Like the cover suggests, Turned Into Lemonade is perfect for a relaxed summer day, with the salty ocean breeze in your face while waves crash in the distance. Music this sweet runs the risk of resembling Kool Aid, but there are enough sour hints to make the album a refreshing pleasant listen.
Pianist and bandleader Richard Shulman only features original material, and his songwriting touches on a variety of subjects. The smooth atmosphere that Shulman cultivates ties everything together, making ballads, sambas, and Pharoah Sanders tributes come together like a well-mixed cocktail. Turned into Lemonade's, crossover appeal and relaxed mood should not be a surprise considering Schulman often specializes in new age music. Despite his new-age background, the music here is lively and energetic, with no ambient synths or meditation chimes in sight.
Two tracks "In Between the Blue and Green," and "Buried Diamond" are derived from half-written songs from a 1983 notebook. "In Between" did not see the light of day due to its similarities to Bill Evans' classic "Blue in Green." Luckily Shulman recognized the song's potential, as the energetic, straight ahead post-bop song on the album makes for a good change of pace after the mood music of "Atmosphere" and "I Claim my Day." Like its twin, "Buried Diamond" is a relatively straightforward piece, anchored by a great melody by saxophonist Jacob Rodriguez.
The two vocal ballads, "The Gifts You Gave To Me," and "Finding Piece," despite quality vocal performances from Wendy Jones, drag in comparison to the more upbeat songs, and lack melodic and harmonic beauty of the instrumentals . Since the album already runs at a hefty hour and seventeen minutes, Shulman could have afforded to cut them.
Turned into Lemonade is a solid offering by the Asheville NC based Shulman. His songwriting and soloing abilities are solid, and his band shows excellent chemistry. Maybe next time instead of lemonade, Shulman can turn his music into wine.
Track Listing: Atmosphere; I Claim my Day; In Between the Blue and Green; The Gifts You Gave to Me; For Mom; No Matter What They Say; Homage to Pharoah; It’s All Inside; Finding Peace; Buried Diamond; Turned into Lemonade ; Sunny Samba; Write Again; Nostalgia.
Personnel: Richard Shulman: piano; Jacob Rodriguez: tenor & soprano saxophones; Zack Page: bass; Rick Dilling: drums;
Wendy Jones: vocals on tracks 4, 7, 9.
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