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Music Of Our Times
(2020 - MoonJune Records - USA)

In a present world of no peace and full blown uproar, it is perhaps rare to think such a calming album would exist. This one was created in the early stages (at least what most of us knew) of the Coronavirus Pandemic lock down, when Stick Men and guests were on tour in Japan, only getting to play one gig before being forced to stop. Instantly in limbo, most of the musicians were able to fly back home to the USA, but lucky for us, an idea by MoonJune Records label owner and producer Leonardo Pavkovic, to record a on the spot totally spontaneous album in a local studio (NK SOUND STUDIO, Tokyo, Japan) on  March 3, 2020, with Gary Husband (Fazioli F212 Grand Piano) and Markus Reuter (Live Electronics, Touch Guitars® AU8), became reality. The timing was special in many ways. First to find a studio open and able to create this jewel, and second to actually make the performance as impactful as it became. This recording not only shows focus past what was happening outside, but spawned an intimate occurrence that reflects their professional state of mind and platitude of artistry, in what has to be a pinnacle of soothing, calm, collected and inventive imagination from the pair.

In the ambient or meditative genre, also reflective and expansive, the music moves through stages of both inner and outer emotions, all in the moments of creation. For all these people knew, it could be their last will and testament, as how cruel or deadly this virus could be, was only a spec of guessing on the part of our entire world at that time. I cannot speak to the state of mind of anyone involved, but the music does truly speak for itself. Throughout the entire album, both Husband and Reuter are tuned into not only each other, but the atmosphere of that "time". Four months later, as one listens to the recording, you can feel all the delicate fears and renderings, subtle doubts and great expectations. These improvisations are remarkable. The beautiful Fazioli Grand Piano that Gary commands, and the way Markus sculpts his magic around the waves of heartbreak and possible hope, is something to behold.

In the music, while a huge dark cloud hovers, bits of sunlight leak through and frame the sky like a solar eclipse. On 'Across the Azure Blue' Reuter pushed forth a more pronounced presence. Deep and attentive listeners will grasp the conflict of silken flow against electronica and jagged rocks. The title cut is the most animated, as if by this time, the two musicians are facing the reality of all the questions they may or may not have answers for. It is lively and suspenseful as the development occurs. In this session, they even create a piece dedicated to Allan Holdsworth (RIP) titled 'White Horses'. What a beauty it is. And so nice that they thought of him at this time.

'Music of Our Times' is as real and instantly honest as any set of musical works can be. I honestly did not think it would be THIS good. It surpassed all expectations and even surprised me with its hypnotic and captivating possession. The end track 'Illuminated Heart' is extraordinary. This release is on a  plateau perched so high, that I got the repeat feeling these guys thought they might be making the last recording of their lives.  Yes THAT GREAT!  

 ©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 6 - 26 - 2020
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