producer, guitarist, founder of Windham Hill Records
Zone Music Reporter – FLOW: On Point, and On Tour!
APRIL 4, 2018
The following is a review from Samantha Garcia on zonemusicreporter.com Click here to read the review on the zonemusicreporter.com website.
Or visit the FLOW website:https://www.flowthegroup.com/ for more reviews, photos, etc.
FLOW: On Point, and On Tour!
It isn’t often that the New Age genre finds itself enjoying the emergence of a group such as FLOW, who recently announced their May 2018 Arrival Tour from New Orleans to Seattle, San Fran, and LA. The talented Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster have joined to give us an album of serene beauty. Each musician brings passion for their instruments and years of dedication to their craft into this album, manifesting a creative energy so strong that it resonates throughout every note. Nothing is wasted. Originally a project started by Lawrence Blatt, FLOW came together when he invited pianist Fiona Joy and composer Jeff Oster to collaborate with him at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. It wasn’t long, however, until Will became far more than just a producer, and an integral contributor to the project.
This writer prefers to sample an album as opposed to sharing the full-course, so I’ll highlight three tracks and “highly-recommend* that you discover all the rest. “Arrival” is clearly the best place to start this 11-song eponymous project, an opener that is equal parts welcoming, celebratory and triumphant. Fiona Joy’s deft piano touch teases the listener into the track and builds, as does Jeff’s moody horn; Lawrence and Will join in on guitar, with percussion adding a sense of groovy momentum to FLOW’s introductory track. The composition and sequencing of this song is perfect. Something that starts off gently swells into a full-blown showcase of the wonderful talent at hand, a promise of the musical adventures still to be heard.
In contrast to the opening track, the title song “Flow” focuses more on guitar and horns, with a more subtle piano influence. The gentle plucking of the guitar is perfectly accentuated by Fiona’s signature ethereal, wordless vocals reminiscent of Julee Cruise (Twin Peaks). The track slows for a few moments here and there to allow the guitar to shine. Ackerman’s creative direction emerges at times like these, with a “less is more” approach to guiding the record, particularly in this song. The little breaks throughout leave the listener “sonic windows” to soak in the mood that is being set.
Wrapping up the album, “For Rosita and Giovanni” is another complex and intimately-composed piece. Inspired by Will’s trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, it awakens many human emotions within the listener. Feelings ranging from joy to melancholy, and reflection to gratitude can be felt within the four minutes and eighteen seconds of this song. The guitar strums gently as Fiona Joy’s piano swoops in to compliment it. Oster’s horn soars mournfully above the tender melodies, painting a poignant portrait of an unforgettable couple.
It’s worth mentioning that the album also benefits from musical performances by Guest Artists like Marc Shulman, Tony Levin, Jeff Haynes, Sam Bevan, Eugene Friesen, and Tom Eaton, who also mixes, masters, and produces alongside Will. The album was released on Lawrence’s LMB Music label.
One may have expected a more ethereal presentation on the cover art of these New Age stars, but Oster’s doodling captures the true spirit of the collaboration: good friends simply playing together and making music…and, really, what is more “zen” than that? Overall, the project is understated, sophisticated and incredibly clean.
Excitement about the group and its music has broken thru to mainstream audiences through Guitar Magazine, Billboard, Acoustic Guitar, The Huffington Post, Echoes, and local media. Catch them on their May tour if you can, or at the Zone Music Awards on May 12th in New Orleans, where they are nominated for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.