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PureBeam Music: Reviews

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Written by Brian S. Lunde

April in Paris by Ron Hart and Gary Fitzgerald

Piano and bass duos are not common in jazz recordings, but also not unprecedented. Some famous recorded duos include Duke Ellington and Ray Brown, Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro, Hank Jones and Red Mitchell. It is tempting to think of these as drummerless trios since we are so accustomed to the classic rhythm section, but that would be a mistake. The piano is after all a percussion instrument, and the bass adds a wonderful depth and warmth to the piano's percussive nature. If Ron Hart and Gary Fitzgerald are not quite the same household names in jazz as the aforementioned duos, they have still made a fine contribution to the jazz library of piano and bass recordings.

The record opens with the title track, "April in Paris," and we immediately get a sense of the ease with which Hart and Fitzgerald make music together. The two give the gently-paced tune lots of room to breathe instead of filling every space with notes. There are some lovely renditions here of other standards.

A special gem is "Sidney's Soliloquy," a tune that was a favorite of the late jazz crooner Mel Tormé. Its shifts between minor and major tonalities give it the unusual feel of a pleasing sadness, like smiling through tears. Hart and Fitzgerald play out the tension well. Fitzgerald plays his solo mostly in the bass's upper register, a nice choice to underscore the tune's use of juxtaposition of major and minor.

Ray Charles made "Hit the Road, Jack" a raucous, foot-tapping R&B hit. Here, Hart and Fitzgerald slow it down to a bluesy walk. Fitzgerald opens and closes with straight-time quarter notes that evoke our "Jack" hitting the road reluctantly, just putting one foot in front of the other. In the middle, however, Fitzgerald builds the song by stepping first into eighth notes, then a nice double-time walking bass line. A very fresh treatment of this song.

Noteworthy among the originals are the quietly pretty "Unshakeable Love" and the ambitiously-named "Middle East Solution." The latter is almost a miniature suite moving us through peace, conflict and back again.

Hart and Fitzgerald have given us some very enjoyable jazz on April in Paris. If you enjoy trios, give this record a try and you'll appreciate the simpler but still swinging sound of piano and bass.

Additional Info

• Artist / Group Name: Ron Hart & Gary Fitzgerald

• CD Title: April in Paris • Featured Track: Hit the Road, Jack

• Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic

• Year Released: 2011

• Record Label: PureBeam Music

• Tracks: April in Paris; Sidney's Soliloquy; Night and Day; Hit the Road, Jack; From the Heart; The Sandbox; Blues for Dr. Barcus; Unshakeable Love; Angel Eyes; Middle East Solution; My Romance

• Musicians: Ron Hart (piano), Gary Fitzgerald (bass)

• Label Website: PureBeam Music

• Rating: Three Stars

The Light Beyond the Atoms

This is the piano and synthesizer album we've been waiting for. Ron Hart combines the virtuosity and soulfulness of Keith Jarrett with the softness and warmth of romantic classical music. In this fine suite, he's taken his most inspired concert improvisations on grand piano and added synthesizer orchestrations to create a unique blend of spontaneity and structure. The rich string tones and multi-colored ambiences of the synthesizer enhance and complement the piano in a completely natural sounding integration. Each movement is centered emotionally around an "essential quality of personal growth." The final movement, "Train is A'Comin'," includes the old American spiritual tune "Oh Susanna," concluding the album with a tinge of nostalgia and a deep sense of peace. The lyricism and balance of this music is very appealing. You'll find yourself returning to Ron Hart's music again and again.

The Divine Gypsy

Reviewed on November 28, 2004.

***** Perhaps the most heart-soothing recording ever released. When this recording was first released on cassette in the 1980s, it quickly soared to the top of the charts at "alternative" distributors. Its delicate, ethereal sounds touched all who heard it. When it played in the background of our book shop or at a yoga class, everyone insisted on acquiring a copy. Energy-sensitive individuals would spontaneously comment on how they could feel first their heart centers opening and then the higher centers. I do not know how much credit belongs to the sensitive arrangements by the...musicians and how much belongs to subliminal effects impregnated in these melodies by Yogananda... but I found it one of the best ways to introduce people to music as a healing modality (through direct experience - not having to explain in words). One friend said he could always bring his blood pressure down 10-15 points at the end of work by sitting back and listening to a few tracks from Divine Gypsy. For those of you who already have a copy, you might want to try listening through headphones. I was astonished the first time I did: the eyes insisted on closing themselves and were drawn upward toward the point between the eyebrows. The soothing sensations spread across the forehead and up over the scalp - a perfect antidote to a mentally hectic day!

Where Golden Dreams Dwell

World & New Age Music Reviews

Sweet enough music to grace a baby's nursery, Where Golden Dreams Dwell (Self-Realization Fellowship) is a collection of Paramahansa Yogananda's Cosmic chants in instrumental arrangements. The gentle, peaceful selections are performed on electric piano and synthesizer and performed, recorded and produced by lay members and monks of the Self Realization Fellowship. The album is aptly named, as the music is indeed dreamlike. It will serve well in healing environments as well as in your own home.