Wind and Wire
This is a superb album of acoustic guitar (both solo and with ensemble) instrumentals, highlighted by Eric Roberts' expressive, warm, and evocative playing (he also composed all the pieces). Cellist David Darling, who as a session player/accompanist may be one of the most sought after artists around today, plays on four tracks, and the other guest artists are Ed Contreras on percussion and Robert Weinstein on guitar. Besides guitar, Roberts also contributes on bass, percussion, and guitar synthesizer (the latter used mostly as background textures or strings). Many of the pieces are moody and reflective, even when they are somewhat uptempo (such as "New Love" which despite its jaunty pace still carries an air of delicate sensitivity) and some are downright minimal tone poems, such as the three-part "Reflections" (numbered "I," "II" and "III"). All three are solo guitar tracks. "II" is even somewhat abstract, yet not unpleasantly so. "III" introduces trace subtle elements of flamenco, but in the context of the piece, this connection could be missed as well.
One of the best tracks, indeed one of the better songs I've heard this year (although the release is technically a 2001) is "The River Runs," featuring Roberts, Darling, and Contreras. Mixing an uptempo pace with darker tonalities yields a composition strongly reminiscent of the best acoustic work on the ECM label as well as the early days of Windham Hill groups like Shadowfax and Nightnoise, although without the latter's overt Celtic influences. "Flowing" is another winner, more subdued than "The River Runs" yet equally memorable and even more evocative. Darling contributes on midi-percussion, rainstick, and "cello orchestra" while Roberts handles his full assortment of instruments. His synth work here, more overt than elsewhere on the album, is a highlight, introducing ethereal tones that weave a soft strain of melodicism throughout the slow tempo rhythm and background guitar and bass, while Darling's accompaniment is spot on. There is a lazy sunny day feeling to the piece, as it brings to mind images of biking along a forest road under a canopy of tall pines, with rays of sunlight poking through now and then.
Some songs carry more than a hint of jazz, again in the ECM vein more than anything else, such as ""Journey Through Time" or the late night ballad "Remembering You" which would fit in either a cabin by a northern lake during a fog-shrouded early morning or playing softly in a 20th floor apartment high above a cityscape aglow with the evening's lights. A different mood is achieved on "Cella's Song," a soft and gentle acoustic guitar number (with some subtle synth textures) that easily stands toe to toe with anything from the best known guitarists in new age or adult contemporary music today.
Albums as solid and thoroughly enjoyable as In a Silent Place don't come around often, so when they do, I try my damndest to send up as many flares as possible. Consider the beacons lit, friends. If you fancy yourself a fan of acoustic guitar or acoustic ensemble music (with a little synth work here and there, but nothing obtrusive or misplaced), this album deserves your attention and you won't be sorry if you pick it up. How this one slipped by everyone from as far back as 2001 is a mystery, but now that we are alerted to its presence, there's no excuse for ignoring it. Easily, this one of the best albums I expect to hear in 2005.
"Eric Roberts plays guitar with a sincerity and emotive technique that rivals the finest players we've heard. He is one of those artists who is able to mix technical ability and place it both within a contemporary melodic setting as well as an airy experimental place that rides the thin edge of jazz and newage. His partnership with cellist, David Darling, is magical - the timbres of both instruments compliment each other perfectly as is witnessed in the long mp3 cut here, "The River Runs". Darling - as compatible a musician creatively as you can want when you compare both musicians' styles - offers chaotic and kinetic lines that travel fairly far away from the typical cellist style and phrasing. Darling's artistic statement, along side Robert's, is compelling and full of life."
"Roberts track "Cella's Song" is a melodic and beautiful - it will remind a few players of John Williams touch - especially Deer Hunter soundtrack familiars. "In a Silent Place" has Roberts composition modulating in jazz overtones. We hear Steve Morse like compositional chordal movements without the speed - probably purely unintentional. "Lullaby" brings us tones reminiscent of Hedges' Rickover fun (Rickover's Dream) - but more intimate and less affected. True to what appears to be Roberts' essence, the recordings are done with little reverb or effects - it's bare and beautiful. A touch of a chamber is all you'll hear - and it brings you up close to the performance. .complete with the human rhythm of Roberts' breath. Wonderful. Track 5 on the CD, "Snow" has Eric moving around with quick note flurries and harmonics. .that move into flowing arpeggios to the point that you can almost see the flakes falling from the sky. We love this CD - and Roberts' compassionate playing. Buy it."
The songs most likely to impress jazz fans are "Remembering You" with its almost gypsy-like conception and the transitory "Journey Through Time." Most of the material is slow and reflective, like the title track "In a Silent Place", a tribute to his wife called "Cella's Song," and the mildly improvisational trilogy aptly titled "Reflections." "The River Runs" is the most highly celebrated song in the collection, a finalist at the Independent Music Awards. This song, as well as "New Love" feature Brazilian-tinged beats with darkly shaded cello accompaniment. "Snow" is a musically uplifting moment, portraying the swiftness and lightness of falling snowflakes. "Lullabye" tucks you in for the night with the beauty of a beloved hymn.
