THE EMERALD PATH
The radiant voice of Celtic harp intertwines with the crystalline steel strings of guitar, creating a shimmering cascade of peaceful tone poems. All pieces on CASCADIA are entirely improvised. David and Michael entered a deep, contemplative space and blissfully created this heartfelt, acoustic suite of music which is designed to enhance bodywork, meditation, yoga or peaceful contemplation.
An especially sweet blend emerges when Michael Mandrell plays with Celtic harpist David Michael. During the dozen years that these two have been collaborating, playing concerts and sitting in on recording sessions for each other, they've often imagined a full-fledged project such as Cascadia. Often during their hikes together in the Cascades and Olympic Mountains, they've discussed the World Fusion credo that any combination of instruments can work together if the musicians engage in deep listening ... and that common ground between any musical styles can be found. With their special alchemy, compatible musical tastes and mutual love of the Northwest landscapes, it was almost effortless for them to tap Source and create this suite of improvisational pieces celebrating the wild spirit.
Perhaps the secret to their musical magic and deep wellspring of creativity lies within the still reflection born of their wanderings in the wilderness.
Steel String Acoustic Guitars
Ebow (magnetic electronic guitar bow)
* Produced by David Michael
* Recorded, engineered and mastered by Neville Pearsall at Synergy Sound, Port Townsend WA
* Mixed by David Michael and Neville Pearsall
* Cover art by Gary Eden
* Special thanks to Randy Mead for technical and moral support, Neville Pearsall and Joe Breskin for developing the awesome custom sound chamber in which to place our music, to Dari Michael and Christine Carter for all their love, inspiration, creative ideas and encouragement.
A life-long student of the 6 and 12 string guitar, Michael has refined an open-tuning style which is beloved by audiences everywhere. Folk, classical, Celtic and new age elements all find their way into his eclectic contemporary mix. Under the influence of his masterly finger-style playing, the sound of his single instrument can resemble a small orchestra. The Celtic, Arabesque and Hindu modalities that layer his compositions have given rise to yet a new category: ‘Celtistani’ style playing. Critics have compared him to Leo Kottke or a baroque Wil Ackerman. Michael is one of those rare artists who has a strong sense of his Western musical roots, yet can make beautiful and sophisticated forays into the music of the East. Featured on Public Radio International's syndicated music program "Echoes", their popular Living Room Concert series has showcased Michael’s acoustic guitar wizardry for national audiences. Executive producer Kimberly Hass observes, "Michael's hybrid guitar style reveals a guitarist of eclectic sensibilities and delicate technique. His music circles the globe in imagistic compositions."
Hailing from the southern climes of Houston, Texas, Michael Mandrell migrated to the mesas of Taos in Northern New Mexico and eventually to the Pacific Northwest. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos inspired The Great Spiral Dance, a World-Fusion CD that brings together a collection of original guitar compositions and adds flutes, East Indian percussion, Uillean pipes and other ethnic instruments. His piece The Ancient Art of Soul Travel from that CD was used by film producer Mark Moscowitz in his noted documentary The Stone Reader.
With Taos singer/songwriter Jenny Bird he created Sanctuary, a CD inspired by teachings from the world's spiritual traditions ... Though not religious music, it celebrates the sacred as we discover it in the midst of our daily lives. With tabla/esraj master Benjy Wertheimer and his array of instruments from India, he coined the term "Celtistani" to describe that particular style of music they create together. Michael and Benjy have recorded two CDs together: Notes from Celtistan, a rollicking milestone in World Fusion music, and Anjali, created as a yoga meditation companion ... an evocative devotional CD used widely in yoga classes internationally.
"Imagine, just for a moment, that you were resting comfortably in the most beautiful, serene, breathtaking place you've ever been in your life. Perhaps the air is as sweet as honey and soft as moonlight. If you were to add some music to this intoxicating mix, what would it be? We all have our favorites, of course, though I imagine that for many of us something quiet and serene would work best in such a gorgeous setting.
And so I come to Cascadia, the subject of this review, the sublime new release by harpist David Michael & guitarist Michael Mandrell. Though these two friends have been collaborating, playing concerts and sitting in on recording sessions for each other for over 12 years, they had never put together a project that was just theirs. Happily, we can now enjoy the exquisite results of their collaboration.
David & Michael took their mutual love of music and the Pacific Northwest (sometimes called Cascadia) and recorded a series of completely improvisational pieces. Since both these wonderfully gifted musicians have so much to say musically, these improvisational pieces take on a sacred air, as though they had come straight from the heart of the One.
The 11 tracks on Cascadia comprise nearly 68 minutes of music, plenty of time to give or receive a massage or other form of bodywork. I have reviewed Michael's superb guitar playing numerous times over the years, and several friends have all of his CDs. Now I will be able to recommend David Michel's harp work as well, and begin to collect his discography.
Even after writing over 1200 music reviews, I still get very excited when something as beautiful as Cascadia comes along. A delicious antidote to the apparent stress and chaos of our busy lives, Cascadia is a profound gift from David and Michael's hearts to our hearts. We are so blessed."
-Steve Ryals ... Rock Creek Press
Celtic harpist David Michael specializes in original, romantic world-fusion music and improvisation. He grew up in Seattle and has been playing stringed instruments for over 50 years, starting with cello. In 1983, he realized he'd been "trying to make a guitar sound like a harp" for many years ... and finally decided to get a harp ... which quickly became his forte.
He usually is found performing solo, as a duo with flutist Randy Mead, with his wife Dari, or collaborating in various ensembles, such as the Celtistani Consort with Michael Mandrell and Benjy Weretheimer. A multi-instrumentalist, David is also proficient on guitar, viola-da-gamba, zither, psaltery, bouzouki and more. He was a founding member of the Seattle based world-fusion ensemble Wind in 1975, which received arts grants, performed widely in the Pacific Northwest and was featured on numerous radio and television programs. While actively composing, he began experimenting with free-form improvisations, collaborating with dancers and artists in myriad interdisciplinary activities in a wide range of styles.
David spent most of the '80s in the San Francisco bay area, collaborating with numerous ethnic music masters and his studio recording work came into focus there. His first CD, with flutist Randy Mead, Petals in the Stream, was released in 1986 in Japan by Nippon Phonogram and he has recorded for many other domestic and foreign labels since then. He now has 18 CDs of his original music published on his own Purnima label and has been a guest artist for numerous other labels. His music has been featured extensively on PRI's 'Echoes' program, NPR, cable and network television and videos internationally.Since 1990, Port Townsend, Washington has been his base of operations. He became something of an institution for his impromptu concerts aboard Washington State Ferries, performing free concerts to over 50,000 passengers a year for 17 years. His memoir: BUSKER - has now been published.
David still performs widely on harp in the Western U.S. and Northern Europe. The beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the wild spirit is key to his musical inspiration. Like Michael Mandrell, his compositions are reminiscent of the pulse of nature.