Album Review / #Will Ackerman/ Positano Songs #Italy #2021
American guitarist and record producer Will Ackerman was introduced to his instrument aged 12, and went on to designing his own ‘crazy-tunings’ which became quite prolific and no doubt coloured his musical programme for his first performance at the Seattle Opera House. This piece of history is all the more remarkable when one considers that Will’s mother took her own life when he was young. However, this magnificent musician and man is the holder of many epic awards, Grammy’s and a Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon by ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) and founder of the celebrated independent record label ‘Windham Hill’.
Now lets talk about this album!! #music review #will ackerman #written by Kerry Barnes
Track 1. “Nighttime in the Chapel” 3.16
A hypnotic continuo-ostinato sets the scene, perfectly plucked in the moonlight and the patterning of perfect 5ths and 2nds construct our bass to sit on. It’s repetitive but not boring. Effortless meandering with a breathable melody and with enough space between phrases. Lovely layering. The twangs of steel are bright and prick my ears. It feels very resonant and with church-like accoustics. Indeed a very special place of worship touching the hearts of Will and his precious wife Susan.
As I listen a bit more, something comes to me……..Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G major where the left hand makes way for the right hand in a 6th pattern, Will’s is a four-pattern. It has a very human touch, in fact I can hear the tips of Will’s fingers as they make contact with the strings, as only plucking can.
A dedicational air fills the space and I hear a voice say “This angel in my arms has brought me more joy than I deserve. The most wonderful gift”.
This piece is the first of what Will called ’26 promising ideas’ when he left Italy and became a long cherished dream. I feel at this point we must thank Michael Millard’s Instruments for providing us with this possible sound world!!
Track 2. “Our Wedding Song” 4.03
Here, the musical narrative sings like a gentle soprano and her song of the violin, beautifully performed by Charlie Bisharat. A percussive wave breaks on to the shore of Mediterranean waters and a warm vocal harmony breathes gratitude and emotion. An Italian wedding hymn full of soothing patterns. So many musicians compose in Minor Keys, but not here……this is a very happy album about love and fulfilment. Beautifully recorded in Vermont by Tom Eaton, Will’s dear friend and confidante.
Will is in fine form here, making music with strings by D’ Addorio, so natural, as if an imaginative breeze has kissed our faces.
Track 3. “Did I Dream This” 5.03
I’ve never had the good fortune to visit Italy, but I can almost smell and feel it living in this music. A gorgeous quartet of guitar, vocals, cello and a smattering of piano here and there, (but not much). Loving the changes in time signatures between fours and threes, with enough pause breaks to help them make sense, wonderful!
So we start in quadruple time with a gently ascending broken chord, and again in a Major key signature. This in itself is commanding praise at it takes something to keep the listener involved whilst repeating the same tonality!
However, this beautiful dreamscape is very real and no one is dreaming!! Cello and Vocal Vowels are sublime in blend, sweeping strokes and dragging bows. Will certainly has skill in the way that he bends strings, very cool. Now and again, two or three singular piano notes play in unison and compliment. I’m feeling very relaxed and sense the warm and welcoming people sending only good wishes. Will makes the perfect decision to end one note higher than the rest of the crew, very fitting I’d say.
Massive credit goes to Noah Wilding and Eugene Friesen on vocals and cello.
Track 4. “The End of the Day” 5.42
#Will Ackerman #new guitar album #2022 release #Positano #Italy
It’s no wonder to me that this album reached N0.1 on Amazon..(something I could only dream of!) and by the way folks you can buy the album on Vinyl, coming soon!!
So, at ‘the end of the day’ is exactly when I would listen to this album, as would I imagine many others. I’d be reflecting on the stunning views of sea and rocky cliffs overlooking the island, so bright and sunny. Yes, Will is in reflective mood. Slower, laid back with that lazy Sunday feel. Call-and-Response between violin and guitar is very welcomed here. Even at this pace the violin manages to play an ‘ornament……mordent or acciaccatura’ and I always feel that is more difficult the slower the pace, whereas up tempo seems to take care of itself.
I feel a glass of wine in one hand, pizza in the other, and a drool of olive oil running down my left cheek. I also hear the guitar in unison-double-octaves mode so this must be another layering project, brilliant, and something I do in my piano recordings…….and if I’m allowed to say, I think Michele McLaughlin has used this technique in her latest album?? Bravo Will!!
