Review by Bill Binkelman, (Wind & Fire), New Age Reporter (Feb 2007) What can I write that will do justice to this sublime and beautiful recording? I have put off reviewing It’s About the Rose because I didn’t know how, in words, to capture my reaction to this album, conveying how deeply it touched me. From the opening “It’s About the Rose in the Vase on the Table” and its rolling yet melancholic melodicism to the gypsy-ish “Moon Night” to the light-hearted “Café Espresso” which prances and dances around like a little kid overflowing with the joy of the moment to the closing reprise “Finale of the Rose”. There is no misstep, no over-reach, no wasting of a note or a chord throughout the fifty-one minutes on this recording. It’s About the Rose is one of the most evocative, deeply felt albums I’ve heard in years, and that statement encompasses many recordings. Comparable to the chamber minimalism of Tim Story at times, yet also more accessible for less adventurous listeners who need a firmer grounding in structured acoustic instrumentation, this is a CD of uncommon grace and elegance, yet never at the expense of becoming distant or overly concerned with technique as opposed to human emotion.
Review by Kathy Parsons, Solo Piano Publications, New York It’s About the Rose is stunning! Her previous release, Allure of Sanctuary was also exceptional with its melodic emotional depth, but this is quite different. The pieces tend to be more improvised and come directly from the soul without a confining structure. Artists of this stature are able to freely, yet cohesively communicate their musical thoughts, creating moods and wordless dialogs with their instruments. True artistry springs from this place, and if you have ever witnessed it, the experience is profound and mesmerizing.
Reviewer: Sari N. Kent, Celebrity Cafe, New York It’s About the Rose, by Karen Marie Garrett, is ideal music for movies... motion pictures... superb! Debuted at #1 on the Top 100 Contemporary Instrumental and New Age Charts and with good reason. it has tunes that exhibit Garrett’s skill on the piano, mixed in which other powerful instruments give listeners an experience they will not soon forget. It’s About the Rose can be classified as a New Age, Adult Contemporary, or Jazz, but no matter how you categorize it, the album is superb.
A MYSTERIOUS PIANIST EMERGES IN BEAUTY - Gorgeous melodies and beautiful performance. The Bottom Line - If you would like some soothing music that has substance, this is a good choice.
I have to admit my "title" to this review is a little "tongue in cheek”. But just a little. Before last night, I had never heard of Ms. Garrett. The radio station where I have a show every Monday night happened to have two copies of this new release by her.
The liner notes tell me virtually nothing about her. (March 2007) Her website has no "bio" section which is typical of these sites. I have found out her last album "Allure of Sanctuary" was very popular in the genres "new age," "adult contemporary" and even "light jazz." Both "Allure" and this album are produced by Will Ackerman, the guru of Windham Hill Records. The praise for this album is widespread with such phrases as "the album is all about sublime, delicate, and melancholic beauty." (New Age magazine).
There are a number of excellent musicians on the CD including: Eugene Friesen: cello| Noah Wilding: vocals | Jeff Oster: flugal horn | Derrik Jordan: djembe and violin | T-Bone Wolk: bass | Steve Schuch: violin | William Ackerman: piano string duding and hopi drum.
Ms. Garrett composed every song on the album
PhenomenNEWS: This Month's Music Review by Greg Ozimek (April 2007) It’s About The Rose - Nearly an hour in length but all too brief; An uplifting spirit wisp’d in time, held in a suspension, that penetrates and lingers long after the last note has faded.
It’s About The Rose is a keeper and is already on my iPod – ready for drives and last minute vibrations from the outer world before the ever new world of sleep speeds in. Way back... a friend used to tell everyone she could, her motto, which was, “To enjoy is to obey!” It’s About The Rose is pure enjoyment!
Review by Ryan Young, CDBaby.com
The emotional depth of her compositions is enriched by classical influences such as Beethoven and Pachabel.
Bill Binkelman, (Wind & Fire) New Age Reporter, 1st Impression (December 2006) The recording It’s About the Rose is all about sublime, delicate and melancholic beauty. This new release from pianist Karen Marie Garrett... flows with an exquisite sense of profound feelings. Seldom do I hear music so suffused with almost palpable emotion, which gripped me from the first playing. While there is some light heartedness to be heard here (take for example “Café Espresso” which dances lightly and sprightly with grin-inducing friendliness or “Tip Toe Dancer and the Sea Pearl” evoking warm sun-washed beaches with the sound of children at play), most of the tracks resonate with the more somber side of life. The closing “Finale of the Rose” reminded me of the superlative soundtrack to the film The Fountain (music by Clint Mansell and played by the Kronos Quartet), with its near funereal mood yet still so beautiful as to almost break one’s heart. Clearly, It’s About the Rose elevates Ms. Garrett to the upper echelon of artists. The album also marks her emergence as someone to PAY ATTENTION TO in the future.
