From Bill Binkelman,
Zone Music Reporter
Kathryn Kaye - Heavy as a Feather
Kathryn Kaye's sophomore effort, Heavy as a Feather, trumps the already considerable accomplishment of her debut, Dreaming Still. The CD delves even deeper into Kaye's evocative, restrained, yet strongly melodic piano-driven instrumentals. This is a very strong follow-up and bodes an even brighter future for this talented relative newcomer than her freshman effort promised.
Once more working with ace producer Will Ackerman and featuring a smattering of top musical accompanists (Jill Haley on English horn, Tony Levin on bass, Michael Manring on fretless bass, Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, among others), Kaye puts her nuanced playing front and center on eleven graceful, elegant, sepia-toned soundscapes, while the guest artists contribute their considerable talents on seven of the selections.
Lately, it seems like a lot of pianists are trying to infuse more drama, power, and vibrancy into their music, a movement which, frankly, I don't like. That's why the overall soft, gentle mood which permeates Heavy as a Feather impresses me so much. Kaye remains true to her vision, allowing her piano melodies to tell their tales with abundant heart but also with subtlety.
Starting off with the nostalgic solo piano track, "Mountain Laurel," Kaye immediately displays her deft control of tone, as the music unfurls slowly with unforced naturalness and nary a trace of pointless rambling. The mood is warm, like sunlight streaming through a window. "Meadow Morning" has the artist joined by Friesen, Haley, Levin and percussionist Ramesh Kannan, but the presence of all these players doesn't derail the pensive mood of the piece, which tugs sincerely at the heartstrings when Friesen's cello enters the picture, likewise with Haley's English horn which seems to caress the piano melody lovingly as if comforting it. Even more sedate is the next track, "An Empty Street in Prague," on which Kaye infuses her piano playing with some subtle Eastern European motifs. Here she is joined by veteran violinist Bisharat as well as Tom Eaton on accordion. The desolation and solitude that the piece evokes captures the title reference perfectly. One can almost picture a person walking forlornly through a misty fog, deep in reverie. Bisharat's violin adds another Balkan-esque element (I must confess I didn't hear any trace of Eaton's accordion in the track, though, so it must be subtle and deep in the mix).
Other memorable selections (although, to be honest, the entire CD is great with no "filler" whatsoever) include the short solo piano tone poem, "So Much Sky," the rural Americana feel of the seven-minute long "Earth," the surprisingly mournful "Summer Afternoon," the highly impressionistic solo piece "Dusk at Rockhouse Creek," and the near Zen-like sparseness of the closing solo number, "One Last Quiet Breath."
Obviously, from my descriptions above, you should glean that Heavy as a Feather is an ideal late night listen, perfect for unwinding after a stressful day or as accompaniment to reading. The softness of the music requires a quiet environment (or headphones) to fully appreciate the nuances of Kaye's playing, as well as the performances of the other artists present on the disc. Corin Nelsen's mastering is flawless and Ackerman's production is its usual textbook self. The impressionist cover art (credited to A. Handelman) fits the mood of the album well, too.
Kathryn Kaye is well on her way to establishing herself as one of the best of the current crop of pianists. Her compositions convey emotions effortlessly with no trace of "in your face" theatrics. She clearly understands that less is more when it comes to number of notes as well as allowing the simple flow of the melody to speak softly. Heavy as a Feather should be in every piano music lover's collection.
From Dana Wright,
Kathryn Kaye is the majestic New Age instrumentalist that has been entertaining audiences from Germany to the United States since she was very young. Her first foray into the mysteries of the piano began when she was a mere four years old. An avid folk singer and soprano soloist, Kaye’s musical career has blossomed as she began to combine the elements of folk singing, her Appalachian background and her love of composition to the forefront of her music. Heavy As A Feather is her second album recently released this month. Artists included are Will Ackerman (guitar), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Tom Eaton (accordion), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Ramesh Kannan (percussion), Tony Levin (bass), and Michael Manring (bass).
When I first began to listen to this album, it was after a hectic day in retail land. From the first strains of piano lilting through the speakers of my iPad, I felt my blood pressure ratchet down a few notches. The beautiful piano playing in “Mountain Laurel” made me smile as I settled in for a listen.
