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Zone Music Review of the SUMMER album
       
 
"...Kevin Kendle, whom for years I have considered the best new age music keyboardist in the entire industry, has finally completed his "seasons" project which he began in the 1990s with Autumn, followed by (in order) Spring and Winter. Summer is among his best recordings, displaying his abundant talent across a swath of musical styles that he has honed over nearly two decades of composing and recording. The CD showcases not just the artist's superb musicianship but also his usual flawless production quality (Kendle may possess the best sampled real instrument library in music – it's hard to believe everything on the CD is played on keyboards).

Having interviewed Kevin, I recognized that the opening track, "Kites," begins with a subtle homage to Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," a song which was a huge influence on him as a young man. That opening keyboard motif flows into the more "typical" Kevin Kendle soundscape featuring lilting flute, midtempo rhythms, mellow guitar, a brushing of strings and ambient-ish textures. Befitting the title reference, the music soars with joy and abandon, sometimes featuring a bouncy melody on mini-moog (one of Kevin's more recent fascinations is a predilection for vintage electronics). "Travelling" kicks off with a splendid bit of chill-out electronica that evokes a train speeding down the tracks before unfolding into an uptempo blend of piano, guitar, and tambourine rhythms. As it develops, the piece morphs back and forth between a slower almost pastoral pace featuring some nice sax and a resumption of the opening fusion of electronics (with a decided slant toward vintage sounds again) accented with piano. Waves crashing and seagulls crying announce the start of "Hidden Cove" and here Kendle travels into more introspective territory with plaintive piano, guitar, flute, and slow tempo percussive textures. At times the mood elevates with a hint of drama via crescendo. "White Sails" carries over the same sea-faring sound effects with acoustic guitar in the lead at first, surrendering to a lower-pitched flute for the main melody. The realism of the guitar and flute samples is almost eerie, especially the guitar. I had to verify (via email) that Kevin hadn't actually gotten someone to play guitar on the track.

Harking back to his earlier albums First Light and Eventide, friendly birdsong ushers in "Tranquil Morning," and the music is indeed tranquil - layers of keyboards emerge from stillness, first as ambient textures and washes and eventually adding muted reverberating bell tones. The mood doesn't vary as it does on previous pieces, providing a nice "breather" from the playfulness that has come before. "The Copse" (i.e., a small grove of trees, a thicket) will remind long-time Kendle aficionados of his earliest nature-inspired works, such as the aforementioned First Light or Spring. Kendle's use of a mini-moog later in the track underlines his innovation in finding a way to integrate vintage electronic gear into contemporary new age without missing a beat. Things quiet down once more on "Afternoon Heat" which, somewhat like "Tranquil Morning" starts off in an ambient vein of sorts, with a brook babbling away underneath soft bell tones, strummed and plucked guitar, shimmering textures, and luxurious synth washes. One of Kendle's best samples, a solo flute sound, comes into play as a partner to the guitar and the two "instruments" make beautiful music, flowing with a lovely peacefulness that envelops the listener. "Cloudburst" features deeply reverbed chime tones, sparse guitar notes, and ebbing and flowing strings, and some sax later in the piece. The mood carries an air of melancholy and reflection as if one was sitting by a window, mulling over past regret. The album closer, "Sunset Into Starlight," has the artist breaking out his entire arsenal: piano, assorted wind instruments, guitar, chimes, ebbing and flowing washes of assorted keyboards, a mid tempo chill-out rhythm track, and even some angelic chorals at the outset.

Summer is yet another deeply satisfying Kevin Kendle recording and a most fitting conclusion to his "four seasons" series. Through the years, he has not only maintained a level of musical mastery that others can only aspire to, but he continues to push his personal limits of creativity and innovation with exciting new results (the inclusion of mini-moog and some new found electronic elements to name two I heard here). Summer looks fondly back at where Kevin Kendle has been and also gazes forward to where his music is headed.

Rating: Excellent

Bill Binkelman

Zone Music Reporter
       
 
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