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Artist – Jim Wilson
Album – A Place In My Heart
Style – New Age

Review: By Ken Mowery


Jim Wilson’s new CD, “A Place In My Heart” resounds with a freshly melodic transcendence that places the listener in the middle of what Wilson calls, “...the perfect California day...”. The compositions on this album center around the places and people that Wilson has known and loved. This gifted composer has learned well his craft and for that reason there is a narrative quality to his music that resonates with the heart and enables most people to enter into the broadly emotional experience described by his music.

Wilson’s thoughtful and well produced music is stylishly fresh with contemporary exuberance and classically rich intensity and depth. From the opening crescendo of the first track, “Morning On Cannery Row”, Wilson successfully engages the heart of his audience. Anticipation builds as the theme is first introduced by the violin, viola and cello followed by Wilson’s bright thematic proclamation on the piano. The beautifully lilting melodic contour of this first song sets the scene and prevailing mood of the entire project, providing an early taste of Wilson’s ingenious ability to capture in song both heartache and joy, optimism as well as angst. 

This tonal duality has the amazing effect of putting the composer and his audience on such common ground that his song becomes their song. This magical relevance distinguishes Wilson’s music with universal appeal. However, the resulting bond between composer, listener and music could also be the CDs only short coming of note. Although the music is clearly passionate, listeners might develop a dispassionate over familiarity with its themes. 
However, this would be a mistake on their part. Wilson has crafted enough melodic and harmonic variation into his compositions to keep the attentive listener well entertained. Several arrangements feature judicious use of the ethnic tonality which has gained increasing interested and appreciation as of late. For example the Irish flutes, whistles and Uilleann pipes played by Eric Rigler on, “A Place In My Heart”, “Sanctuary” and “Eagle’s Flight”, introduce a most pleasing sonic contrast in these songs and the project as a whole.

Additionally, Wilson’s superb piano technique is wonderfully accompanied on most tracks by the stellar performances of, Kristen Autry on violin, Briana Bandy on viola and cellist Sharon Rizzo. This ensemble maintains the predominantly warm timbre of this project, playing on eight of the tracks. Their appealing presence stands out especially in, “Morning On Cannery Row”, but their performances on all of the tracks are notable. No doubt the effectiveness of this trio owes much to arrangers Brad Cole and Quinn Johnson.

“Foolish Me” is the first of two songs in which Wilson sings, demonstrating yet another dimension of giftedness. This song also features the 50 piece Prague Orchestra. Wilson also sings on, “If The Morning Never Comes”, where he duets with Marilyn Martin (who sang duet with Phil Collins on the hit “Separate Lives”). Although the lyrics, vocals and instrumental performances on these two songs are dynamic and flawless, they in no way overshadow the instrumental greatness of the balance of this album.

Wilson works with a number of other renowned musicians on this project including trumpeter Chris Botti, acoustic guitarist Ricardo Silveira, guitarist Davey Johnstone, Neil Stubenhaus on bass, drummer Vinnie Caliouta and percussionist Alex Acuna.

Isolating a “best of” on “A Place In My Heart” would be too formidable a task for this reviewer. The sunny optimism of “Morning On Cannery Row” comes to mind as does the ethereal majesty of “Eagle’s Flight” and the mystical loftiness of “Hunter’s Moon”. Still there is the spiritual introspection and peace of “Sanctuary”, the title tune “A Place In My Heart” and the dreamily melodic “Luna de La Jolla”. Suffice to say this recording deserves a place in the rotation of any worth while CD collection. “A Place In My Heart” will undoubtedly abide in the hearts of grateful listeners as a welcomed and special addition.

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