True to the title of his remarkable, genre-transcendent collection Sempre: A New Dimension, Ian Maksin’s approach to the cello is expansive, rhythmically and culturally eclectic and truly timeless, taking us on wild journeys through a variety of moods, weather patterns, times of day and seasons. The wanderlust he brings to his life and career was there from the start, when he picked up the cello at age five and felt that he was “instantly transported into an entirely new dimension where there was neither time nor space.”
Even apart from the joyous artistic freedom that emerged and evolved from that moment, the way that feeling has manifested throughout Maksin’s adult life makes for a fascinating story. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, the Russian born musician spent years with several prestigious symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles. Then, fortunate for us who now get to hear his fresh new approaches beyond those classical confines, he began exploring his voice by drawing from and sometimes fusing all of his extracurricular musical passions. This includes every style he loved in his childhood to the blues and rock guitar he learned along with the cello.
Not surprisingly, the cello has never been livelier and more spirited and engaging – let alone as universally relevant beyond its usual confines – as it is in Maksin’s nimble, adventurous hands. For him, each note, each stroke of the bow on Sempre is a key to attuning our hearts and souls to a universal wavelength that opens up to unlimited love, harmony and peace. If you want to know what world peace sounds like, start with the whimsically plucked notes introducing and creating angelic dancing harmonies behind the tender, inviting melody of the title track – and let the free-flowing exotic dance take you towards the divine mix of light and dark via the “Blues au Jardin du Luxembourg.”
Maksin’s travels continue from there, with the bittersweet measured emotions and tinges of melancholy we discover slow dancing in the “Vancouver Rain” – truly one of Maksin’s most intimate, fluid and hypnotic pieces. Anyone who thinks he’s been exploring the darker chambers of our hearts a bit too long will find refreshing breezes as the seasons change dramatically with “Summer Garden,” a still hypnotic but much brighter dance that textures fluid dreaminess with darker-toned harmonic undercurrents that express deeper divine love behind the sweet sunshine poking through.
With the heavy, ominous and ultimately intensely soaring ballad “Respiro,” Maksin moves thematically from the transitory nature of the seasons to a deeper contemplation of the universe and the breath of life itself. This deeply contemplative piece gives us pause, creating a soundtrack for us to ponder the mystery we are caught in; it’s later higher tones perhaps represent an overall hope for peace and meaning that can emerge from a deeper understanding of humanity and our place in the cosmos. “Respiro” has a stylistically similar companion piece with “Lacrime Novae,” a work that likewise evolves from thoughtful immersion to higher tones that allow shards of light in – again, hope through the mist and darkness, the way nothingness gave way to live eons ago and can still amaze us in the present day. The title juxtaposes “tears of things” with “brightness,” a perfect representation of the music.
The final third of Sempre: A New Dimension begins with “Per Me, Per Ti,” a graceful lovely but also brooding cautious call to a more connected humanity and expression of universal love; as the tension of Maksin’s strings mount, you can feel his desire for us to respond to the only thing that can sustain us. After all those deep-seated meditations, Maksin chooses to wrap the set with fresh exotic and whimsy, first sharing a glorious hypno-percussive dream dance of a glimpse at “Sunset on the Cascade” and finally rushing headlong into global fusion territory with the wild, frisky, freewheeling and frolicsome turn towards to “Brand New Page.” It’s the perfect way to end this fascinating album with a celebration of all we are and all we can be.