To his great credit, Roberts keeps his songs brief, which is somewhat rare among self-styled soloists. He says what he means to say then gets out of your face, giving his message maximum impact. The recording quality is very transparent, complete with fret noise and nasal breathing. Eerily-bowed cello, layered guitar arpeggios and fretless bass complement Roberts' low-key imagination. In A Silent Place is an entirely acoustic affair except for the occasional use of guitar synthesizer or programmed percussion which sound, well, synthetic. Sometimes it works, particularly on the otherworldy Vangelis-esque "Flowing." At other times, the effects distract from the otherwise natural music.
Mr. Roberts guitar works will definitely take you to a place where "silence is to be treasured". All originals, which makes it immediately apparent to the listener how talented Eric is... his spirit shines through each gentle acoustic guitar passage, & will transport you to regions of your soul you didn't even know existed. There is far more than just cliché guitar phrasing here, too... my favorite track is "Journey Through Time", which features Eric on Guitar & Guitar synth, as well as David Darling on Cello & midi-percussion... a timeless high-energy composition that will "take you there" - across the eons, to be sure. He also does some marvelous spontaneous improvs... both solo ("Reflections I through III") & accompanied ("A Stringy Dialogue") by Mr. Darling. Other players featured are Ed Contreras (percussion) & Robert Weinstein (guitar). If your body can't relax as your ears absorb this wonderfully relaxing music, you probably belong in a "ward" somewhere, getting "the cure"... on the other hand, this music probably can provide you with a cure, for all but the most aberrant souls, that is. I'm impressed enough to rate this one as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Critical Review
"In A Silent Place" is an album that highlights intelligent yet warm guitar music with a "just right" amount of accompaniment. There's 13 nice tracks that cover lots of ground musically and emotively. Some songs have a classical - maybe Spanish styled - sense and others a more modern acoustic aura; a jazz touch is also evident in a few selections.
As far as influences, there's so many here, but clearly SEGOVIA, KOTTKE, and PAT METHENY stand out. [In] one or two places I thought of PHIL KEAGGEY and [his] older instrumental acoustic stuff. Add some Brazilian jazz and pop traces and some world and maybe even New Age touches and you have a very enjoyable album.
Top cellist DAVID DARLING formerly of the PAUL WINTER CONSORT adds a unique and quality sound. Other musical support is there, but it enhances and doesn't try to overshadow the nice work of Mr. Roberts.
I especially liked the warm playing, the clean notes, and the sound of each string - enhancing note and chords. As I listened again and again, I became quite impressed and was drawn into the nice warm musical atmosphere. For lovers of acoustic guitar, this is a must. The instrumental tracks make perfect backgrounds for reading, meditating, relaxing, and even for classy entertaining. I really enjoyed this disk and clearly recommend it.
Stressed out? Feeling the pressure grab you? Here is the solution: kick back and put on "In A Silent Place" by Eric Roberts. You can't stay uptight listening to this. Even the names of the songs have that relaxing feeling to them - tunes such as "Flowing" and "Lullaby" hint at the mood of the music without giving it all away.
One thing you won't find here is your typical new age fare. Roberts describes his music as "jazzy, non-commerical new age," and that fits rather well. This CD won't put you to sleep, but it won't jar your nerves either.
Along with featured artist David Darling (cello) and musicians Robert Weinstein (guitar) and Ed Contreras (percussion), Roberts has a good thing going here. Some songs really do have a little bit of a jazzy feel without being too "poppy," and the musicians blend very well.
If you are looking for music to unwind to, but don't want just boring background tunes, check this CD out. I am crazy about cello, so I loved "Journey Through Time." An interesting musical arrangement - you almost never hear a "perky" sound come out of that instrument, but somehow they did just that.
This 13-track CD can take you from harried to happy by track five. I know - I tested it after a busy, busy day!
-Catherine L. Tully
A finalist in the Independent Music Awards, Eric Roberts is no stranger to award-winning music. After all, he also scored himself a #1 NAR National Radio Airplay Chart hit and surrounds himself with other talented musicians in cellist David Darling, Ed Contreras on percussion, and Robert Weinstein on guitar. His music is New Age guitar jazz with airy elements that breeze the mix into your ears with coaxing delight and subtle nuances that give it a definite chill-out feel. I haven't heard great finger-picking guitar work like this in quite a while.
Midwest Record Recap
He's a music educator and has played a ton of mainstream sideman gigs, but you wouldn't know it from this warm, guitar date that has classic ECM and Windham Hill moves but is firmly in the present with an eye on the future. Simply a great player that knows how to craft a very special audio escape for over burdened ears, Roberts and his well traveled pals turn in a tasty, low key adult date that has way more on the ball than you might think at first pass. - Hot stuff with a slow burning fire that is hard to ignore.
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