Album Review: LOOKING FOR UTOPIA by David Peoples

David Peoples is a composer, performer, recording artist and music professor. His latest album, Looking for Utopia, is a departure from his previous work, which is best described as traditional, experimental, or jazzy. Here, the piano is the centerpiece but the album is truly a collaborative effort. Through the miracle of technology, Atlanta-based Peoples recorded the piano tracks locally and sent the digital files to South African slide flutist Carina Bruwer and Berlin cellist Natasha Jaffe, who recorded their remarkable additions in their respective countries. This album truly defies categorization; it is a distinctive blend of jazz, world and New Age styles. In David’s own words, “I am unique. I tell a story. I write narrative poetry in free verse using musical notes.” In this case, the music tells the story of a search for utopia and the amazing discoveries made along the way. The powerful opening track, The Valley of Hidden Treasures, is followed by Peach Blossom Spring, a light, jazzy, toe-tapping number as sultry as a spring day in Georgia. The delicate Moondreams on Crystal Roses is more ambient in nature; Dance of the Flickering Fire is rhythmic and hypnotic. The title track, Looking for Utopia, opens with a romantic piano solo that is interrupted by a tumultuous instrumental section that builds to a wondrous climax before returning to a reprise of the piano solo and then a gentler, more mysterious version of the instrumental section. City of Golden Lights opens with a beautiful flute solo accompanied by the piano; parts of this piece feel quite jazzy but just as quickly the music takes off in a completely different direction, reminding me of how quickly neighborhoods change within even a few blocks of each other in large cities such as Paris (nicknamed the “city of lights”). The unusual Crystal Skies, mostly a collaboration between cello and vibes, has a very “world” feel. Somber and reflective, Solitariety explores the dark lower registers of the piano with occasional flashes of light in the upper register. This is some amazing solo piano work! Glass Flower City, another delightful collaboration featuring the piano and the cello, is somewhat Asian in feel, while Glass Butterflies is more primitive in nature, a musical depiction of the flittering of the colorful insects’ wings. Hidden City at Crying Rock is alternately gentle and intense; the closing track, Take Me to Elysian Fields (originally the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods conferred immortality were sent) combines ambient sounds with a soaring improvisatory piano track and brings the album to a thoughtful conclusion. With Looking for Utopia, David Peoples makes an impressive entrance into the world of “mainstream” music. If you are looking for a listening experience unlike any other, you don’t want to miss this one. Recommended!

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