This is Christian Artmann’s third CD, following his well-received 2011 debut album and 2015’s excellent Fields of Pannonia. He is a flutist gifted with fluidity and a highly imaginative approach to the instrument, and his recorded output has evolved towards a more spiritual approach, partly reflecting his Buddhist faith. The result is an enjoyable and varied album right from the opener “The Noctambulist” through the very end.
The quartet is a tight unit, benefitting in particular from pianist Laszlo Gardony’s many solos, in which each note is distilled and savored within a rhythmic approach. Bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, both on Artmann’s earlier recordings, provide tasteful yet essential contributions that go beyond traditional supporting roles. Last but not least, vocalist Elena McEntire is more than an addition to the quartet, the haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace” being a case in point.
There is a peaceful yet joyful mood, even in more lively pieces such as the opening track, modal-flavored “Quixote”, which is also characterized by shifting pace, or the more intimate “Resilience”, with Weidenmueller’s only solo. In “Earthling”, a funky bassline sustains the unison between flute and voice stating the dreamy, bossa nova-flavored melody. The title track showcases Artmann, whose solo builds slowly, leading to an equally engaging piano solo. “Tropic of Capricorn” is the most complex piece, with a dreamy introduction sustained by Weidenmueller’s arco followed by a bouncing theme, Artmann’s solo, which grows in intensity as it progresses, and Gardony’s crisp intervention, leading to a repeat of the theme and a somewhat dramatic reprise of the introduction. “Elena” has a very appealing melody, leaving the listener the impression that the group is not only performing at the top of their game but also having quite a bit of fun in the process; Gardony’s solo is a gem in this respect. “Pan’s Blues”, while not sharing a canonical approach to the blues, captures its very essence largely thanks to Weidenmueller’s deep sound. Of note is also Hirshfield’s coloring around, instead of sticking to, the blues pattern. Finally, “Always Here” closes the proceedings as a ballad delivered in unison by flute and voice, a beautiful ending for an excellent recording.