New Age storyteller Al Conti returns with the beautiful narrative The Blue Rose. Rich with Eastern instruments and feeling, this disc comes off as romantic as the tale of love it tells. Conti’s an amazing multi-instrumentalist, and he fills this disc with everything from piano to flute to koto. Added sounds come from Hannah Beth Crary on fiddle and the very talented Ann Licater on flute (on the lovely “Bamboo Night Garden”). Conti does a great job of changing up tone and tempo as his chapters unfold. There is the energetic bounce of “The Merchant’s Rose,” with what sounds like a mouth harp wobbling through the background and a percolating rhythm that’s hard to resist; and there is the slow and elegant “Minstrel’s Song,” telling its tale in piano and strings with understated synth backdrops. There is the mix of Eastern strings and chill-outs on “Painted Vase”; and there is the straight-up world groove of the title track. And everything works in the hands of this talented artist. He’s found the sweet spot between East and West, old and new. Obviously, New Age fans will particularly enjoy The Blue Rose. It’s light listening that just wants you to sit back and take in the stories. Conti, however, is very accomplished–as in Grammy nominated–which means that a good, close listen shows how solidly and thoughtfully constructed the disc is. Everything down to the smallest tap of rhythm sticks is integral to the whole and adds its own touch to the mix. I enjoyed The Blue Rose more than I expected, because, to be honest, the last album of Conti’s I listened to, Scheherezade, left me a bit flat. This one, however, leaves me looking forward to the what Conti will do next as he continues his musical journey through the world’s many tales and legends,
Available from Al Conti’s web site.