Wrapped in Light
With the Covid pandemic shutting down mostly everything in 2020/2021, Jill Haley, a fantastic musical interpreter of the awe, wonder, and beauty of the National Park system, was not given the opportunity for another artist-in-residency position to draw inspiration from for her next album. Since she felt a desire to compose and record just the same, Haley turned inward for a wholly different, yet strangely appropriate, source of beauty to inspire her muse. In this case, Jill delved into the Book of Psalms, which provided her with a literate source of the beauty of nature. In fact, in the liner notes, each track’s title is lifted from a specific Psalm and the Psalm number is listed along with the specific instruments played on each track.
I found Wrapped in Light to be Haley’s most soothing, serene album to date, lacking the occasional invigorating or playfully dramatic song featured on her national park series of recordings. Another aspect that makes Wrapped in Light different is that it’s her first album featuring synthesizer (played by her). Sometimes, the synth provides texture via washes, synth strings, etc. and other times, it’s used more directly as a melodic keyboard instrument, e.g., the pleasant bell-like tones at the start of “Forest Sings For Joy.” Since this is the first time I heard Haley play synth, I was quite impressed with her dexterity on the instrument.
Jill plays her usual English horn, oboe, and piano, the latter which (to my ears) features more prominently than on any of her other releases. Also on the album are husband David Cullen (guitar and bass) and son Graham Cullen (cello). Only two tracks feature “just Jill” while Graham plays on seven of the ten songs. His cello playing keeps getting better with each album, and, of course, David’s guitar playing is his usual stellar work.
Even though the mood of this album (compared to, for example, The Waters of Glacier or The Winds of Badlands) is more serene, don’t come here looking for somber or melancholic soundscapes. This is music suffused with warmth and, at times, palpable but subtle affirmation. It’s just more low-key in essence than her previous work (although all her albums feature similar tracks, just not as pervasive as on Wrapped in Light).
The synth fills on the opening title track are spot on, and piano plays the most prominent role with a slight but discernible cheeriness, while “Clouds Rise” has David’s fingerstyle guitar dominating at the beginning, again with some discrete synthesizer in the background. The first time I played the album, and this song in particular, I thought the music would take a dramatic turn due to the song’s title, but any drama, either on this track, or throughout the album, is always subdued. As mentioned earlier, the bell tones/chimes at the start of “Forest Sings For Joy” are classic new age keyboard ones, which made me smile, taking me back to that great period of the genre in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I just wish that they were sprinkled throughout the track, not just at the intro. “Wings of Dawn” opens with some wonderful synth strings but Haley holds them in check so their effect does not overpower the album’s overall sensation of peace and calm.
It shouldn’t need stating that Haley’s superb woodwind playing (on all but one track) displays her abundant talent, but her piano playing proves to be ear-pleasing as well, and it’s featured on all but one song (“The Mountains Rose”) which has synthesizer, oboe and cello. It’s easy to see why Jill Haley appears on so many other artists’ albums when it comes to playing oboe and English horn. She plays them with equal parts emotion and talent, but never in a melodramatic or showy manner.
I’m sure we all want the pandemic to be over soon for any number of reasons. I, for one, can’t wait to see Jill Haley once again being invited to be artist-in-residence at another National Park. Personally, I’d love to see her gain one at Acadia on the coast of Maine, because it would be interesting to compare what she comes up alongside one of my all-time favorite recordings, that being pianist Jim Chappell’s release, Acadia (1996). Having visited the park myself, I have no doubt Jill’s interpretation would equally enjoyable.
BILL BINKELMANWind and Wire – A source for reviews of ambient, new age, world, electronic, and acoustic music since 1997.
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier, The Silence of Grace, & Wrapped in Light
Jill Haley is a fascinating composer/musician who is getting ready to release her third album for 2021 in November. Jill is probably best-known as an oboist/English horn player, but she is also a very accomplished and expressive pianist. In addition to her own recordings, Jill has played on dozens of albums produced by Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont – a big part of why Imaginary Road recordings have a very distinctive sound. Jill has a very interesting story to tell, as you will see in this interview conducted via email in September 2021.