This is one of the most beautiful piano recordings I’ve heard in recent memory, and even maybe longer. I highly recommend it especially for quieter times when you bask in its sepia-toned glow.
Review by Kathy Parsons, Solo Piano Publications – New York "Allure of Sanctuary” is a must-have CD! Highly recommended!!!" Will Ackerman’s gifts as producer certainly helped to make this CD as breathtaking as it is, but if the quality of music isn’t there, no producer in the world can give it soul and depth - and this CD has mega-doses of both.
A classically-trained pianist from the age of five, Ms. Garrett plays with the strength and emotional clarity that come from years of expressing oneself at the piano, sharing the joys and sorrows of life with the beloved 88’s. The twelve pieces include eight original compositions, a lovely arrangement of “The Green Hills” by Brian Gibson, and Erik Satie’s “Trois Gnossiennes,” performed as originally composed. Most of the pieces are piano solo, but Garrett is joined on two by award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen (I LOVE cello and piano together!). Some of the other tracks have English horn, light percussion, and wordless vocals, but this is truly an incredible piano album.
The CD begins with “Tip-Toe Dancer (Kathryn’s Song),” one of the lighter pieces in this collection. It was inspired by a story told by a close friend about a childhood dance performed for friends and family. Graceful yet playful, it is easy to imagine the seriousness of the young dancer and the warm reception of the adults.
“Lake EWOK Muse” is an improvisational duet for piano and cello that followed a sunrise meditation beside Lake EWOK at Skywalker Ranch, where the album was recorded. The feeling of serenity envelops you as you listen to the two artists interact seamlessly, creating a perfect sense of peace.
“Simple Things” is a celebration that begins in a classical style reminiscent of a children’s piano study and evolves, retaining the sweet melody and simplicity of the message but becoming a full and graceful solo.
The title track is fascinating. It begins with a mournful piano prelude and becomes a rhythmic dance with a seductive Spanish flavor. Noah Wilding’s vocals and percussion provided by Will Ackerman and Derrick Jordan add to the enchantment.
“Will’s Song” is an improvisational piece that is so deeply felt that it almost sends a chill - what a beauty!
“Toll of War (Adagio)” is a wrenching duet for piano and cello. A profound statement of humanity rather than of politics, the sense of loss and pain reach to the depths of the soul. This is a piece that needs to be heard.
The gentle, pensive closing track is a solo piano reprise of “Lake EWOK Muse.”"
Review by Tom Petersen; Victory Review, Acoustic Music Resource of the Pacific Northwest, Feb 2006
Review by RJ Lannan, New Age Reporter "Karen Marie Garrett’s music is cloud chasing music. It is light and soothing without being repetitive or droning. It is the perfect soundtrack to any sunny day, no matter what the forecast says. "If you are looking for a piano album that suggests light, airy feelings and sunny, day-dream interludes then Allure of Sanctuary the new release by Karen Marie Garrett is just the ticket. The overall theme promises that there are still places remaining that cater to the weary spirit and harbor the heart-searching if only for a few precious moments. Karen Marie has a great sense of composition and she must know first hand what breaks, or better still, what heals a troubled heart.
Like something out of child’s imaginary dream world, the first tune Tip Toe Dancer creates a light, flirty mood. You can almost see the tiny ballerina dancing amidst a red velvet background. Once you close the lid of the box the music stops, but the tune remains in your heart.
I always thought that the Ewoks in the Star Wars movies were superfluous and just too cute for words, but apparently Karen Marie thinks differently as she pays homage to the furry little heroes in the song Lake EWOk Muse. I am assuming that it is actually the lake side setting that is the subject. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what she called the tune as it is absolutely superb. There is a wondrous pastoral beauty about it that paints the image of a placid lake on a warm afternoon. Hungry fish make dimples on the lake’s surface and perhaps a few angry clouds are moving in from the west, but for now the lazy sun is your only companion. Eugene Freisen’s cello is a welcome addition ...it is one of my favorites on Allure of Sanctuary and suits the theme for the album quite well.
It’s like walking through a door and finding escape just on the other side. The title track Allure of Sanctuary probably has the snappiest beat of any song and it grabs you with its tango-like cadence and whispery voice background. There is a place that consoles the spirit and lets your cares melt away. It may be called dreamland, inner peace or Cloud 9, but is best accompanied by this fanciful tune.
Wistful dreams abound when you listen to the tune The Green Hills. The solo piano number is a showcase for Garrett’s pastoral composing style and versatility and it is a welcome reprieve from the day’s harried endeavors. It will be one of your favorites as it is mine.
Karen Marie touches on three of impressionist Erik Satie’s more somber works, the “plain songs” Gnossiennes 1, 2, & 3. Satie of course is a favorite of mine and I have long suspected that he is the pater of New Age Music. Satie dedicated his works to the great palaces at Knossos and I imagine that Garrett is enamored by his simple, yet inventive ideology.
