Turned into Lemonade Reviews
Album review: ‘Turned Into Lemonade’ by the Richard Shulman Group
MORE SWEET THAN SOUR: The fourth collection of original jazz from the Richard Shulman Group features 14 tunes in a mostly upbeat (yet understated) style.
Conveying a spirit of hope and optimism without the use of words is a challenging goal. But on Turned Into Lemonade, the latest from the prolific jazz/orchestral/new age composer Richard Shulman (he’s released more than two dozen albums), that ambitious goal is realized.
This all-original jazz outing is credited to the Richard Shulman Group: Shulman plays acoustic piano, backed by the lush yet understated musicianship of Rick Dilling (drums), Zack Page (bass) and Jacob Rodriguez (saxophones). Noted vocalist Wendy Jones lends her talents on three of the album’s 14 tracks. Shulman’s brief liner notes offer a bit of context for each tune, but in most cases, the vibe comes through without the need for additional explanation.
“Atmosphere” is carried by Rodriguez’s lovely, memorable and intimate saxophone melody; Shulman decorates the arrangement with subtle piano work, but he and the rhythm section largely leave open spaces for the sax lead. “I Claim My Day” has a quiet demeanor, with a hint of a hip, urbane (and urban) feel. The tune develops into more of a group arrangement as it unfolds. Throughout the album, bassist Page is the quiet engine of the quartet; he moves the music forward in such an understated fashion that it’s easy to overlook his important contribution; listen closely and don’t make that mistake.
As he mentions in his album notes, Shulman’s “In Between the Blue and Green” is an older composition that went unused for more than three decades because the composer felt it too much like Bill Evans’ immortal “Blue in Green,” first heard on Miles Davis’ landmark 1959 LP Kind of Blue. While there does exist a surface similarity, Shulman needn’t have worried; there’s a vibrant, uptempo feel to his work that recalls Vince Guaraldi at least as much as Evans.
Wendy Jones begins the emotive ballad “The Gifts You Gave to Me” unaccompanied; it’s a breathtaking and highly effective approach for the torchy tune that recalls some of Barbra Streisand’s best work. Rodriguez judiciously inserts brief responsive phrases to Jones’ vocal lines. The soulful, vaguely bossa nova stylings of “For Mom” need little explanation beyond the title; again, it’s Rodriguez who’s the star here, with his breathy and supple melodic lines.
“No Matter What They Say” seems to follow on seamlessly from “For Mom,” working almost as a medley. Initially, the piano melody of “Homage to Pharoah” has a Bob James feel, but Jones’ wordless vocals — often in lockstep with Rodriguez’s sax — take the song somewhere else entirely. Shulman opens up and takes an extended solo, and it’s a thing of grace and beauty. Rodriguez’s solo on the extended piece is equally impressive.
The composer describes “It’s All Inside” as a musical prayer, and it’s built around a simple yet elegant melodic line delivered on saxophone. Rodriguez is front and center for the entirety of this tune. “Finding Peace” is the last of three songs on Turned Into Lemonade to feature Jones. The track features an introspective lyric delivered in impeccable fashion. Dilling’s brush work gives a soulful, swaying vibe to the song; Shulman’s delicate piano lines are the perfect complement to Jones’ vocals.
The loping and playful “Buried Diamond” represents another old tune that Shulman dusted off and completed for his latest album. One suspects he was listening to a lot of Guaraldi in the early ’80s And that’s not a bad thing; not at all. The title track applies cool jazz style to what’s essentially a pop melody. Some carefully placed stops and starts add nice texture, while Rodriguez’s soprano saxophone dances around the upper register.
Brazilian textures dominate “Sunny Samba,” easily the most uptempo track on Turned Into Lemonade. Rodriguez and Shulman take turns soloing, and the joy the quartet is experiencing radiates through the entirety of the nearly six-minute tune. It’s followed by another samba, the faster and very different “Write Again.”
