Contemporary Instrumental Review: Doug Hammer-Swim To America Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano)

Release Date: April 28, 2023

Label: Independent


When a musician becomes a fan of another musician's music, things can happen in extraordinary ways. In matters of life circumstances, social media, and a combination thereof, Doug Hammer became acquainted with Stephan Eicher

Swim To America Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) is the first of three volumes of music Doug plans on releasing this year, covering tracks from the Eicher catalog. It is the 16th release for Doug.


Doug's interpretation of the Eicher compositions encompasses the thirteen tracks of this large-scale project for volume one. Covering one's tunes would be the easier route. However, the artistry and musical intelligence of Mr. Hammer takes the road less traveled. The level of difficulty covering someone's music your way takes tremendous patience and creativity. Taking each piece as an inspiration and springboard to jump off, the process begins with respect and love for the music you are paying tribute to.


That fact becomes evident from the first track to the last of this release. Remember that this is only the piano, nothing else supporting Doug. There are 13 tracks of purely instrumental music falling squarely into contemporary instrumental, influenced strongly by the classical and new age. Then again, classical music has been here on this earth for so long that it only makes sense that everyone is influenced by it in some manner, musically speaking in general terms.


However, because many tracks hold such beauty and a relaxing ambiance, I must give new-age music much credit as a vital underpinning, reflecting the artist's original intent. It is a show of respect and joy for the music. And it celebrates both artists at the same time.


That is a beautiful thing to witness and hear. It also creates some curiosity for listeners to seek out the background and music of the celebrated artist Stephan Eicher more in-depth. The length of the tracks is just right, not too long nor too short. Doug Hammer uses all his tools to create beautiful music from an admired composer and makes it his own. That is a more remarkable tribute than just covering the compositions. He breathes new life into the music following his intuition and heart, and it works out beautifully. One creation blossoms into another, and that is how it should work. 

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

May 12, 2023


01. Ce peu d’amour 4:00

02. Cendrillon après minuit 4:15

03. Déjeuner en paix 3:26

04. Für Immer 3:43

05. 1000 Vies 3:18

06. Je te mentirais disant 3:30

07. Manteau de gloire 4:30

08. Swim to America 3:21

09. Autour de ton cou 3:13

10. Si tu veux (Que je chante) 2:54

11. Djian's Waltz 3:20

12. Prisonnière 2:43

13. Nocturne 3:17

New Age Meditation Review: Charleene Closshey -ALIGNED: A Planetary Mantra & Gong Shower

Release Date: September 30, 2022

Label: Independent


I saw on Charleene Closshey’s website that she had released diverse music. That gets my attention when I see an artist working, releasing a significant amount of music, and covering several genres. That speaks to an overall talent that not everyone can command or have the courage to release.


ALIGNED: A Planetary Mantra & Gong Shower is a different type of release. From the artist’s website, it says: Charleene’s meditation music compositions often incorporate binaural beats. Binaural beats are two slightly differently tuned frequencies played simultaneously, one in each ear, to create a third perceived by the brain as its own “beat” pattern. Binaural beats are known to reduce anxiety and nurture relaxation.


She incorporates all nine planets and the sun for a celestial dream on the astral plane (of the stars) into this mesmerizing collection of tracks. The voice of Charleene is quite beautiful. Along with her music, she is working on her Ph.D. in Natural Health. The recording frequencies have scientific proof that they can heal the mind and body.


I don’t usually sit to listen to a recording like this; it has a higher purpose. And I think most folks would use it for focus and meditation. The repetitive nature of mantras is for your intense focus (A mantra is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, a word or phonemes, or a group of words in Sanskrit, Pali, and other languages). The sounds and vibrations intend to relax the body so that healing can occur. That is my interpretation; however, it may differ for everyone. It is a tool to use as you wish. Everyone has different needs and thus seeks out those sounds and vibrations that will lead them to enlightenment. 


The longest track is “Jupiter” (15:24), and the shortest is “Pluto” (5:58). Regarding meditation, you may want to take one long track or combine two for your needs.


Some of the information provided here is familiar to those already meditating and utilizing similar methods to attain the transcendent state of mind to reach the desired effects. For those uninitiated seeking a way to meditate for renewal of the mind, body, and spirit, then ALIGNED: A Planetary Mantra & Gong Shower would be a marvelous way to begin your journey. 


