FLOW is a New Age-super group consisting of pianist Fiona Joy (the f), guitarist Lawrence Blatt (the l), trumpeter Jeff Oster (the o) and guitarist and founder of the legendary label, Windham Hill, William Ackerman (the W).
Their self-titled debut creates a beautiful flow in the music that lives up to their name. As in the records on ECM, the pause plays a significant role. The music is allowed to breathe and silence becomes a companion to the pieces.
The term New Age is somewhat problematic, but, for good or worse, this is the label often associated with these musicians. However, while the music certainly has a meditative quality, it is first and foremost emotional and melodic music. The simple drawing on the cover reflects an intuitive approach to the music. It feels timeless and proved, and yet has the intensity and wonder of an instrument being touched for the first time. Oster plays long, ethereal lines. His sound is round, warm and airy and seems to grow out of the distance like a mist in an endless landscape. Fiona Joy adds wordless vocals and her piano chords emerge out of necessity. She both carries the music and sets it free.
Blatt and Ackerman are the melodic torchbearers. Time and time again, Ackerman has proved his ability to play melodic music from the heart. His signature sound is present all the way through the album, but while it is hard to get enough of his solo albums, FLOW represents a moment of new inspiration to Ackerman. His sound flourishes in the company of Oster, Joy and, not least, Blatt. What is better than one warm acoustic guitar? In this case, two warm acoustic guitars.
Another important aspect of the music is the organic metamorphosis where instruments replace each other and gather in intricate mood mosaics. Slow passages evolve into percussive patterns like the sliding notes and funky drums on "Whisper Me This" and the gentle rhythmical accentuations on the title track.
This is both music to relax to and find strength in. There is enough motivic development and interesting textures to reward repeated listening, but the record also has the immediate pleasure of hearing a catchy piece of balladry. Avant-garde purists will probably frown on this music and call it too soft, but in these times where stress is a common problem, the insistence on presence, emotion, silence and simple melodic beauty is its own kind of quiet revolution.
Arrival; Whisper Me This; Waiting for Sunshine; Flow; Free Ascent; Waters Gather;
And the Sky Was; A Night in Nocelle; Tenth Life; Rest Now My Friend; For Rosita
Will Ackerman: guitar; Fiona Joy: piano, vocals; Lawrence Blatt: acoustic & electric
guitar, ukulele; Jeff Oster: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Eaton: bass, electric guitar, co-
producer; Marc Shulman: guitar; Tony Levin: bass; Jeff Haynes: percussion; Sam
Bevan: bass; Eugene Friesen: cello.