The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Brian Mann
Cafe du Soleil


Reclining Civilization
Je t'aime
Day By Day By Day
Dab In Da Mida
We're a Family
Red Army Song
What Has To Be
Gabriel's Dream

All compositions by Brian Mann

total time: 44'16"
released: 1990
review date: April 1999

label: Narada/Equinox - ND-63012
Narada Productions
1845 N. Farwell Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202 USA

Review by Thomas Fabinski:

Look, time is money so let me make this quick. Buy this CD. There. Now that I got that out, let's chill a bit. If you like new age jazz and the sound of an accordion, you won't be disappointed with this recording. If you're stressed out from being multi-functional at your day job; if you're tired of being spammed and flamed on the internet; if you just want to mellow out with some of the tastiest music this side of Heaven, then Brian is your (sorry I can't resist) Mann!

Brian has done all the composing and arranging on this new age recording from Narada; new age being their specialty. (Perhaps Narada's most well-known artist is David Lanz.) While Brian's accordion is featured on every selection (except Spirit), it is wonderfully blended with a variety of other instruments. These other instruments include at various times: bass, guitar, drums, dobro, bassoon, bass and b flat clarinet, alto and soprano flute, oboe, english horn, french horn, cello, trumpet, flugelhorn, alto tenor and baritone saxophone, harp, tenor trombone and synthesizer.

Brian's trademarks are a simple use of parallel thirds in the melody line, a subtle shifting between dry and wet tuned registers not unlike a Leslie speaker going from slow to fast speeds, and a wonderfully expressive single note melody line. His playing, his use of bellows phrasing, gives his sound a sweet, melancholic feeling. He makes his accordion sing without flashy pyrotechnics. His melodies are beautiful.

Noteworthy is Brian's description of Red Army Song: "Seeing the Red Army Chorus perform in America was deeply moving. As uniformed Soviet soldiers sang classic Russian songs, backed by an orchestra with eight balalaikas and eight accordions, they reached out to us, as if to say. 'We are all human beings with the same hearts - let's love each other.' I agree whole-heartedly." This description gives you a sense of the spirit behind Brian Mann's work. Let his music wrap your soul in its warmth. His music will protect you.

This is a marvelous recording which I am confident you'll enjoy having in your collection when your spirit needs a security blanket. I truly believe this is destined to be a classic as it sounds as fresh and charming to me today in 1999 as when it was released in 1990.

My favorite selections are the first and last tunes. Play the last track, Gabriel's Dream, just as you drift off to sleep. Pleasant dreams are guaranteed. Again from Brian: "In a Southwestern town, a man stares down at his sleeping child's peaceful face and tries to imagine what it must feel like and sound like inside Gabriel's dream."

If this review sounds overly maudlin or sentimental, blame me. I'm guilty as charged. But the entire recording is heart-warming. Each track is a gem in its own right. Don't let this one get by you. You'll thank me for it.

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