This aspiring work of art combines ancient language, science, and technology. Those three elements, appropriately used, can combine into a powerful message. And it indeed does from beginning to end.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

April 30, 2023



02. Mercury-9:28

03. Venus-8:03

04. Mars-11:53

05. Jupiter-15:24

06. Saturn-12:12

07. Uranus-9:23

08. Neptune-7:01

09. Pluto-5:58

10. Sedna-13:14

11. Deep Space-8:45

New Age Instrumental-World-Jazz Review: Peter Sterling-Mystic Voyager

Release Date: June 2, 2023

Label: Independent


Mystic Voyager is the fifth studio album I have covered for Peter Sterling. Most people who appreciate music, particularly the kind that fits into the new age genre or subgenre, would agree that the harp is a beautiful instrument. It sounds heavenly and magical.


The cover art is colorful, with giant crystals and the light beam shining down. The person standing there looks so tiny in comparison to the wonderment they are witnessing,


So, the challenge for anyone with the harp as a lead instrument is to create an accessible group of tracks with enough variance so that many listeners would stop and listen. Over the years, Peter has accomplished that with diverse selections on his recordings. 


An excellent example of that diversity is “Cosmic Lover,” which has a jazz flavor with some lovely vocals. It proves that the harp can fit into any genre if played correctly. It is the gentle, inviting sound that allows that to happen. 


I am sure it must be a complex instrument to master and then be able to create music that most people would feel pleased to hear. If you ever watch any of the old Marx Brothers movies and see how the crazy Harpo would stop and play, it was the only time he looked serious during filming. That told me that concentration is vital when playing any instrument; however, the harp differs exceptionally from your typical guitar, bass, and drums. 


I appreciate all kinds of music and admire the people that create it; in this case, I am amazed at how Peter can do this album after album. There are so many elements that merge on Mystic Voyager. To give proper credit, this is an excellent amalgamation of new age, jazz, and world. It is primarily instrumental, with the touch of female vocals to give it that extra layer of rhythm and beauty. The harp accentuates everything, but in this case, everything else heightens the harp’s color and absolute perfection.


There are not many things that life offers that are perfect; well, here is that time that it is. Every track is entirely different from the one you just heard. That will keep your interest and make you curious about the next track. For my ears and taste, that is what I live for. All the eclectic albums you can enjoy do not always turn out to be unique. In the case of Peter Sterling and Mystic Voyager, it is unique; all of his work is. Add another to the list.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

May 4, 2023


1. Invocation 4:22

2. Night Wind 4:39

3. Cosmic Lover 4:44

4. Across the Great Divide 5:47

5. Bahia Del Sol 6:22

6. The Long Cold Winter 4:49

7. Light of Your Love 5:17

8. Angels Ascending 3:39

9. Wings Of Light 3:15

Contemporary Instrumental Review: Terry Lee Nichols-Metamorphosis

 Release Date: May 8, 2023

Label: Independent


Terry Lee Nichols has released a significant piano-based instrumental recording
Metamorphosis takes the listener on a worldly adventure. It is a story about humans and their history, including migration and beginnings. To be more specific, he traced his ancestors, which makes for an exciting recording. There is more to it than that, but that is the general idea.

When you listen to the music on Terry's site, you can click on the note beside the first track, and it will automatically tell the story of each composition with artwork to accompany it. For instance, the joy in "Grandma's Good Ol' Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits" is an upbeat, happy tune.


As one would anticipate, the pace and color within each composition mirror the track titles. The music is contemporary instrumental with strong influences of classical and all its ebbs and tides. The combination is stunning.


"Once Upon a Time" has a picture of a hand reaching down in a wheat field, and to the right is inscribed "If I know what love is, it is because of you." - Hermann Hesse. It is a delicate track, as soft as the woman's hand in the picture. 


You will enjoy a multimedia presentation; everything fits together. Music, art, and video are the perfect combination. However, a talented artist must make this something new and fresh as it is commonplace. Terry Lee accomplishes that quite successfully. 


I also appreciated how touching some images were on "Bedtime Stories." The music is perfect while taking the explanation of Dad, an otherwise ordinary man, and turning him into a hero, storyteller, and singer of songs. It makes you remember those precious moments of child-rearing and those you may be fortunate enough to enjoy right now.

Terry Lee's piano is gorgeous, fluid, and very telling of each storyline. The pictures will give a little nudge in figuring out why the music flows. The piano playing is very intent on emotionally moving you; it certainly did me. And you can tell the artist was in this heart and soul; you can feel it with every touch of the keys. And that my music-loving friends are what I would describe as prolific. 


