Oct 21, 2011

RJ Lannan of Zone Music Reporter reviews SURRENDER


For the third time flugel genius Jeff Oster offers an album of astounding audio tracks to which the human ear and the human heart can Surrender. Jeff presented to me eleven electronic, jazz and New Age songs that mystify the soul and allowed me to escape the hum drum, harried world. Trust me, I needed the break. Jeff is not only a master of his instrument, but a production wizard. His method is usually to loop, overlay and echo his flugelhorn into lush soundscapes that make me wonder what he could do with other instruments.

Oster is not only renowned for his previous two albums, Released and True, but also as a perpetually sought after sideman on the recordings of Will Ackerman's Imaginary Road Studios. Joining him on the album is noted New Age vocalist Diane Arkenstone and Bryan Carrigan who not only co-wrote eight of the songs and co-produced the album, but also added his multi-talented skills on drum programming. Surrender delves into the blending of contemporary music with a special mix of ambient and electronic tracks. It is not uncharted territory for Jeff, but this albums seems to have a new cohesiveness and tighter production values. I liked it from the first note. 

The first cut All That Matters starts out with a very strong bass line and a muted horn lead. There are some sparkling synth washes and a breathy vocal in the background, but the layer or two of horns really captured my interest. Listening to this track, for me, was like watching a favorite movie. I had to listen again and again to hear all the subtle nuances buried in the notes. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that everything matters, so this is it, musically. 

Voce Quer Dançar (You Want to Dance) is typical Oster. With a rush of ocean waves, a sensuous whisper and a strata or two of flugelhorn, the tune invited me to participate in the dance. It had a swaying framework of sound and a gentle beat with just enough bump to get my toe tapping. This is what Mozart really meant when he suggested "a little night music".

In Essence of Herb, Jeff takes up the trumpet in a tribute to the great horn player Herb Alpert. Alpert, from humble beginnings founded one of the most successful independent record labels of the sixties, namely A&M Records. Strangely, Alpert's most successful album (Rise) has a one word title and all of Jeff's albums have one word titles. Coincidence?

If you take advantage of what is naturally around you, you will always face lessening resistance. The title tuneSurrender suggests that you can surrender or take advantage of the influences around you. It is alright to dance when the music moves you. It is alright to smile when you meet a stranger. And it is a good thing to go with your heart.

Theology of Success had a pronounced electronic wash and then the busy flugelhorn flies in. The beat was something Gloria Estefan would have loved. Surprisingly, the tempo and mood changes from within the song and a cryptic vocal emerges from the sound track. This is one I turned up as I drove down the road.

The intro to Beautiful Silence reminded me of a music box and it became a favorite. Although the liner notes suggested that Surrender felt like Miles Davis meets Enya, this was one of the few songs that actually had a New Age feel to it. Gotta love those spin doctors. The song was exquisite in its depth and intricacy. I have learned however if you listen close enough with your heart, there is very little silence in the universe. I always hear music.

Enlightened Darkness is a bit off the beaten path for a Jeff Oster song, and I absolutely loved it. It starts out with throaty male chant, then Diane Arkenstone chimes in with her breathless vocal and the flugelhorn echoes throughout. Even after it fades away, I could still hear it in the air. Although dark at times, it still breeds introspection.

There is just enough jazz influences to draw the jazz crowd and plenty of instrumentals to satisfy several alternate genres fans. Contemporary music lovers will love this. Overall, the music is just fun to play and listen to. If you are anything like me, you will be in awe as you listen to Jeff Oster music and wonder, "How did he do that?"

Rating: Very Good   Very Good

- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 10/21/2011

view review here:  Zone Music Reporter