The fourth album from the Richard Shulman Group concludes with “Nostalgia,” described by its composer as a duet with Rodriguez. The elegiac song is a lovely, melancholy meditation.
Flawlessly recorded at East Asheville’s Seclusion Hill Music, Turned Into Lemonadeis a sweet and gentle jazz collection, featuring crystalline performances by all involved.
Author, music journalist, historian, collector, and musician. His first book, “Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon,” published by Rowman & Littlefield, is available now. Follow me @the_musoscribe
Highly inventive original jazz The Richard Shulman Group – Turned into Lemonade
By Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews – May 21, 2018
Though this is my first review of Richard’s energetic jazz piano work, it’s actually his fourth original release… as I listen to tunes like the 5:01 “I Claim My Day“, it helps me to renew my spirit in most positive fashion… full of life & the living of it – to the MAX.
Joining Richard are some of the hippest jazz players on the planet… Jacob Rodriguez – tenor & soprano saxophones; Zack Page – bass; Rick Dilling – drums, and Wendy Jones doing vocals on tracks 4, 7 & 9… Wendy’s vocal on the 6:19 “Finding Peace” is (without question) one of the most comforting jazz vocals I’ve heard (yet) in 2018… a perfect match with the other players!
The highly-charged “Write Again” will have you up on your feet & swaying ’round the room… I totally dug Zack’s bass work on this one… excellent recording as well.
If truly “solid” jazz is what your ears are yearning for, you’ll find “In Between the Blue and Green” to be one of those tunes you’ll play over & over & over again… it’s “stuck” in “replay mode” on my iPhone playlists, to be sure… Richard’s piano on this track is right up-front & shows talent beyond compare.
I’m a lover of Latin-flavored jazz, to it was easy to decide on my personal favorite of the fourteen songs offered up for your listening pleasure… “Sunny Samba” is about as tasty as it gets… I think you can expect to be hearing this one on jazz stations across the nation – frequently!
I give Richard and his talented crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this lively and entertaining album. Get more information on the Rich Heart Music label page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
Bliss of Being Reviews
Bliss of Being
The Pure Heart Ensemble
“This CD is a beautiful blend of piano, cello, flute, crystal bowls and vocal sounds. Unlike many “New Age” piano CDs, this recording has a depth and presence that is usually missing from other offerings. The arrangements seamlessly blend the instruments into a cushion of loving sound. This album would be a fine addition to enhance any heart-centered meditation practice, for those healing from emotional pain, as support for energy healing sessions or for simply quieting the mind at the end of a stressful day.”
-Evelyn Rysdyk – Spirit Passages E-dispatch
“The perfect late-night, candles, incense, red-wine, meditational album.”
-Elizabeth B. – 8notes.com
“Do your body and mind a favor and listen to this warm, blissful, all-acoustic music.”
-Buzz Music – A Springboard to Great Music
“The aptly titled “Bliss of Being” makes you glad to be alive. It lulls you into a state of peace and serenity with its skillfully woven melodies composed of a delicate balance of piano, vocals, cello, and flute.
The Pure Heart Ensemble, which is collaboration between Richard Shulman, Kate Steinbeck, Dielle Ciesco, Adriana Contino, and Bob Hinkle, has crafted a soulful and resonant album that evokes a state of contemplation and restoration. It transports you into that rare mental place where both outer and inner disturbances melt away and all you are left with is the stillness of your own mind.
Richard Shulman’s piano acts as a guiding light throughout the composition, centering and leading the other elements in the group. The soft, tinkling piano has a mellow, familiar essence and feels like the soundtrack that should accompany a light spring rain. Dielle Ciesco’s vocals are ethereal and are a lovely complement to the piano, cello, and flute, often echoing their moving and meditative melodies.
The crystal bowls on ‘Divine Connection’ resound with an amazing healing energy that only crystal bowls can produce. They immediately encourage your mind and body to release tension and tune into the uplifting energy that is being offered.