“An Empty Street In Prague” is the third track on the album. The bittersweet element to this piece is haunting as the piano music drifts across memories in the back of your mind. The steady playing is combined with a thought provoking melody that reminds me of sitting in front of a hope chest in a dusty attic that you haven’t opened in a very long time. As the dust motes dance in the air, the creak of the hinges sounds to the haunting strains of a violin as you open the chest and sift through memories of what was and what could have been. Bittersweet tears collect in your eyes as you think back to opportunities lost and found and wonder at the mysteries of life and living. This piece is beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.
“Earth” is fresh as a spring morning. The lighthearted piano music floats up on the breeze like a butterfly on the wing. Spirals of color dance as violin and piano serenade each other. Under the warmth of the sun, the earth celebrates the bounty of life as the seasons give and take, the flow of life unceasing. The violin, so smooth in its majesty, is pure in its delightful resonance. The notes from the piano swirl around like dragonflies are jetting through the warm spring air or fireflies buzzing in the night winds. The composition of this piece is full of emotion and gives you pause to meditate on the wonder that is earth.
“Heavy As A Feather” is pensive and has a firmer feel than some of the other pieces on this album. The playing is contemplative and wraps you up in warmth and light. “Heavy As A Feather” is a truly apt name for this piece. It is both light but deep in its composition and the feelings it invokes in the listener. Peaceful and inspiring at the same time, the multi-instrumental feel to this piece is elegant and transcendental. A touch light as a feather, but with the power to keep you rooted to your seat so you don’t miss a single note.
Kathryn Kaye uses all of her musical knowledge of folk and classical to create a masterpiece with Heavy As A Feather. The wistful tones and haunting melodies will bring you out of your hectic world and into a place of contemplation. This album is a must-hear, especially when you need a bit of a disconnect from the business of the everyday grind.
From Kathy Parsons,
Heavy As a Feather is the second release by pianist/composer Kathryn Kaye, quickly following her very impressive debut, Dreaming Still. Produced by Will Ackerman at Imaginary Road Studios, recorded by Tom Eaton, and mastered by Corin Nelsen, the eleven original tracks include four piano solos and seven ensemble pieces from duets to larger groups. The music reflects a variety of influences that includes folksongs and hymns from childhood, ten years of classical music training, an international performing career, and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado where Kaye makes her home. Supporting musicians include Ackerman (guitar), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Tony Levin (bass), Michael Manring (fretless bass), and Ramesh (percussion). The piano is always front and center, but Kaye graciously gives the other musicians plenty of room to shine. The uncluttered melodies are played with such heartfelt expression that each becomes a distinctive gem as well as part of a flowing, cohesive whole.
Heavy As a Feather begins with the lovely “Mountain Laurel,” a piano solo bathed in spring breezes and dappled sunshine. “Meadow Morning” is a quintet for cello, English horn, piano, percussion,and bass. Peaceful contentment flows from each note, painting a picture in beautiful greens and pastel tones. “An Empty Street in Prague” is worth the price of the CD all by itself. It begins as a mournful piano solo - simple yet deeply emotional. When Charlie Bisharat enters with his violin a little past the halfway point, the music becomes tragic and heart-breaking. I really love this track! “So Much Sky” is a gorgeous piano solo - spare, graceful, and evocative. “Summer Afternoon” begins as a languid piano solo, but when Haley adds the voice of the English horn, it really becomes relaxed and downright lazy - delicious! “How Deep, How Simple” brings back Ackerman, Bisharat, Eaton, and Friesen for an easy-going tribute to the profound beauty of simplicity. “Dusk at Rockhouse Creek” is a quiet piano solo that tells of the stillness of the coming night as the day recedes from the sky. Very open and spacious, you can almost see stars starting to twinkle as the sky darkens. The title track is a duet for cello and piano with gentle strains that seem to float on the air - hence the title, I’m sure. It’s amazing how much an artist can convey with so few notes. “One Last Quiet Breath,” a solemn but very relaxed piano solo, ends the album with a peaceful kind of grace that will have you coming back for more!
Heavy As a Feather proves beyond a doubt that Kathryn Kaye will not be joining the long list of one-hit wonders! This is a great album, and it is available from www.kathrynkaye-music.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
From RJ Lannan,
Zone Music Reporter
Dream On, Dream On...
Kathryn Kaye is still a dreamer. That was my conclusion when I reviewed her last album, Dreaming Still. Her warm piano melodies continue to please in her latest work, Heavy as a Feather. Once again she not only offers some wonderful solo piano pieces, but she also has back-up from producer Will Ackerman and his Imaginary Road Studio musicians. Engineered by Corin Nelson, she has surpassed her last effort. On this work Kathryn is like a tourist of the world, taking snapshots and putting them into an album. Her music makes up the photos of warmth and passion.