Will’s Song is I suppose sort of a tribute to Karen Marie’s producer, Will Ackerman. Yes, that Will Ackerman. Who knows why, but the song remains an outstanding cut on Allure of Sanctuary (I jest of course). The tune, an improvisation made with K.M.’s engine at idle and the meter running has a depth of mood with an almost idyllic beauty.
The best cut by far on the CD is called Toll of War. Accompanied once again by cellist Eugene Friesen, the solemn, emotional piece is a work of musical art. In the back of my mind I am reminded of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata when I listen to this work. The same gravity of mood, but from different sources of inspiration. Garrett’s piece is a lament, yet remains contemplative and mentally accessible. Overall, it has a sad, formal quality like something out of Henryk Gorecki’s repertoire, but it has nascent beauty to it that makes it appealing."
This really is an outstanding CD. I give it my highest recommendation and feel blessed to have discovered it. There is also excellent news for fans of Karen- a new CD is in the pipe-line and is scheduled for a January 2007 release.
Piano Heaven, England, Interview with Stephen Cairns, August 30, 2006 Karen Marie Garrett’s CD, Allure of Sanctuary has made a big impact on audiences worldwide and has attracted much praise from listeners and critics alike. Karen, a full-time composer from Washington State, is currently busy working on her new album, It's About the Rose, but kindly took time out to answer some questions relating to her work.
K.M.G. Thank you! I’m delighted with the response to Allure of Sanctuary. The comments from listeners have been amazing! Touching people emotionally with my music is my ultimate goal, and it is so rewarding to hear from them.
S.C. I love the entire CD, but there's something extra special about "Tip-Toe Dancer" It's beautiful! Would it be fair to say this is the track that has generated the most response? As you were putting the CD together, did you think "this will be the one..."?
K.M.G. Thanks, Stephen. "Tip-Toe Dancer" has generated the most response so far. As you know, the inspiration came from a story Kathryn, a friend of many years, shared with me about her childhood. During gatherings for family and friends, she would ‘Tip-Toe Dance’ pretending to be a ballerina to entertain them. I hoped it would be a special song for listeners, and I'm delighted with the overwhelming response.
S.C. Allure of Sanctuary - it's an intriguing title. In the CD's notes you say "The Sanctuary" is a retreat for artists in Washington. I'm assuming your addition of "Allure" means you found it an inspirational place in terms of creating music?
K.M.G. Yes, I wrote the composition ”Allure of Sanctuary" during a stay at “The Sanctuary”, a visual and performing artists' retreat founded by Cynthia Hayward. It is a beautiful and secluded place where I felt liberated.... hence the title.
S.C. At what age did you start to play the piano? Was piano playing part of your family life as a child? Did you create your own compositions?
K.M.G. The family purchased a used upright piano so I could begin lessons at five years old. Mother loved piano, and influenced my studies. She played as a child, but was reluctant to play in front of us. My father and brother did not play piano; they were involved in sports. And honestly, other family members did not have much of an opportunity to use the piano- it was seldom unoccupied by me.... I loved it! The constant piano music eventually became a sound issue for my father and brother, they tired of listening to their TV sports programmes through earphones. So the piano and I were moved to a large family room on the other side of the home. The room was redesigned as a piano studio & apartment, and I was in heaven... able to practice at any hour without disturbing anyone. I did not begin composing until much later.
S.C. . Are you classically trained? Do you play any other instruments?
K.M.G. Yes, I'm classically trained, and love classical music. I do not play other instruments at this time.
S.C. Do you enjoy the work of other pianists in the genre? When you have the time (?!) what do you enjoy listening to?
K.M.G. I do enjoy other pianists' works and genres of music as well (instrumental and vocal). I do not have much time to listen to music, but when I do, I enjoy most all well performed music.
S.C. You clearly feel indebted to your producer, Will Ackerman. Securing his services is quite a coup! How did the relationship come about?
K.M.G. I asked him if he would listen to my recordings and he said yes! I have always admired Will and his work; he is a brilliant and exceptional man of our time. I'm honored to be working with him.
S.C. .... and I understand a new CD is in the works? Can you say anything more about that?
K.M.G. The songs on the new CD, It's About the Rose are all original compositions, and this work is one of the most creative and challenging projects of my career. I look forward to sharing it with listeners in January 2007.
S.C. I wish you well with your new recording! I can't wait to hear it! I'm really pleased its entirely original material. Finally, I can't end this interview without asking you about your Furry Friends! I take it you're a fan of dogs....
K.M.G. Thank you, Stephen! I’m excited about the new recording It's About the Rose. The Furry Friends photo album has turned into so much fun. The [sleeve notes for the] song "Simple Things" on the Allure of Sanctuary CD mentioned furry friends as an inspiration; they add so much fun and love to our lives. Listeners began to write and send pictures of their furry friends, so we started a photo album on my website, www.kgpiano.com . It's true I am especially fond of dogs, and I can't imagine life without a dog! Currently Abbey, a beautiful three year old black Labrador, is in charge of the house!