‘We go together,’ the last track on the album, is more invigorating and upbeat than the rest of the tracks. It encourages listeners to come back from their meditative journey and return to the outer world, although not without bringing a little peace and stillness back with them.
On his website, Richard Shulman states his mission as being to “assist listeners in embodying and expressing their Spiritual essence and potential.” Shulman and his collaborators certainly accomplish this mission on “Bliss of Being,” a divinely-inspired and spiritually transformational piece of music.”
-Jenny Smiechowski – NEW AGE JOURNAL
Jenny Smiechowski received a B.A. in Environmental Writing and Environmental Policy from Unity College in Maine. She is a freelance writer who specializes in the areas of natural health, spirituality, and the environment.
“If we haven’t heard from this band’s leader, Richard Shulman, in quite a while, does that mean we’ll be hearing from his old pal, Don Slepian, next? Shulman has been at this awhile, and whether fronting a new age band or going it alone, he’s a brand you can trust not to water things down. A top shelf example of healing music that sounds like it really comes from the heart, this really sounds like a non-violent version of what it must have sounded like when the Earth came together, big band be damned. A lovely album for grown-ups that need a break in the worst way, this set will give them that break, in the best way. Check it out seekers.”
“The pure heart ensemble make blissful music. Bliss is a special feeling, an important state to seek, and The Pure Heart Ensemble has created an album, BLISS OF BEING, to assist listeners in attaining that place of calmness, peace, happiness, relaxation, healing/health and spirituality.
The Pure Heart Ensemble — acoustic piano, cello, flutes, wordless vocals and crystal bowls — takes the listener on a trip to find bliss, and, upon arriving there, celebrates blissfulness (the song titles describe the journey, healing, transitions, making a divine connection, and loving others and the world around us). The group is led by pianist and longtime new age musician Richard Shulman (who has more than two-dozen previous recordings).
This all-acoustic album is warm, heartfelt, moving and deeply resonant. There are pieces from a minute long to more than 11-minutes in length. There are highly-melodic passages along with free-floating soulful and spiritual sections. Listen and find the bliss.”
-Zone Music Reporter
“Bliss of Being is a beautiful music CD collaboration from The Pure Heart Ensemble (New Age pianist Richard Shulman, cellist Adriana Contino, flutist Kate Steinbeck, vocalist Dielle Ciesco, and crystal bowl player Bob Hinkle). Together, they have created an expression of exuberant joy, that reminds the listener of the divine spark that gives life to all. Bliss of Being is a treasure for anyone who enjoys uplifting New Age music to experience, and makes an excellent gift for any occasion!”
The Bookwatch – Midwest Book Review
“Renowned new age pianist, Richard Shulman, has brought four remarkable musicians, formed The Pure Heart Ensemble and recorded the very special album entitled “Bliss of Being.” The extraordinary nerve of creating musical sounds that bring total relaxation where you feel chills as you listen is a glorious thrill. You can hear your own breath and enjoy it. There’s the pure feeling of nowhere to go.”
-John Shelton Ivany
Top CD’s of the Week
A testimonial from our concert at the UR Light Center, 5/9/14 by Pat Christy: This was an amazing performance with new compositions coming from Richard Shulman and his new group, who blend like overlapping ripples in clear blue water with voice, flute, cello, crystal bowls &, of course, piano that is often played like the harp that it really is. The top of my head tingles just thinking about it. THANK YOU!
Sky Jazz Reviews
The Richard Shulman Trio
“Pianist Richard Shulman is best known for his New Age and classical-influenced piano works, so I was as surprised as anyone when his new jazz trio project release, Sky Jazz, landed in my hands. Unlike some others from the New Age music genre who have tried their hands at jazz, it’s obvious that Shulman has the chops to back up his aspirations—with room to spare. Working with bassist Mike Holstein and drummer Sonny Thornton, Shulman offers no allusion to fusion or pop leanings, instead making it perfectly clear from the opening “Pictures in the Clouds” that this is a jazz recording in the classic sense. Standouts include the bluesy “Getting Over Lost Love,” the gently swaying “Goodbye to Fantasy,” and the nearly 10-minute tour de force “Still Young at 95.” These cats can play, no doubt about it!”
