16 year old by the name
of Taylor Eigsti. Taylor certainly shows much
potential in his track, "Past Voices" and hints at
his jazz roots. "A Morning With the Roses" is just
as appealing as the title of the track would
suggest. It is a fine piece by Richard Dworksy,
originally released on a Piano Sampler from Windham
Hill. George Winston provides the CD's penultimate
track, with a typically melodic piece entitled "Loreta
and Desirée's Bouquet- Part 1", taken from his
"Summer" CD. The honour of providing the
compilation's closing track goes to Philip Aaberg
who recorded four albums for the label and has since
gone on to producing his own CDs on his own label-
sometimes with a blues influence. This is not the
case with "Montana Half-Light" which has classical
and new-age traits. What is clear, however, is
Aaberg's remarkable ability for playing the piano.
It is no surprise to see Montana in the title, for
his homeland has been the source of great
inspiration to this exceptional composer.
collection! Windham Hill have released many gems in
their 25+ years, and this is an excellent
collection. My only surprise and slight regret is
that the label saw fit to only release a 53 minute
CD. With the quantity of tracks at their disposal, a
double CD (such as Narada released when celebrating
their anniversary) would have been ideal, with no
sacrifice to quality. Still, good things often come
in small packages, and this is the case here.
recommend this CD. It quite possibly will motivate
you into exploring the artists' own work.