Melodic Voyage Newspage
Review by Randall Davis
It is appropriate that pianist Mark Dunn titled his latest album Melodic Voyage because he is known for composing very beautiful melodies, and he has traveled around the world numerous times performing to appreciative audiences.
Melodic Voyage is an instrumental solo piano album that Dunn specifically designed for relaxation, meditation and contemplation. “I wanted the melodies to be beautiful and hypnotic so that the listening experience was like escaping to distant lands,” explains Dunn.
This is Dunn’s fourth album and each of his recordings have been distinctly different. His self-titled debut was an ensemble jazz album. Return To Peace was subtitled “A Celtic Journey through Central America” with the music inspired by his Latin American travels as well as his Irish heritage, and bridging between world-fusion and new age. He followed that with a Brazilian band record with a Portuguese title, O Princite do Jazz Bossa Nova. In addition, he released two singles -- “It’s You” (a piano-saxophone duet also featuring Lalo Rojas from Costa Rica), and “Ewedeshalo” (an African world-beat sound in which he shares the billing with the group Ethiopian Lover). Now comes his piano-only album, Melodic Voyage.
More information on Mark Dunn is available at his website (markdunnmusic.net). His Melodic Voyage album is available as a CD and as digital download tracks from online sales sites such as Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and many others.
“I enjoy being versatile and trying new sounds and ideas musically,” he says. “Part of that comes from traveling so extensively, meeting musicians from all over the world, and hearing all kinds of exciting music everywhere I went.”
Dunn, originally from Philadelphia, began to travel extensively, bought a home in Costa Rica and lived there for several years, and then got a place in Brazil where he lived for seven years (he speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese). His musical performing travels took him along the coasts of the United States and to Alaska and Hawaii as well as Mexico, South America, Central America, throughout the Caribbean, India, Asia (stationed out of Singapore), Indonesia, Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia and Isle of Pines, Australia, New Zealand, throughout the Mediterranean, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Estonia, United Arab Emirates (he performed at the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai for a season) and other locales. When he wasn’t working, Dunn took extended multi-month trips to Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa. “I estimate that I have been around the world about three times. Those experiences not only shaped my life, but also seep subtly into my music.”
The music on Melodic Voyage was not only inspired by Dunn’s travels (the places and the people he met there), but also by affairs of the heart, his parents, and the 9/11 terrorist attack. The album begins with “Tegucigalpa,” named after the capital of Honduras where it was written. Dunn was there a couple of weeks before the havoc of a major hurricane and the following mud-slides, and when he returned afterwards, many of the friends he had made were gone. While he was there, he also penned “Don’t Cry Paola” after over-hearing a mother say that to her sobbing daughter. Another tune influenced by time in another country is “Gafieira,” named after a dancehall in northeast Brazil and based on a Brazilian baiao rhythm. “It’s You” (a solo piano version of his earlier single) was written in Costa Rica when he bumped into an old girlfriend a decade later and both said, “It’s You,” but with completely different meanings behind the phrase.
On this album Dunn also revisits his previously-recorded “Return To Peace,” done here for the first time as a piano solo. “The emotion in the song comes from when you are hurt after a break-up with someone you care about, but slowly the pain fades and you finally get over it.” In explaining the tune “Fool’s Dream,” Dunn simply says, “Love can make any of us foolish.” There is one other love song on the album, “The Moon Represents My Heart,” an old Mandarin melody, usually sung, but here Dunn does his own piano arrangement of it (he specifically learned this piece to play for Chinese guests on an Asian cruise ship).
“Sitting” is the second piece of music Dunn ever composed. “I was 14 walking home from school when it came to me and I couldn’t wait to get home, and when I got to the piano and played it for the first time, I didn’t know my mother was sitting in the room quietly and listening.” The tune “Dunn’s Dream” is “a tribute to my father who taught me that as a member of the Dunn clan I should always hold my head up and know that I could do anything I wanted with my life.”
Dunn says, “With ‘Children’s Waltz’ I was trying to express what it must be like when a baby bird gets pushed out of the nest and flies for the first time, or when a child takes the training wheels off their bicycle and learns to balance by themselves.” With the composition “The Truth,” Dunn was striving to make music as sincere, truthful, self-revealing and unadorned as possible. He wrote “Freedom’s Debt” just hours after the 9/11 terrorism strike (“The piece is a reflection on what it means to be free and the many people who have paid the price for our freedoms.”).
Dunn, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, climbed up on the piano stool when he was only three-years-old and started making up tunes on the family piano. He began formal lessons at age seven. “I played the piano constantly, but practicing lessons was torture.” His father took him to concerts (such as Ray Charles). Mark became serious about composing in the sixth grade and that year was chosen by the principal to perform at the graduation ceremonies. When Mark was 12, he won a national talent contest, received free acting lessons, and was cast in the TV mini-series “George Washington” with Barry Bostwick and Patty Duke.
Mark studied classical music at the Bryn Maur Conservatory of Music. At 15 he began studying jazz harmony and improvisation under Jimmy Amadie, who had played with Woody Herman and Mel Torme, and whose unique method of improvisation is taught at universities around the world. In high school Dunn formed a jazz band, Slice of Orange, with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel (who went on to play with Gary Burton and Paul Motion) and drummer Steve Wolfe (who later worked with Grover Washington Jr. and Annie Lennox). Dunn also was in a blues band with David Copa, studied jazz performance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, played in jazz bands, taught piano at music schools, and got a license to fly private planes.
One of Mark’s earliest musical influences was Steely Dan, but during his teenage years he began to appreciate contemporary jazz acts -- Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Weather Report and Spyro Gyra. Soon Dunn began to explore more traditional jazz such as pianists Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, Sonny Clark, Mose Allison and Horace Silver; and saxophonists Charlie Parker, John Coltraine and Sonny Rollins. Dunn later turned on to new age artists: George Winston, William Ackerman, Tangerine Dream and Kitaro. Dunn also admires composers such as Americans John Williams and Burt Bacharach, French composer Michel Legrand, and Brazilians Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins and Dorival Caymmi.
“As I traveled around the world,” explains Dunn, “I tried to submerse myself in the cultures I came across. I was especially attracted to people I met with simple lifestyles. The less sophisticated and less modernized a place was, the more I was drawn to it. Oftentimes the people were poor, yet seemed happy. Many of those situations were very peaceful and I have tried to capture some of that peacefulness in this music.”
Review by The CD Shelf
Pianist Mark Dunn presents Melodic Voyage, his latest album of beautiful, solo piano songs that transport the listener to faraway realms of dream and imagination. Rapturous and inspirational, Melodic Voyage is a wellspring of creative harmony perfect for meditation or relaxation. Highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of the genre. The tracks are "Tegucigalpa", "The Truth", "Dunn's Dream", "Return to Peace", "Children's Waltz", "Fool's Dance", "Freedom's Debt", "Sitting", "Gafieira", "The Moon Represents My Heart", "Don't Cry Paola", and "It's You".
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