-Bill Binkelman – Inspired Retailer Magazine
“Recommended: The Music of Richard Shulman. If you are ready for some music that will ooze into your soul, relax you, uplift your spirits, and remind you why you are here, Richard Shulman’s gifted music will do all that and more. His original compositions are stirring, touching, and soothing. I love his majestic touch that melds humility and authentic power. I have been listening to these unique renderings for a long time, and once you hear them, you will feel better, no matter how good you felt when you started!”
-From Alan Cohen’s July 2009 Newsletter
About the CD 11:11 Piano Meditations for Awakening
“I have been loving Richard Shulman’s music for years. When I first heard 11:11 Piano Meditations for Awakening, I knew immediately from the first notes that I was about to have a very profound spiritual experience. Richard’s 11:11 awakens conscious presence and brings my spiritual awareness back to the center point of my true being in ways that even the most cherished music in my collection cannot. I play this album while reading, writing, preparing food, driving, and while otherwise sitting in silence. Thank you Richard, you have somehow managed to surpass even the best of your best. And you have struck an eternal chord in my heart.”
-Dale Hoffman – Facilitator of Aramaic Healing Circles
“Richard: I was so excited that you won an award for your 11:11 cd. It has touched my heart since receiving it at INATS last year. It was well deserved. A Fan…”
“I LOVE THIS CD! It is deceptively simple, …. Like resting in angel wings, a warmth without temperature, elegance without expectability, delight without ditziness, softness without boredom, levitation without dissociation, power without bombast.”
“Another masterpiece! He never ceases to amaze me with his musical mastery. His music comes straight from the heart and awakens our souls. It touchs us in the very heart of our being. This particular CD has 13 tracks of meditative, exquisite music. I highly recommend this to anyone who wishes to relax, feel peaceful and get in touch with your innerself. I now have 21 of Richard Shullman’s CD’s and will continue to add to the collection as new ones are released. I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do.”
-Music Review by Isis
“I just listened to Meditation 1 and 2. (Isn’t this new technology amazing??) So I thought, “Oh yes, love it. A dance expression to this, sometime, somewhere would be wonderful.” Then I listened to Meditation 2. I loved it even more, and my thoughts followed along a meandering flow as follows: “Its the emotionality behind the simplicity. Great instrument too…different from eastern meditation music and chanting because of this subtle, exquisite emotionality. Oh, how it curves gently around, right into the heart. The bodhicitta. I could do a movement/meditation to this. Darkly lit…so moving and beautiful. Thank you.”
-Celeste Graves-Hoyal, Dancer/Choreographer
“What a peaceful, transformative album, Richard. Thank you SO much for following your Guidance to create it. I feel like my aura is being combed and balanced with these sounds.”
-Kim Hughes – singer, healing sound practitioner and co-owner of www.whitehorseblackmountain.com
About the new Theatrical Musical “A Dream of Camelot”
“The show was amazing, astonishing, uplifting, made me laugh, made me cry and reminded me of all the great good stuff that any practice I have ever done, points to. The show has come such a very long way from conception to the read-through at the Light Center to this lovely evolution. Tony, Jen, Breazi and Dielle were even more incredible than last time (and that is saying a lot). And the new cast were also so well chosen. The dominator scene was so potent (song and interaction between actors), Who You Are Is Beautiful again just melted me where I sat — my absolute favorite song in a show of many favorites. And on and on …. And staging it there at the Masonic Hall was a great choice. What a jewel of a little theater. And also seeing you in black tie was a treat – that was a really great choice, Richard. Am so very happy to have had this experience of your life changing work, Richard, one more time. You all have to have been so happy with what you did together. You are a great ensemble and I hope that the seeds that got sown this weekend, flower into other shows elsewhere because this production is a great blessing in the life of this world. Thanks so much for always following the Muse and the Call, Richard. Love and blessings.”