KP: Hi Jill! Thanks for doing this interview! You have composed and recorded a lot of music about nature and specific areas of the US. Are you traveling these days or working mostly from home?
JH: Around the time I received my vaccine in April, restrictions on travel began to ease up, so I was able to complete three Artist in Residencies that had been postponed due to the pandemic. From 3/20 to 4/21 however, most of my work was done from home.
KP: You have released two albums so far this year with a third one on the way. Has this long period of the pandemic been especially productive for you?
JH: The recording on The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier was done in 2020, however the music was written in 2019 when I did a residency at Bandelier in New Mexico. The 2nd project, The Silence of Grace, was recorded in 2019 with Deborah Martin of Spotted Peccary Records. She completed the technical end of her work during the pandemic. The 3rd recording, Wrapped in Light, is absolutely a product on the enforced time at home and was a way for me to cope with this difficult time. I doubt this recording would have been made if we had not gone through these tumultuous times.
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier is the seventh in a series of albums inspired by Jill Haley’s artist-in residence experiences at various US National Parks, Monuments and Sites. Known primarily as an oboist and English horn artist, Haley also features her pianistic artistry on this album along with additional woodwinds and vocals. Guest artists include Jill’s husband, David Cullen (guitar), his son, Graham (cello) and Tony Deangelis on drums and percussion. As has been true of Jill’s other albums, the music on The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier is varied in styling and instrumentation, but overall, the twelve original tracks are very calming and peaceful as well as reflective of the landscapes and wildlife that inspired them.
Bandelier National Monument is located near Los Alamos, New Mexico and preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of the Southwestern US. Most of the pueblo structures date back to between 1150 and 1600 AD and were carved into light-colored volcanic cliffs at the edge of a narrow, wooded canyon – a tributary of the Rio Grande.
The album begins with “Plaintive Cavate Melody,” a haunting piece for oboe, piano and vocals (no lyrics). “Cavate” means “hollowed out” and refers to the cliff dwellings that were created from volcanic rock. Feelings of isolation and solitude flow from the oboe while the piano adds a more grounding quality – a beautiful start! “Frijoles Canyon Awakens” is a peaceful piano solo that incorporates the sounds of birds from Bandelier here and there (my cats love this one!). “Ecotone” refers to the plants and animals from various areas in the canyon coming together to form an “ecotone.” Appropriately, a variety of musical instruments – cello, English horn, piano, flute, clarinet and vocals – come together to tell their story. “Fantastical Formations” begins as an energetic piano solo (oboe enters later in the piece) and refers to the rock formations created from volcanic activity followed by erosion. “Vista at Valles Caldera” is a favorite. Mostly a duet for piano and acoustic guitar with some English horn highlights, it expresses feelings of open space and a sense of mystery. “Tsankawi Footpaths” refers to the well-worn paths left by the Pueblo people who trekked up and down the steep-sided mesa. Piano, English horn and light percussion combine to suggest energetic movement. “Parajito Moonglow” is a peaceful duet for piano and English horn that expresses the tranquil feelings that come while watching the moon rise over the Parajito Plateau – a gentle lullaby for the inhabitants of the canyon! “Gratitude for the CCC” is another favorite. A nod to the Civilian Conservation Corps that built roads and facilities in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, it’s a heartfelt “thank you” expressed with guitar, oboe, English horn and cello. The album comes to a close with “Burnt Mesa,” a piano solo that describes some of the signs of past fires that can be found among the trees.
Jill Haley is creating a fascinating body of work with her musical interpretations of our National Parks and Monuments – and she isn’t done yet! Each of these albums has its own distinctive style and character, depending on the landscapes and creatures of the area. The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and other sites. There are some beautiful scenic music videos on Jill’s site and YouTube as well.
Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier
I have long been an admirer of the works and compositions of Jill Haley, her style and graphic portraits of the national parks have had me spell bound for years now, and thankfully I have a new album to drift into entitled The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier, another glorious musical step into the wilderness of beauty with the artist.
