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  • Jonathan Widran

IAN MAKSIN, The Alchemist

Tucked in at the very end of his bio is a mission statement that drives, defines and gives purpose to Ian Maksin’s evolving creative expression and amazingly impactful life: “I believe that cello will save the world.”

Bold words, yes, but in this musical visionary’s nimble, melodic, seductive and rhythmically freewheeling hands, it will feel more than possible – especially after listening to the wild and dynamic, alternately explosive/celebratory and heartfelt/contemplative journey the veteran cellist takes us on via his latest epic collection The Alchemist.

While Maksin’s equally adventurous 2019 album Sempre: A New Dimension extended an invitation to explore a variety of moods, weather patterns, times of day and seasons, the 12 rhythmically tracks of the current album are inspired in part by his connection with Paulo Coelho’s worldwide 1988 bestselling allegorical novel of the same name. Considering the album and song titles, it would be tempting to experience this as the soundtrack to the as yet unmade film of the story. But Makin’s got more impressionistic ideas.

From the intensely tribal, heart-pounding whimsy of “The Great Sphinx” through the mystical exotic joyful, long note filled dance of “The Caravan” and the chugging, artfully textured rock-flavored triumphant closer “Becoming Wind,” he creates not direct, spot-on musical illustrations, but metaphysical impressions of certain parts of the book – from the start of the journey to Egypt where Melchizedek gives Santiago gives him the fortune telling Urim and Thummim (the dramatic, fast swirling and soaring “The Two Stones”) to the moment later on where Santiago becomes the wind.

Along the way, the cellist offers his unique interpretations via the gently, calming “The Oasis,” the sweet, sensual and spiritually transcendent“Child of the Desert” and “Sacred Fire” and the sly, plucky “The Great Treasure.” Beyond the inspiration of the Coelho story, the title The Alchemist has a symbolic meaning to Maksin, representing the role of music in the era of Quantum Revolution, because the sound of the cello is especially resonant and conducive to the healing of the soul. As more people turn to quantum psychology as a means of self-exploration and connecting to the universe, music is playing a vital part of this process.

In my review of Sempre, I wrote that “each stroke of the bow is a key to attuning our hearts and souls to a universal wavelength that opens up to unlimited love, harmony and peace.” For him and also us, his passionate listeners, music becomes the means of connection, unity, healing and much more.


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