While I gave you a glimpse into what to expect, I will leave the rest to each listener. It is essential to let you, the potential listener, find the gifts in each offering. This music has happiness, pure joy, and sadness, which is how it should be. It makes you pause and reflect on the meaning for you.


Terry Lee does go through a Metamorphosis inside the music, and I believe you can as well if you decide to follow along on his website here

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

April 25, 2023


01. Metamorphosis 04:16

02. Out of Eden 03:03

03. Let Us Rest Beside the Cool Waters 03:08

04. Grandma's Good Ol' Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits 02:06

05. A Day in the Life of a Cocktail Pianist 03:11

06. Once Upon a Time 04:42

07. Bedtime Stories 03:50

08. This Was Once a Love Poem 01:17

09. The Dangling Conversation 02:20

10. Barcelona 05:09

11. Mom, which picture will you use for me? 03:45

12. Thinking Back 03:59

13. One Molecule Away from Madness 02:45

14. The Long Goodbye 5:17

Contemporary Instrumental Review: Mark Barnes-Winter Wishes

Release Date: April 19, 2023

Label: Independent


Mark Barnes’ website says Winter... a time of renewal… a time of peace… a time to reflect. I agree that it can be a time to reflect so you find renewal and peace. Winter Wishes is his latest release. You may find, if you listen close, that what you seek is everything suggested. It is the season when the magic of snowflakes hits the air, and the birth of Jesus is honored. 

The music may warm your heart during old man winter’s cold spells. However, it looks like the worst of the Winter is in the rearview mirror; folks living in the Northeast know it may come back at any point until we are out of April, even though it was in the 80s the past few days!


Mark’s music is piano based, with orchestral layers that follow his lead, enhancing each piece with purpose matching the artwork and tracks. That is how it is supposed to happen, so you must look at everything presented and think about it while listening. At least, that is my process, and I highly recommend you try it if you have not to this point.


The temp and flow are gorgeous. For instance, “Snow Angel” is an invitation into his world created especially for each listener. If you are in a warmer climate year-round, you may not realize the significance of Winter and all its wonder and beauty. And even though there is beauty all around you, there are times that it can be cold and complex, and treacherous. Living here for most of my life and experiencing warmer climates for several years in California, I realize more as I age that beauty and peace can be at any time of year. 


Music can hold so much beauty as well. Mark brings each track to life by wrapping the winter season in his warm blanket via the ivory keys. I heard throughout the recording a foundation that sounded like classical taken to another place in new age and contemporary instrumental. I hear music like this often for weeks, months, and years. Given that timeframe, capturing my imagination and thought process while listening takes considerable effort. 


Winter Wishes was an excellent way to reflect upon Winter and much more as the recording moved through each track. I think the closing track, “Aurora,” will discover how it mirrors the beauty of the aurora borealis or the city based in Colorado, which is the gateway to the Rockies. Whatever way you look at it, it works as a magnificent ending to an exceptional recording. 


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

April 15, 2023


01. Winter Sky

02. The Snow Globe

03. Chilled Out

04. Snow Angel

05. Solstice

06. Winter Wishes

07. The Faerie Forrest

08. Wonders Of The World

09. Rhapsody in Winter

10. Aurora

David J. Peña-The Journey-Contemporary Instrumental Review

Release Date: January 6, 2023

Label: Independent


David Pena’s 
The Journey starts with “The Sun Will Rise Again.” As you look at the image on the album cover of the soldier, some light is behind those darkened skies. A piano player extraordinaire takes us on another contemporary instrumental journey.


I am a veteran, and my father was a WWII veteran. So, there is some sadness attached to that. That first track felt emotional, and I was sad but had some hope around the corner. And that hope and energy were found on the next track, “Kaleidoscope.” When you hear that word, the first thought is a panorama of colors and light. That is the kind of positive energy I needed after all the feelings initiated by the first track.


“Tribute to W. Tx Pianist Doug Smith” transitions to softer touch on the keys. There is warmth and honesty that comes through. The connection from one artist to another was unique, and David provided a lovely tribute.


“You Took My Heart With You” sounds like it will be a tear-jerker and some reminiscing. The title certainly paints those feelings on the musical canvas. The orchestrations are gorgeous as they accompany David’s nimble fingers on the keys. 


“The Journey” continues with upbeat and high hopes as the instrumentalist reaches for the highest mountain and invites you to come along. The piano is rich with rhythm and purpose, and the orchestrations are exciting and moving. The emotions ebb and flow like a river after a rainfall, then it slows down and ends. 