-Debra (and Joe who also really thoroughly enjoyed it)
Comments on A Dream of Camelot performance at the Masonic Temple 3/12/11 from Debra Roberts.
“I loved the production. It was so beautifully put together. The music, all the songs, those I’d heard before and all the new ones were amazing, as was your marathon playing. The audience participation in the meditation session was brilliant. Extremely helpful to me (as you know) was the explanation of the Camelot background. The director made magic. The choreography skillfully kept things moving along …. I was riveted. The actors and singers were warmly engaging and their performances appeared genuine and heartfelt. They seemed emotionally connected to each other. Love was all around.”
-From Janet Gold who saw the Masonic Temple performance on 3/12/11.
“The show was Amazing! I laughed…I cried…..You captured the essence of human emotions and spirit. I see kids dressed up as woodland creatures dancing to “I like it here in the Woods”.Will see you on Broadway!”
-From Dianne Lancaster, having seen a March 2011 performance
“Richard, I just wanted to tell you your musical at the Light Center is still with me, weeks later. I was so thrilled to have been witnesss to something so profound and would love to support any new projects or at least know of upcoming performances. You are brilliant, and I am so grateful for your contribution. Thank you.”
“I loved the story line and the three numbers from the show: I don’t see why this shouldn’t be on Broadway–not Broadway Asheville–well you can preview it here–but I see it making New York theatre.”
-Rena Wright, Author
About the Camelot Reawakened DVD
“Camelot Reawakened: A Vision Fulfilled” presents the beautiful melodic lines and orchestral harmonies of Richard Shulman’s music alongside poetic, revealing commentary by the composer himself. Shulman carefully illuminates his symphony movement by movement, providing the context for, and history of, his wonderful, inspiring “dream of the heart.”
-Ray Hemachandra, Editor in Chief New Age Retailer Magazine
“Many people have inspirations, insights and visions but do not act on them. Richard Shulman encourages viewers to “Remember your dream” and “Keep it alive.” Shulman did just that when he received a vision and felt guided to create a specific piece of music. In Camelot Reawakened, Shulman describes his personal journey, from the moment he experienced his vision in 1996 until his dream became fulfilled, to inspire other people to keep their dreams alive and to fulfill them.
At times, while working on “Camelot Reawakened,” Shulman had moments of doubt and decided the task was impossible. “No – it’s not going to happen!” he thought. Then he connected with his own center deep within and realigned with spirit.
Divine inspiration finds expression through human endeavor, Shulman says. He overcame his anxiety and continued working on the project. He recruited musicians, and rehearsals followed. The final result, an exuberant concert held in 2002 that in included in the video, is an outburst of joy and festivity. The symphony “Camelot Reawakened,” performed by Shulman and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, is available from RichHeart Music on a CD of the same name.
Point out the Camelot Reawakened video as a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and people seeking direction in life.”
-Molly Trimble, New Age Retailer Magazine
A Higher Dimension
“Reaching A Higher Dimension . . . we are all looking forward to right? I highly reccomend Richard Shulman’s new CD “A Higher Dimension.” There was a feeling of wonder, beauty and a peaceful well-being as I listened to his once again masterful performance of the soft relaxing music being played. From the first “Gates to the Quiet Place” to last “Home.” Music to take you to that Higher Dimension in meditation.”
“If I were going to sit in the middle of a pine forest and wished to hear some perfect music for the surrounds, I would…choose A HIGHER DIMENSION.”
–Don Slepian, Starlight Times.
