Over the past few decades, the new age genre has seen its share of brilliant pianists and acoustic guitar artists, but none have combined the two core instruments on single recordings as effortlessly and dynamically as Neil Tatar. Continuing the multi-faceted, melodically and rhythmically eclectic vibes that earned him Zone Music Reporter (ZMR) honors as Best New Artist of 2015, the Upstate New York based composer and multi-instrumentalist returned to Will Ackerman’s famed Imaginary Road Studios (where he recorded his 2015 solo debut Learning To Fly) for his highly anticipated full length follow-up After The Rain.
Like its predecessor, After The Rain is co-produced by Tatar, Ackerman (who also plays guitar) and Ackerman’s renowned production partner Tom Eaton, who contributes piano and keyboard parts. Testament to the commercial impact and creative influence Tatar has achieved in only a few years as a recording artist, the 10 track collection also features key musical contributions from an ensemble of musical greats, including Charlie Bisharat (violin), Premik Russell Tubbs (sax and EWI), Tony Levin (NS and electric bass), Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Jill Haley (English horn) Jeff Haynes (percussion) and Eugene Friesen (cello). Vocalists Noah Wilding and Lini Marcotte Tatar add emotional depth to some of the instrumental tracks.
“Each of my compositions comes from a place deep inside, and usually originate from an emotion, a life experience, or a remembrance,” Tatar says. “Initially I find myself playing a brief musical phrase, or ‘sketch’ that can develop quickly or linger for months, coming back when it is ready to inform me of its significance. This process follows a creative path that presents itself by offering a compositions meaning to me, and ultimately culminates in the end product, a finished piece. I do this completely as a creative/right brain process, and eliminate any and all logical thought process, no scoring or scripting, just freedom and flow of playing, until it is ready to take form and to record in the studio.”
Though he composes and plays more intuitively than with any overriding vision in mind, Tatar organically shares different aspects of his personality depending on which instrument he is composing on. Some fans see his elegant, introspective piano pieces as a link to his heart and soul, while his guitar pieces tap into his more playful side. After The Rain is a compelling collection of beautifully rendered ensemble pieces that showcase both sides of Tartar’s intricate artistry.
One of the most striking piano compositions is the stark, haunting “Rush Pond,” which was inspired by the place he often finds his inspiration. Another meditative piece about his life experiences is the graceful opening piece “Gentle Steps.” “Freedom” (which features Jill Haley on English Horn) is Tatar’s call to end oppression for suffering people worldwide. The soulful and inviting guitar pieces on After The Rain include the spirited, tempo shifting “Sunsets,” featuring interaction with Tubbs’ sax and Bisharat’s dancing violin; the warm and sensual “When I was Young,” highlighted by the mood-elevating duality of sax and guitar; and the freewheeling, folksy and jazzy closing piece “Sidewalk Jam.”
Originally released in 2013, Where Did The Time Go, Tatar’s duet album with Grammy winning cellist David Darling, captured the attention of the new age world a few years later, receiving stellar reviews and reached the #1 ranking worldwide on the ZMR Top 100 Radio Airplay chart in 2015. It also was selected as a finalist for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album of 2015. Released later that year, Learning to Fly landed on the Grammy ballot for Best New Age album, reached #1 on the ZMR Top 100 Radio Airplay chart and was selected as a finalist for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album of 2015. In May 2016, Tatar was honored by Zone Music Reporter as Best New Artist of 2015, an award presented by broadcasters, reviewers and radio programmers worldwide.
In addition to composing and recording, he focuses his creative energy on leading improvisational workshops for a variety of groups, including adult mental health programs, camps for children with serious illnesses, assorted college groups, and regional arts councils. His workshops echo the energy he brings from continued inspiration and training. True to his devotion to improvisation, Neil’s workshops are playful, exploring and revealing new skills and inspirations in its participants, who have reported expanding their musical repertoire or happily becoming reacquainted with their musical selves.