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When Matthew Shell asked me to review his album, I knew that I will be taken on a journey. Right from the beginning, the first track “Intimate Awakening” puts you into a very bright and positive vibe. The rich, almost cinematic piano sends out a ray of simple motif that develops more layers and colours as the track progresses. Drums are framing the piano very spaciously, fusing the ethnic and Latin jazz together, giving it a very free flow. As the title promises, the track “awakens” when an ethnic flute comes in by surprise, longing and spiritual.
This flute transforms the “awakening” into the “Euphoria” of the second track – dreamy and smooth as a silk. The piano joins in, timid at first, answering the flute and then slowly taking the lead in Tango-like solo. I truly love how piano, flute and then sax and vocalization talk to each other in a passionate Latin dance. The following twists and turns come by surprise, balancing on an edge and turning the track into a complete mystery. Such a rich journey, with abrupt tempo changes, exploring different moods. The male vocal is absolutely stunning, taking the flight in its highs!
“Infinite love”, the third track, starts with an ecstatic flute and continues to the dialogue with the same vocal in the style of tribal shaman chants at times. “Exhilaration” is true to its name – full of spiritual happiness and dreaming on a cloud. I must mention that I love how the album flows continuously with tracks seamlessly transforming from one into another. “Altered Perspective” continues the dreamy moods with lush multi-layered vocal harmonies, putting you in the mood of “Lion King”’s “Hakuna matata”. “Peaceful connection”, the 6th track, lets saxophone to sing its song, teasing the other parts of the trio: the vocal and the flute.
“Flavor of desire”, the 7th track, starts slow, sensual and bluesy, Bossa-Nova style. However, it doesn’t stay in there, evolving into an upbeat Elton John-style second part. “The Awakening” got quite sophisticated lines, sounding almost independent of each other, like Brazilian Carnival. “Amplification”, gets back to relaxed moods and transforms into even more relaxed and dreamy “Romantic emotion”. The ending, again, takes by surprise with the stunning mysterious upright bass solo coupled with the almost spooky drum and bursts of ecstatic flute, preparing you for another tribal experience of “Dancing in the rain”, transforming into free jazz with New Age harmonies and enigmatic repetitive rhythmic patterns.
The 12th track, “Embracing time” got a haunting feel of bittersweet life, being both lost in between the worlds and being one with the world. “Dare to live” sounds like a prayer, short and raw. “The Escape” answers the prayer by letting the hope come in and take you back to light. “Breath again” is just beautiful in its smooth silky flow. “Soul stabilization” continues the same free flowing meditation. “Actualization celebration” goes further into the spacious atmospheric contemplation, opening up and evolving into lush romantic journey, full of hope yet with a glimpse of sweet nostalgia.
“First Light” is a very atmospheric album, with vivid images, free spirit, rich harmonies and surprising twists. Take a glass of wine with your loved one, close your eyes and it will take you on a journey from the romance of a starry night into the mystery of ancient tribes and back to the stars and above the clouds.
Album review by Milana Zilnik
Proof-reading by Arty Sandler