The first footfalls of this tentative yet striking musical journey start with the reflective and emotive composition of Plaintive Cavate Melody. This mood filled opus brings you to the very doorstep of the region; it’s heartfelt and is the perfect starting arrangement for our sojourn in nature.
The subtle bird sounds greet our journey into this next piece called Frijoles Canyon Awakens. Its dawn and the birds dance with the mood creating piano of the artist. Each and every track of this album is a soundscape to a moment in time, and this early morning reverie is a wonderfully bright and radiant offering.
Ecotone is a traditional stamping ground for the genius that is Jill Haley; she is joined by the talented Graham Cullen on Cello and this symbiotic partnership manifests a track that builds upon each passing measure, each passing note, and creates a lush and wonderfully textured composition.
The piano of Haley builds an empowering scene on this next track entitled Fantastical Formations. One can visualise through the performance a rugged landscape, many multi-faceted outcrops and sights that allow the artistic mind
to create its art. The construct of this track is sublime with its woodwind and piano partnerships.
The guitar of David Cullen is heard on the offering Vista at Valles Caldera and matched with the piano we have a creation here that is both addictive and compelling. There is also a sense of suspense built in here that is idyllic as well; the woodwinds of Haley make this, such a pictorial delight to bathe within.
As we arrive at the midway point of the album we come across a track entitled Alcove House Ascent. Haley’s proficiency with a multitude of instrumentation creates a slow but ever onward track that offers up much for the listener to walk with, the sublime care and attention to detail here, along with the gentle build and progression of this arrangement was something to really enjoy.
The aerial energies of this composition were strong and very enjoyable indeed, as we glide with the offering Kaleidoscope Flight. Jill’s skills as a multi- instrumentalist, whether it is oboe, English horn or piano are simply idyllic, and here on this track they truly raise the energy of the moment for us all to enjoy.
There is a different energy in this next piece entitled Tsankawi Footpaths, the intensity of the moment and the vibrancy of onward movement can be found here, and depict a wonderfully fluent piece of instrumental delight; we could easily be traversing those footpaths on a glorious sun kissed afternoon, in a piece that is utterly packed with energy and life.
Once more we switch moods and enter into the dark realms of a night time sojourn with the track entitled Parajito Moonglow. The depth of composition here is so palpable, that one could reach out and simply touch the moment through the skill set of Haley’s talents. The mood is once more idyllically created by the artist’s ever safe hands on our musical tiller.
Cullen returns on guitar for the next track called Gratitude for the CCC. The steady and progressive tones manifest a vast soundscape for us to all enjoy, the creation of an album of this style is like a veritable scrapbook of musical memories to look back upon, and although I have never been there, The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier have been brought to life vicariously by the artist to allow me to do so in music.
Our penultimate offering is called The Delight Makers, this is a fascinating track for me as so many genres were crossed here in my view, there is a little pertinent percussion curtesy of Tony Deangelis, and this adds a crafted energy of rhythm to the proceedings, and sets us up beautifully for the parting gift of the album.
That last creation is now upon us and called Burnt Mesa, Haley builds upon a powerful piano here, for us to enjoy this one final concluding piece, and thus finishes with a flourish, and as we had the perfect starting track with Plaintive Cavate Melody, we are gifted the idyllic ending with Burnt Mesa.
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier by Jill Haley, is another simply perfect soundscape of graphic creations by the artist. Here is an artist, who has a rare gift and it is an honour for her to share this talent and skill set with us, the ever eager listener. The multi-instrumental nature of this album and theme makes this an absolute fine example of what truly great contemporary instrumental music should sound like.
Steve Shepherd, ONE WORLD MUSIC
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier
“Jill Haley’s musical artistry is second to none in her ability to paint mesmerizing and unforgettable soundscapes that transport us almost magically to a particular vista.” – Dyan Garris
I’ve often thought how interesting it must be as a musical artist, to travel to our country’s national parks and translate what you feel there, and all the rich history of those places, to a musical soundscape. This is what Jill Haley does, and she does it magnificently.
