Timothy Wenzel: What We Hold Dear
Coyote Flow Music

If music that's soul-soothing, peaceful, and free of turmoil and angst qualifies as New Age, then Timothy Wenzel's certainly qualifies, at least insofar as What We Hold Dear can be regarded as representative of the keyboardist-composer's style. Though piano is central to the album's dozen pieces, Wenzel's joined on many of them by violinist Josie Quick and cellist Jordan Schug, plus vocalist Sarah Joerz on one. The composer enhances those core elements with other sounds, too, among them woodwinds, guitars, bass, drums, and percussion.

It's interesting how often childhood interests persist into adulthood. As boy, Wenzel split his time between playing the piano and enjoying nature, and consistent with that much of the music on the present release is informed by his love for the outdoors and preoccupation with natural phenomena such as the Aurora Borealis. Some things do change, however, as life advances, among them musical taste. With age, Wenzel's gravitated away from the rock and prog of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, and U2 to the New Age and Celtic sounds of George Winston, Clannad, Enya, and others.

As much as What We Hold Dear lends itself to contemplation, it's not without its animated moments. The opening “Murmuration,” for example, moves with the earthy elegance of a country dance, with piano, acoustic guitar, flute, and violin operating in tandem to give the material rhythmic propulsion; further to that, the writing reflects Wenzel's appreciation for Celtic music. Here and elsewhere (“Moon Dance” and “In a Little While,” two examples of many), a subdued drum pattern is included to bolster the music's forward momentum.

More characteristic of the album's tone is the title track, whose coupling of flute, piano, and strings presents some its prettiest and serene moments. Wenzel's appreciation for nature comes through clearly in a pastoral reverie such as “Appalachian Waters,” with its folk tone and an arrangement for acoustic guitar, flute, and piano that's as clear as upper mountain air. There's uplift aplenty but sadness, too, as illustrated by “In a Little While,” whose yearning tone amplifies the melancholy that comes from being separated from family and friends. As one listens to the album, whatever resistance one might have to the New Age label should be put on hold: New Age it might be, but What We Hold Dear is also music of sophistication, deep feeling, and genuine character.

June 2017