Track 5. “For Carmine” 4.37
#Imaginary Road Music #Tom Eaton producer #West River Records
This track dedicated to Will’s dear friend Carmine Pallone, one of a string of precious human beings that have brought so much emotion to the album, and I’m starting to get a feeling of Elgar’s Enigma Variations!!
Carmine sounds like a lady full of light and gladness. At 1.27 Will inserts a Fermata, almost waiting for her to come down the stairs in her best dress! Then I hear some modulations into the minor-tonality, so she must also bear some seriousness. A gritty cello follows her every step, ending in a three note riff on guitar, almost in the form of a goodbye. A very heartfelt piece……and I can’t believe the 11 year gap between Will’s last solo album and this one!!
Track 6. “This Is Where It Begins” 4.40 # Cynthia Reed designs #vertical town #tom eaton at universal noise storage
Let me say what I love about this track first, and then what I’m curious about. Am loving the repeated motifs on guitar and lovely to hear a bit more from Tom on piano, with carefully chosen inserts. The piano has a beautifully resonant quality and a deep cantabile tone with every note. The first two or three notes of the violin actually sound like a ‘harmonica’, I mean I really did think it was a harmonica! How does a violin produce that!
I’m just slightly curious about the ‘togetherness’?? ……somehow it feels as though the guitar is holding on for dear life to stay in time and hold the tempo, an uneveness of tone if you will. Maybe something to do with plectrum-plucking?? ….I don’t know. It is still a most beautiful piece of music.
Track 7. “The Tyrrhenian Sea” 5.52
Will is comfortable here, opening phrases ad-libitum, and in the ‘minor’. He holds our attention in several places, happy for us to guess what’s coming next. Sometimes takes the form of an improvisation. My mind has wandered to filtered coffee and a very slouchy sofa, pure bliss! It’s quite blue in it’s hue, a lovely way to colour the sound. My eyes close, my breathing is slow and deep as if in the middle of an ‘Alexander-Technique’ session. That’s all I have to say. Deep relaxation.
Track 8. “Passing Baldo’s Tower” 5.35
Will says about the ‘path’ to Baldo’s Tower “you have to go past Fornillo Beach, where the locals go to get away from the tourist crush!!” ……sounds very busy. But Will prevails in calming his listeners here, and I believe that during the playing and recording of this particular track there would have been much eye contact between these fantastic musicians, when to come in etc. as Will is just playing around, taking his time and of focused intent. I can hear Tom on bass at the beginning of each phrase, more so on this track, lending it’s warm support. The violin work is sublime, especially in the lower notes, so mellow, and then surprisingly snagging on ornaments when we least expect it! Ooh, a lovely chord sequence on piano, taking us gently into a fading coda.
Track 9. “For Giovanni” 4.49
There are some special human beings held in Will’s heart and head and Giovanni is up there at the top. A home-from-home feeling embedded deeply. Sadly Giovanni passed away, but there’s nothing mournful about this musical tribute at all, only fond memories.
Am loving the ‘rubato’ that’s quite scintillating, teasing and testing, what’s coming we ask?? …….then more forward motion than I’ve heard so far. I feel the wind blowing through my hair, cruising American highways! The rhythm of 8 quavers per bar and a slight accent on quaver’s 1 and 4 lends terrific momentum. Magical recording skills here, as the vocal entries fade so seamlessly at the end of each phrase. Wonderful stuff!
Track 10. “I Had To Go There” 1.34
This last track is so beautifully ‘throw-away’ and so final. One more visit to the chapel in Nocelle and a second wedding dinner in Montepertuso. Happily playing on his own, in control of departure and memories for Susan and himself. Who knows when the next album will come along, but for now this esteemed musical creation is available on #Bandcamp, #Amazon,# Apple Music, #Spotify and the list goes on!! The Media Kit for this album is very extensive and too many names to mention all, but the following names seem to me to stand out from the rest. Big thank you’s to: Paola Russo, Rosita, Virginia Andrew, Ed and Stacey Bonk at #Lazz Promotions, Inge Johnsson and mixing and mastering at Universal Noise Storage in Newburyport MA by Tom Eaton.
I would personally like to thank Beth Ann Hilton, founder of #The B Company for making this review possible, and a little nod to me for writing it!!