PAM ASBERRY, The Presence of Wonder
A new age solo pianist of uncommon melodic grace, insight and heartfelt intuitiveness, Pam Asberry made a powerful immediate impact on the genre in 2017, when her first album Seashells in my Pocket earned an Album of the Year nomination by One World Music Radio and she won Best New Artist by Enlightened Piano Radio. She followed up last October with the equally well-received holiday release Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the classically trained artist’s emergence is the fact that, even though she personally loved new age piano music, she had never been encouraged to improvise or compose. Her early loves included Beethoven and prog rock legends Yes, so adventure was never out of the question. Yet when her friends began asking her when she might record an album, in her mind, that was not her destiny. In early 2017, a simple melody popped into her head during a morning walk.
She scribbled some notes down, recorded it on her cell phone and recorded “Monterey Morning” because it reminded her of a day she had recently spent there. That was the beginning of several years of deep creativity which culminates now in the lush, beautiful, highly contemplative collection The Presence of Wonder.
It’s not surprising that one of the foundational artists in her passion for new age piano was David Lanz. After a few pieces that tap into have vibes ranging from classical (the free-flowing, often emotionally intense “Nebula”) to nocturnal (the dreamy “Lullaby,” the dark and melancholy “Nocturne”), she arrives at a major mood-changing point with “Above The Clouds.”
The song begins with a hypnotic circular melody reminiscent of (but higher tempo than Lanz’s classic “Green Into Gold” from Cristofori’s Dream. Then it breezes along joyously, like the proverbial burst of sunlight after the night is through. The light does a lively, hypnotic dance, creating a message that the darkness -beautiful though it is in its own way – only lasts for a spell before dissipating. Reflective of the album title, it’s as if we would not know the joys of life without the balance of sorrows and the opportunity to reflect on the great mystery that allows us to experience both.
Interestingly, as if this question is one for the ages that demands ongoing contemplation, Asberry keeps most of the later songs in a more contemplative mode, with occasional bursts of quicker tempos and playful runs. The issues she ponders and meditates on are big ones. She considers the impact of “The Love of Thousands” with a slow building narrative that intensifies, just like love can intensify as it spreads. Then, with fingertips feeling the universe’s deeply hypnotic soul, she envisions “An Invisible Thread” that connects us all, if only we will let it.
The optimistic titles and provocative spiritual insights flow from there – “Something Found,” “Devotion,” “The Kindness of Strangers,” etc. Everything culminates in a gently introspective exploration of “Now,” which when our consciousness allows it, is truly all we have. If you love all the genre pianists Asberry was inspired by, including Lanz, Chad Lawson and Wayne Gratz, you will love everything about her gentle, ever thoughtful musical soul.