JEFF OSTER, True
While his ambient electronic approach to the trumpet and flügelhorn are perhaps not as commercial and in the pocket as 2000s hitmakers Rick Braun and Chris Botti, the Florida-bred Jeff Oster -- years after abandoning his musical dreams in favor of success in the financial world -- scored impressive breakthrough success in the new age world with his 2005 debut Released. He owes some of that success to the internet; getting 40,000 downloads on MP3.com attracted the attention of legendary guitarist (and Windham Hill Records founder) Will Ackerman, who became an important collaborator. Released, which Oster described as "Chet Baker meets Dead Can Dance," won the 2005 Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album awards at the NAR (New Age Reporter) Lifestyle Music Awards.
The Oster/Ackerman composition "At Last" also won the Best New Age Song award at the 2005 Independent Music Awards. Ackerman takes Oster to the next level as the producer of True, an exciting yet relaxing, spiritually inspiring, musically challenging work that blends graceful melodies with edgy electronic new age, otherworldly soundscapes, and artful touches of exotica. On the opening track "Saturn Calling," Oster's dreamy flugelhorn melody sweeps over an extraterrestrial landscape that's all at once fluid, grooving, and tribally organic. The same vibe continues but in a slightly more low key mode on "This Place" and "Serengeti" before Oster blends his best new age sensibilities (complete with Patrick Gorman's sparse acoustic guitar) with a haunting classical/chamber music flavor on "Violet." He and Ackerman vary the style from there, mixing spaciness and pop/soul with Tibetan throat chants on "Tibet," going film score orchestral on "Sounds Like Sunshine," and digging into a hip and soulful cool on "Once in a Blue Midnight."
Perhaps the most conventionally beautiful new agey piece is the completely organic "On One Knee," a contemplative prayer-like song blending Oster's horn, Ackerman's trademark lonesome acoustic guitar, and Philip Aaberg's lush piano harmonies. Overall, Ackerman has the best description of the unique chapter Oster adds to the new age realm: "the elements are familiar, but the synthesis is unique."