On the slopes of the Smoky Mountains there is a small, hardy tree that survives against freezing temperatures and blustery winds year after year and still gives a brilliant showing every spring. Kathryn offers a tribute to it in the song "Mountain Laurel." The song suggest a mountain vista with a few evergreens. The sturdy mountain laurel provides a spectacular display of white and pink blossoms that pleases the eye as well as the spirit. The same could be said of Kathryn's music. If fact, I am saying it here.
"An Empty Street in Prague" is a truly an evocative song. After listening to it I could imagine the rain-soaked, glistening streets, the quiet shops and in front of the bistro, the two empty chair on the sidewalk. I pulled my trench coat a bit tighter and remembered that night of flashing smiles, warm glances and a promise that was never kept. If there is ever a tomorrow, then perhaps I will dream again.
"Earth," the song, not the planet, had a classical feel to it. As the music opens the dawn rose with a golden smile and the air cleared. The mountain came into view as the sky turned azure blue. As far as the eye could see were trees of every kind, fields of verdant growth and lakes that shone like silver jewels in the sun light. I felt the energy of my planet stir with life.
In Letcher County, Kentucky you can find yourself at "Dusk at Rockhouse Creek." The mountains of Eastern Kentucky offer a special kind of peace and infrequent sanctuary from the rest of the world. Kathryn found that peace and it is her inspiration. The music of the water and the gentle call of the wind along with the purple and gold of a perfect sunset offers a solitude available nowhere else. This piano solo tune is an outstanding cut on the album.
The title cut, "Heavy as a Feather," lives up to its promise as the melody drifts about in your senses. With just a touch of dulcet violin, the song gives diaphanous dreams to the mind. The little eddies of wind push and pull you until a new kind of freedom envelops you. The is the best tune on the recording.
With the peal of a Tibetan bell, the last song "One Last Quiet Breath" closes the album. Before the day's end I was invited by the music to ponder what has transpired during my day and to contemplate what I might for tomorrow. Kathryn's song, bolstered by Jill Haley's English horn, is thought-provoking in a way that suggests some modicum of finality to it. It really was just sad.
Kathryn Kaye has certainly upped her game when it comes to composition structure and orchestration when compared to her previous release. There are complexities in these that did not exist before and they are welcome now. Where there were hints and nuances, there a solid stories. I am thankful that Kathryn is still...a dreamer.
From Rotcod Zzaj (Dick Metcalf),
Kathryn Kaye – HEAVY AS A FEATHER
My first encounter with Kathryn’s beautiful piano work was in issue # 113, where she got a good rating from me… on this new CD, it’s up a notch, to be sure… just listen to the beautiful opener, “Mountain Laurel” to hear why I love her laid-back approach to the keyboards so much… unhurried, unrushed, no “points to prove” – just “her to you” and that’s about all you can ask from a performance! I didn’t know it until this CD, but Kathryn’s from southeastern Kentucky (wonder how close to Breathitt County she was… I spent two interesting years in the hills there)… I imagine that has something to do with why she comes across as unconcerned about rushing things. My favorite piece on this 11-track CD was “Earth,“ where her vibrant keyboards are joined by a whole host of players you may well recognize. This is, quite simply, the best piano/orchestral work I’ve heard this year, & totally merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED it gets for lovers of well-performed piano music; “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is 4.97.
From Raj Manoharan,
Heavy as a Feather, by Kathryn Kaye
Kathryn Kaye’s second album lives up to its title, offering a collection of gentle piano-based compositions that soothe the soul.
The CD offers a nice balance between solo piano performances, moving duets, and full but not overbearing band accompaniment.
Kaye is joined on this outing by such studio stalwarts as Tony Levin on bass, Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, Jill Haley on English horn, Michael Manring on fretless bass, Tom Eaton on accordion and percussion, Ramesh on percussion, and producer Will Ackerman on guitar.
Kaye is as masterful in her restraint as she is in the vernacular of the keyboard, knowing when to give in and when to hold back, yielding a satisfying listening experience. And her musical collaborators provide solid support without ever upstaging the proceedings.
The result is a delightfully rich and engaging concoction that is a sight for sore ears.