Reprinted from New Age Voice – April, 2000
“Spirit of the New Age” By Carl McColman
“Richard Shulman is a consummate New Age musician. A gentle man with a down-to-earth manner, Shulman balances his gift as a musician with a clear commitment to spiritual evolution–both his own and that of his listeners. As a musician he does far more than merely entertain. His compositions and performances also soothe, enlighten, and transform. This can be seen throughout his catalog. RichHeart music, his artist-owned label, has released such albums as Ascension Harmonics, Light From Assisi, and Keeper of the Holy Grail. The two most recent CD releases from RichHeart–one new recording and one a rerelease of a title previously available only on cassette–continue in Shulman’s tradition of music with a spiritual center.
The new title, Music to Walk the Labyrinth: Synthesizer Music for the Inner Journey, features a live recording of Shulman last year during a community labyrinth walk. In communities across the country, large reproductions of labyrinths (such as the one in Chartres Cathedral) are available for churches and other spiritual groups to use as a focus for meditation and prayer. Walking along the circuitous paths of the labyrinth is a metaphor for the twists and turns of life itself. Performing at one such event, Shulman improvised an extended musical passage which serves as a meditative work in its own right. Peaceful and slow-moving, the music evokes a sense of calm and spaciousness, perfect as a backdrop to meditation, although enjoyable to listen to by itself. However, this is no sonic wallpaper- different keyboard arrangements keep the music interesting, and 30 minutes into the improvisation, the music suddenly blossoms into a lovely synthesizer drone around which a playful melody dances. It’s as if the dedicated meditator suddenly has been rewarded with a glimpse of ecstasy.
Newly available on CD from RichHeart is Light Music – To Clear and Align the Chakras, originally released on cassette in 1996. Recorded at the United Research Light Center in North Carolina, this suite of two meditative programs features music beginning in the key of C (representing the root chakra) and progressing up the scale to the key of B (the crown chakra). The human body has seven major chakras (energy centers) along the spine, each one corresponding to a specific color, a particular part of the human body, a set of emotional and spiritual issues, and a musical key. In progressing up the scale, Shulman’s music clears and aligns each chakra in turn. Liner notes include instructions on how to use the music during meditation to help facilitate the process of chakra alignment.
Sound hokey? Although these concepts are unfamiliar to many westerners, they are core principles of eastern metaphysics, and increasing numbers of Americans recognize the value of working with the chakra system, for both spiritual and physical well-being. Best-selling authors like Deepak Chopra and Carolyn Myss have shown that healing therapies based on the chakra system are moving into the mainstream. Musicians like Richard Shulman have taken the wisdom of the East and given it a lovely soundtrack of contemporary New Age music.
Like many independent musicians who own their own labels, Shulman works tirelessly to bring his excellent product to a market sagging under the weight of cookie-cutter major-label product backed by expensive marketing budgets. It’s David and Goliath all over again. I believe in this David, because his music has a genuine heartfelt spiritual resonance that metaphysical-minded consumers consistently respond to. One soul at a time, people are falling in love with RichHeart Music.”
Light from Assisi
“…The music seems to alter the very atoms and take us into a place of inner mystery and beauty. Intensely personal, it explores the humble and the Divine with equal sincerity. Shulman holds nothing back. His honesty creates a doorway through which spirit enters. This is music for blissing, for contemplating the meaning of God and one’s relationship to the Highest.”
-Shelley Koffler, New Age Retailer
“Light from Assisi is an album of intense spiritual and meditative synthesizer music born of a direct communion with the Supreme Self–the God that dwells within. Many of Shulman’s compositions have ecclesiastical overtones and the emotional impact of a Bach mass, created by deep bass lines and soaring harmonies. However, other parts of this masterwork maintain a lighter, more angelic quality. … Some of the best liner notes I have ever read…. Shulman gives the fascinating details of his experiences in Assisi along with several guided meditations which help the listener to become one with the light of the inner truth as well as the Light from Assisi.”
–Ken Gruen, New Frontier Magazine