“Eerie Night” sets the stage for pensiveness. As David starts to play, it does not create that feeling until the song is around the 1:50 mark; then, it climbs the ladder of musical anticipation. The stage is set, and the atmosphere is appropriate as you wonder what is coming next.


Fortunately, “Good Feeling” comes your way for a dramatic turn of moods. The fast-moving instrumentation opens the door to better days. David’s piano sounds bright and fluid and, yes, happy. I felt those good chills go up my back and down my arm. I knew something special was happening while listening.


“Stargazing” can be an exhilarating experience and, at times, a spiritual one. My son told me he was looking at the night sky one night, and I felt small. I thought that made sense. The vast and beautiful expanse of planets and stars can be mind-boggling. Well, at least it has been for me. David’s eloquent piano paints the right picture.


“New Beginnings” gives you the hope and promise of a new day. In our fast-moving technological world, we forget to be grateful to wake up every day. You think about those things if you are close to losing your life, which happened to me last November. The underpinnings of the new age genre run through this track like a golden thread holding it all together so beautifully. 


“Breakout” is the curtain closer. And it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will, as David cuts loose and gives the keys a workout with tremendous energy and feeling. The track is panoramic and full of color and life with the growing pace of the orchestrations and the piano. I love the way this album closes out.


The Journey is everything it says it is and more. David J. Peña has released a recording to remember.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-NAMR Founder

April 10, 2023

Track List:

01. The Sun Will Rise Again

02. Kaleidoscope

03. Tribute to W. Tx Pianist Doug Smith

04. You Took My Heart With You

05. The Journey

06. Eerie Night

07. Good Feeling

08. Stargazing

09. New Beginnings

10. Breakout

Electronic-Ambient-New Age-World Review: Michael Whalen-Our April Tigers

Release Date: April 21, 2023

Label: Sprout/MWM


Emmy Award Winning composed, and internationally renowned recording artist Michael Whalen had an idea about creating a group of composers and players to collaborate on a new instrumental recording that would defy style or genre. He wanted to pick people who had careers in soundtrack global ambient alternative and beyond that, including Bassist Michael Manring, guitarist Michael Brook, trumpeter Jeff Oster, percussionist/remixer Karsh Kale with Whalen starting the tracks collaborated on seven songs with the musicians doing their engineering in their studios in New York City, India, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. So, Our April Tigers was born. (Information from artist press release)


Even though I am classifying it as Electronic-Ambient-New Age-World, and it is a refreshing combination of those genres, I think Michael Whalen and his collaborators succeeded in creating something so original and different. Still, it does make it difficult to point to one genre expressly. For my listening pleasure, that makes it inviting and unique. 


Working remotely and separated by many miles is common today in putting together a recording, so it is nothing new, so what is going to make this release stand out? Michael started by creating melodic snippets that went from one musician to another, each adding their parts. Listening to it now makes it more unique and quite impressive. Creating the music would be easier if everyone were in a face-to-face studio (although I don’t think it is ever easy). The talent of each artist comes shining through on every track. Michael is the keyboard wizard and music master; every other partner is masterful with their respective instruments.


Never was that more apparent than on tracks like “Morning Bell.” Michael Manring’s hypnotic bass and Jeff Oster’s trumpet provide the textures and colors that mix beautifully with Michael’s array of keys. It sings instrumentally and pulls you in with ease, like meditation music. Many types of ambient instrumental music do serve that purpose, and Michael has been one of the more eclectic musicians with each release. As a person fortunate to provide coverage of his music, I wonder what he will come up with subsequently and anticipate an entirely new adventure each time. I am happy to say that he never disappoints.


Diversity is the key to the excitement of each next track. After “Morning Bell,” then “Visceral Organ” comes on. It sounds like it could be an entirely different album. It is a funk fest with a colorful atmosphere with the wonder of every second pouring out of it. That is one of the best examples of complete transitions going from one track to another. You better strap yourself in because that is the modus operandi of the release. Don’t expect a steady flow of the same thing; because of that, expect to feel a smile develop from the inside out.


Our April Tigers is indeed Michael Whalen and his significant contributors. As spring is happening and the flowers blooming are right around the corner for those in the Northeast, this music will fully bloom, inspiring listeners, and musicians worldwide.


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder

March  21, 2023

1. Over Water 5:27
2. Disappear 5:09
3. Morning Bell 4:43
4. Visceral Organ 4:29
5. So Fragile 3:59
6. Hope Haunts 4:54
7. Temporality 4:17