From John M. Peters,
Kathryn Kaye - Heavy As A Feather
This is the second album by pianist Kathryn Kaye to be reviewed here on The Borderland. Like its predecessor Dreaming Still, Heavy as a Feather is a collection of acoustic piano pieces with extra accompaniment. The eleven tracks are all slow, dreamy soundscapes, very pastoral and lushly romantic. Ms Kaye is a subtle composer, her music calling in influences of various classical composers such as Chopin and Liszt. There is a strong chamber quartet/quintet feel to the tracks featuring the larger groups of musicians. The track titles are: Mountain Laurel, Meadow Morning, An Empty Street In Prague, Wind In The Tall Autumn Grass, So Much Sky, Earth, Summer Afternoon, How Deep How Simple, Dusk At Rockhouse Creek, Heavy As A Feather, One Last Quiet Breath. As you can see, the titles are mostly descriptive of being outdoors, indeed Ms Kaye lives in the Rocky Mountains region of Colorado, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was the inspiration for much of this music. The musicians playing on this album are: Will Akkerman - guitar/production, Eugene Friesen - cello, Jill Haley - English Horn, Ramesh Kannan - Percussion, Tony Levin - bass, Charlie Bisharat - violin, Tom Eaton - accordion/rainstick, Michael Manring - fretless bass. Heavy As A Feather is marketed as being either New Age or Acoustic Instrumental, which is fair enough, but I think Light Classical is equally descriptive of what is on the CD. This is a quietly stunning album, musically rich and ideal for reflection or finding a little peace in one's life. Highly Recommended.
From Michael Diamond,
Heavy as a Feather - Kathryn Kaye
As I mentioned at the end of my review of Kathryn Kaye’s excellent debut album Dreaming Still, plans were already on the drawing board for her next recording and that it would certainly be something to look forward to. Now, here it is, just about one year later, and it didn’t take a crystal ball to know that this sequel would be a fulfillment of that prophecy. Kathryn has done it again in grand style.
There’s an old saying: “If its’ not broke, don’t fix it.” Referring in this case to the repeating of a formula that worked so well on the previous CD and applying it again with the same stellar results, perhaps even better. The elements of that alchemy include Kathryn’s evocative compositions and grand piano expressions, produced by Grammy-winning Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Roads studio in Vermont, with mastering by Corin Nelsen, and a new addition to the team, recording engineer Tom Eaton. And last but not least, the accompaniment of a number of world-class studio musicians, some of whom graced her first album.
The term “world-class” is sometimes over-used or over-hyped, but in this case it is definitely warranted. Returning is violinist extraordinaire, Charlie Bisharat, who has played with Yanni and John Tesh. Also reprising their appearances are Eugene Friesen on cello and Jill Haley on English horn – both veterans of numerous sessions with Will Ackerman – who, incidentally, adds acoustic guitar on two tracks. On fretless bass, another frequent Ackerman collaborator is the ever-innovative Michael Manring, as well as bassist Tony Levin, known for touring with Peter Gabriel, as well as being a session musician on literally hundreds of albums. With percussion by Ramesh Kannan, and additional instrumentation by recording engineer Tom Eaton on accordion and rainstick, the cast is complete. However, as on her previous album, the accompaniment, like fine caviar, is used in moderation, and not on every track. In fact, four of the eleven pieces are solo piano.
Some of Kathryn’s compositions, for me, are like musical portraits that evoke the earthy ambience and subtle shadings of an Andrew Wyeth painting. In the words of Wyeth himself, “To be a great artist, requires emotional depth, an openness, to look beyond self to the subject, and passion. A great painting then is one that enriches and broadens one’s perspective.” And so it is with the music of Kathryn Kaye, which resonates on an emotional level with the listener and inspires vision in the mind’s eye. The opening track, a sweet piano solo, entitled “Mountain Laurel” is a perfect example. Within its serenely sylvan melody is revealed a depth for those with ears to hear. The nature theme continues on the second track, “Meadow Morning,” which is peaceful and pensive, but with a touch of wistfulness in the air. This is one of the larger ensemble pieces, yet its understated interplay maintains the delicate demeanor that characterizes the album.
