Windham Hill

The Gathering – ZMR Album of the Year!

gatheringI am thrilled to announce that “The Gathering” was voted as the BEST ALBUM of The YEAR at the 9th Annual ZMR Music Awards!

I have been a musician/guitarist since 1978… and I bought my first Will Ackerman/Windham Hill record in 1982. The name of the record was “Passage” and to this very day… remains my most favorite Will Ackerman release.

I’ll never forget the first time I place the needle on the grooves of this record… the sound of wonder and beauty filled the basement apartment I was living in at the time. My imagination ran wild with creativity and I started right then and there… dreaming of recording an album of instrumental guitar music… as beautiful as “Passage.”

Years have passed… many road miles later… endless packs of guitar strings have come and gone… and now I am in my 50′s… still dreaming and striving to record elegant, beautiful music!

I know one day… one day I will be able to complete my project with Will Ackerman… but now for now, I have the most amazing blessing of being included on “The Gathering!” Not only was my photo featured on the cover (a tree a few miles down the road from where I live here in South Dakota), but my song “Forever” was included as well!

What an amazing blessing to be apart of a wonderful, world class cast of artists! Album of the Year… what an amazing blessing!

This is something I will cherish for many, many… many years to come!

The Gathering – now available in Australia

I dunno if you’ve ever had a dream come true in your life… I have…

Working with Will Ackerman has been an incredible experience… and of course, a dream come true! Although my project is presently on hold due to finances… it is still something I hold dear within my heart and life and I hope one day to have the proper funding to complete my project with Will! Gotta have faith…

gatheringAnyway… one wonderful blessing from the Will Ackerman connection is “The Gathering!”

The Gathering is a handpicked collection of songs from 22 artists recently produced by Grammy winning guitarist and founder of Windham Hill Records, Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. It features my photography (cover photo) and one of my songs “Forever.”

Well… I just received word that The Gathering is now being distributed by ABC Records in Australia!!!

I am profoundly humbled and blessed by this news!!! What a privilege and blessing!!!

“The Gathering” Review


The Gathering

West River Records (2012)

If one could perform the aural equivalent of a blind taste test on an astute listener of the compilation CD The Gathering, that person might guess that the album is a “newly discovered” collection of tracks from the archives of the pioneering instrumental label Windham Hill. If that same listener was informed that the tracks were selected and sequenced by none other than Will Ackerman himself (founder of Windham Hill in 1976), that same listener would probably exclaim “See! I told you so.” However, that listener would be wrong. These are all tracks from independent artists, each of whom are recording and releasing on their own label. The album’s uniting factor is that the estimable (I am tempted to call him “legendary” although that might imply he is either dead or retired) Ackerman produced or co-produced each song .

However, one could conceivably make a solid case for the assertion that the 22 (!!!) tracks on The Gathering could have come from the vaults of Windham Hill. Each of the artists’ songs (lifted from their respective albums) exemplifies the best qualities of that ground-breaking label– the elegant simplicity of relatively sparse acoustic instrumentation played in a thoroughly unostentatious manner, filled with honest sincerity, an uncommon depth of feeling, and an abundance of technical talent. Not only did Ackerman produce/co-produce all the albums that these songs were culled from, but in addition, nearly all of the tracks were recorded at his Imaginary Road studio (in the mountains of Vermont). Perhaps one would not be remiss in stating that The Gathering is, in fact, a Windham Hill compilation minus being on the label, that is.

Having reviewed many of the albums featured on this amazing collection (and it is amazing when one listens to it all the way through), I recognized many of the songs on the first playing, while a few others were brand new to me. However, no matter how many of these artists’ CDs you may currently own, I urge you to still consider adding this to your collection (hey, I’ll bet you own at least one of the Windham Hill collections, don’t you?). However, since these artists do not, in fact, share a label, it seems highly unlikely that you own more than half (if that) of these artists’ albums. And, in that case, you really have no reason whatsoever to not purchase this puppy pronto (provided you enjoy excellent acoustic instrumental music, that is).

The sheer variety of the music on The Gathering is impressive, yet Ackerman still managed to select tracks which present a cohesive musical vision. Nothing here races too fast and nothing here moves too slow. While piano and guitar dominate the pieces as lead instruments (plus a song by flugelhorn player Jeff Oster, that being the funky “Serengeti”), the assorted accompanists who are sprinkled throughout the cuts more than compensates for the two-pronged approach. If you have made the acquaintance of any of the Imaginary Road-recorded works, you know that Ackerman works with a group of stellar guest stars whom I refer to as “the usual suspects” including such luminaries as cellist Eugene Friesen, vocalist Noah Wilding, bassist Michael Manring, and English horn player Jill Haley, among many others.

With so many tracks on the CD, singling any of them out, except as personal favorites, would require a two-part review. However, I will mention a few songs merely so that you, dear reader, can gauge the depth of musical magic that awaits you herein: “Taoist Winds” from guitarist Paul Jensen features his adroit fingerstyle picking matched by evocative cello, pianist Kathryn Kaye’s “Mountain Laurel” exudes a flowing sensation of warm nostalgia colored with a shading of melancholy, the appropriately titled “Feeling Sunshine” from down-under pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins is a jaunty tune on which her lead is counterpointed by buzzing didgeridoo plus an undercurrent of midtempo percussion, “Porch With a View” features the superlative talents of guitarist Frank Smith (joined by cello) in a sublime, soft, yet sad ballad, the guitar and vocal combination on Shambhu’s “Hide and Seek” evokes a tropical island feel, somewhat akin to the many fine works of Bruce BecVar, pianist Denise Young paints a sepia-toned minimalist portrait on the forlorn “Livia’s Song,” Ann Sweeten’s characteristic flowing melodicism can be distinctly heard on the peaceful “Dawn on Red Mountain,” and Ken Verheecke plays his acoustic guitar sans accompaniment on the impressionistic “Forever.” Ackerman himself, accompanied by strings, drums, and bass, closes out the album with “The Wheel,” a moderately energetic conclusion to all the great music which has preceded it.

The Gathering may be–no, is, the perfect gift for any acoustic instrumental music lover. I’d find it hard to believe that anyone will recognize every single artist here and it’s equally unlikely she/he will own more than a handful of the original recordings. However, the selection of specific tracks and their sequencing is so spot on that prior ownership is irrelevant. I have been sent the majority of these artists’ works for review and I still found myself hitting the PLAY button each time when The Gathering ended–I simply couldn’t get enough of this music. Major kudos to Ackerman (and mastering engineer Tom Eaton) and, of course, all the talented artists (and their many accompanists) who grace this album, which is surely one of the best compilations in the 30+ year history of this genre.

Rating: Excellent

Bill Binkelman
Zone Music Reporter