By Carol Albert
By Kabir Sehgal
They say that you live only once. But when you read a good book or listen to a beautiful album, you’re treated to another life, another experience on which to draw, as you journey down your own road. Such is the province of exquisitely rendered art, which helps to enlarge empathy and expand compassion. But stumbling upon this type of work can be rare – and often needs a translator or guide.
An acclaimed musician Carol Albert isn’t just an artist. She’s an interpreter of the human condition. Her previous albums such as Stronger Now (2020) and Fly Away Butterfly (2017) are musical meditations that explore the full range of human experience, from the melancholy of memories to the bittersweetness of life.
There’s no doubt that audiences have taken note of her virtuosity. In recent years, she has released several Top 5 singles, and her productions have received plaudits (and significant airtime on radio and streaming services alike). Her touring schedule has taken her to the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival (California), Berks Jazz Fest (Pennsylvania), The Smith Center (Las Vegas) and beyond.
And that’s exactly where she has gone with her new album Magic Mirror. To the beyond. That doesn’t mean to the outer limits of space but the inverse. She has gone deep within to create something personal and profound: “The songs reflected my thoughts and experiences on a very personal level. The title itself reflects the theme of self-reflection in this era of my new awakenings and ventures,” she said.
To join her on this journey, Albert collaborated with remarkable artists such as Roberto Vally, Paul Brown, Shane Theriot, Carlyle Bariteau, Andrew Neu, Ragan Whiteside, Dan Baraszu, Greg Vail, among many others.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, there has been a profound shift of consciousness – like stepping through a mirror,” she continues. Indeed, we’ve all found ourselves questioning ourselves during these harrowing times. Such reexamination is healthy. And when it’s put through the prism of music, it becomes restorative.
The title track “Magic Mirror” is a soulful melody with an intro vamp over a paced vibe. The song gathers steam into the chorus with Vail’s lyrical saxophone lines. The song seems to represent a journey into self-reflection and self-discovery — a reflection of the world as it is today and what could be in the very near future. “Fire and Water” opens with Albert’s enchanting, ethereal background vocals, which is enveloped by brisk percussion. Both “Fire” and “Water” are represented by different sections of this song, giving the piece not only thematic inspiration but also a flow to which we can easily nod along.
Picture this: sitting on the beach and looking at the surfers glide across the waves. That’s exactly the image that Carol had in mind while creating “Paradigm Shift.” Embracing a new idea or concept doesn’t always stem from a “Eureka” moment. Rather, it’s in disconnecting, being in nature’s abundance, that our minds can be at peace and open. The interplay between Albert (piano) and Brown (guitar) is both friendly and welcoming. “Sol Ipanema” is also inspired by sand and foam. But this time, we’re on a sun-drenched Brazilian beach with couples dancing against a sea foam-colored sky backdrop. With a bossa nova rhythm, the piece is a decided blend between smooth and pop jazz.
“Gemini Sun” is a feel-good, upbeat number which Albert wrote during the early days of June. Channeling these positive spirits into this song, which has lush pads and Whiteside (flute) soaring and echoing through the unfolding arrangement. “The Chase” is a song of tumult and forward-movement. “It represents chasing my dreams, and ultimately learning things about myself,” said Albert. This piece indeed reinforces the “mirror” theme of the album. By mirroring others, by imitating others, we learn about ourselves and eventually create our own style or aesthetic. By then end of “Crashing”, we hear wind-swept strings with and a building melodic piano line which positively lands on definitive major chord.
“Sopporo Dream” and “Sometime” are stirring numbers. The first is even-paced with developing harmonic material. The intersection of these musical elements reflects song’s inspiration – a picturesque Japanese city where mountains and rivers commingle, crowned by white snow and the morning sun. The latter piece is Carol’s meditation on manifesting dreams. “While we move towards our dreams, beauty becomes remaining in the moment,” she said. The piece takes us from moment to moment gracefully, with passages that blend seamlessly.
The culminating “Angels Watching Over Me” invokes the divine. “During my meditations, I visualize angels watching over me,” said Albert, who made this album while she lost her father. Many of the musical flourishes are poignantly placed, such as Vally’s arco bass and Baraszu’s rolled chords. Ending with Albert’s arpeggiating piano, this piece becomes an inspirational send-off.
Magic Mirror is exquisitely created by Albert, and yet it’s ultimately a reflection for all who listen. As you experience this project, you may find yourself resonating with the underlying thinking or simply enveloped by magnificent melodies and verdant harmonies. Albert’s music will stay with you. When you gaze into the metaphorical mirror, you’ll have marvelous music to keep you company.