As pastoral as Kathryn’s music can be, she also ventures into other landscapes, such as the decidedly more urban vista of “An Empty Street In Prague.” The music so perfectly captures the essence of the title that it is hard not to feel like you are there, your lone footsteps echoing down the cobblestone corridor of the city. But it is not long before we are back in the welcoming arms of Mother Nature on track four with “Wind In The Tall Autumn Grass,” a lovely piano and cello duet. On “Earth,” another of the larger ensemble pieces, the accompaniment, again, is painted with a light touch that adds contrast and context while keeping the piano in the foreground. Interestingly, “Summer Afternoon” inhabits similar affective space as the aforementioned “Meadow Morning” with its peaceful presence tinged by a wisp of longing. The title of “How Deep, How Simple” mirrors some of the qualities of Kathryn’s music, with its reflective melodies that are unpretentious on the surface while illuminating deep waters below. Speaking of titles, the music on the title track “Heavy As A Feather” does a wonderful job of depicting a portrait in sound that has a lightness of being yet is counterbalanced by a subtle sense of gravity. Beginning with the single tolling of a bell, a brief solo piano interlude appropriately entitled “One Last Quiet Breath” draws the album to a mellifluous conclusion.
Although there has been no mention (yet) with regard to the next CD, it is unlikely that Kathryn’s fans will cease calling for an encore until she obliges and paints yet another haunting musical masterpiece in colors of earth and sky.
From Serge Kozlovsky,
Past sorrows burden throwing down
Fly like a feather...
This music is weightless and full of inner freedom. It is like the flight of a small multicolored butterfly which flies from one beautiful flower to another on the lush Summer meadow. This music is overflowing with tenderness, compassion and forgiveness. When you listen to this project you realize what a joy to be here on this Earth and you want to stay here as long as possible in harmony and creativity.
It is not necessary to think how the artist achieves such a perfect sounding and deepest emotional impact of her performance. You just want to listen to the music of Kathryn Kaye and to recover your heart because the compositions of this project possess a strong healing effect.
I would like only to mention in short that Heavy as a Feather is the second CD of Kathryn Kaye. Like the first album this project was produced by Will Ackerman at his famous Imaginary Road Studios in Windham County, Vermont. And, as it was on the first CD the team of outstanding artists helps Kathryn to record the second one.
Heavy as a Feather shows the obvious progress of Kathryn Kaye as an acoustic instrumental and new age music performer. The album discovers new facets of her talent. This music appeals to the highest aspirations of your soul. It awakens the yearning for love and beauty.
What will you feel when the music of Heavy as a Feather ends? You just want to live and to create and maybe to listen to this project once again.
From John P. Olsen,
New Age Music World
Kathryn Kaye’s second album Heavy as a Feather has been getting substantial media commentary this year. It could very well be due in part to the success and recognition she has received with her first piano and instrumental album Dreaming Still, which is another top album by Kathryn Kaye, with Will Ackerman as producer. Kathryn Kaye’s first album succeeded in opening up new horizons for the once debuting new artist who was among top artists recently under consideration for Zone Music Reporter’s best album awards for 2011. Kathryn’s nominations were two ZMR categories of Best New Artist & Best Instrumental Album – Piano.
Dreaming Still acquired the #1 position in the ZMR Top 100 charts for 3 months, and the #2 album on ZMR’s Top 100 Recording chart in 2011. Dreaming Still achieved an impressive top ranking from over 2300 albums by some of the best artists worldwide.
Heavy as a Feather is much in the same artistic signature as Dreaming Still by the contemporary presentation of Kathern’s skills as composing pianist with ten years of classical music education. I believe it is clear to everyone now Kathryn Kaye is a versatile pianist who knows how to create beautiful song melodies with emotional depth and charm, which in turn, has moved her music career to the next level.
Heavy as a Feather is another great album produced with Will Ackerman, engineer Corin Nelsen, and a team of music professionals. Of the 11 songs, half are solo piano pieces, with the balance of songs in the accompaniment of some of the most respected artists in the music business. It’s a select group of esteemed artists that justifiably includes composing pianist Kathryn Kaye.
Kathryn Kaye composed the 11 original songs and performs on piano, with additional artists Will Ackerman (guitar), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Tom Eaton (accordion and percussion), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Tony Levin (bass), Michael Manring (fretless bass),and Ramesh (percussion).
From Gabriole Springford,
Kathryn Kaye - Heavy as a Feather
This is Kathryn’s second album, consisting of 11 original piano compositions. A beautiful, relax-with-your-feet-up CD, its emotionally evocative melodies played in a simple but compelling style are a delight to listen to.