Utterly captivating all through, Jill Haley’s “The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier: Music for Bandelier National Monument” deeply stirs the mind, emotions, and imagination. Jill’s musical artistry is second to none in her ability to paint mesmerizing and unforgettable soundscapes that transport us almost magically to a particular vista. Here, through her eyes and through this gorgeous music she has created in tribute to Bandelier National Monument, the ancient Pueblo and the beauty of this place come alive in our hearts.
I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing some of Jill’s other national park themed albums. They are all special. “Bandelier” is particularly so. For example, the sound of early morning Bandelier bird calls can be heard interspersed through her song, “Frijoles Canyon Awakens.” It’s just magical.
“The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier” is Jill Haley’s 7th recording in her national park series. The album will be released on Cor Anglais Records on March 5, 2021. Jill is joined here by guest artists David Cullen (guitar), Graham Cullen (cello), and Tony Deangelis (percussion).
Now, let’s dig in to these 12 tracks. The album opens beautifully with “Plaintive Cavate Melody.” A “cavate” is a cave dwelling. The English horn here is splendid as is the piano. While definitely “plaintive,” this is very relaxing and beautiful. “Frijoles Canyon Awakens” follows, and we hear not only those wonderful birds, but the piano is fabulously serene as well. Just gorgeous all through. “Ecotone” is rich and flowing with beautiful cello, English horn, and piano. Perfectly capturing such, “Fantastical Formations” opens and expands the imagination. We can literally see these formations in our mind’s eye and feel them in our heart with this gracefully composed piece.
If I have it right, a “caldera” is a sort of crater formed by a volcanic eruption. Valles Caldera is part of the national preserve and has a rich history. “Vista at Valles Caldera,” the song, perfectly paints through soundscape exactly what we might see in the landscape. There’s a natural serenity in this song. It’s a favorite on this album, although, each song on this album is truly its own treasure.
Alcove House in Bandelier is an elevated ancestral Pueblo site that is reached only by a steep climb up stone stairs and ladders. The steady melody here with Jill’s English horn, and the solid piano accompanying, paints us the perfect picture of “Alcove House Ascent.” This is kind of reverent in a soft and gentle way.
“Kaleidosocpe Flight” is equally as tender. This is also one of my favorites on the album. Flowing piano mixes perfectly with a wonderful horn melody, expertly played. The cello is just gorgeous here as well. This is a beautiful song that lightens and brightens the spirit. We feel completely free. Just delightful.
My understanding is that “Tsankawi” is a detached section of Bandelier National Monument. I think the dwellings there are connected by pathways and stone staircases, some steep, so one would certainly want to step carefully. “Tsankawi Footpaths” is a fun song that perfectly captures this ambiance. A cheerful horn melody combines with equally upbeat piano and soft percussion. I love it.
The Pajarito Plateau, I believe is a mesa located in a section of Bandelier. “Parajito Moonglow” gives us a perfect perspective of what we might see and feel atop that plateau there in the moonlight. Again, this is just gorgeous, with a softness that speaks of being completely bathed in the awesomeness of luminous moonglow. We can picture this vista perfectly in our minds through this piece.
The “CCC” stands for Civilian Conservation Corps, who essentially made it possible for more people to visit Bandelier by building facilities and roads into the canyons of Bandelier. “Gratitude for the CCC” is a reverent, flowing, and gentle song, perfectly conveying the emotion of gratitude. The guitar performance here is lovely, I might add. Through the work of the CCC, many people today are able to visit and properly explore Bandelier, Jill included. Beautiful tribute.
“The Delight Makers” is a huge, whopping novel of almost 500 pages by Adolf Bandelier, that is based on his experiences with the Pueblo peoples of New Mexico. Interesting, truly. The music, “The Delight Makers” is intriguing. It amazes me how Jill is able to paint such vivid soundscapes with her compositions and musical talents. This is also one to love from this album.
The album closes out with “Burnt Mesa.” If I have it right, there is a trail, “Burnt Mesa,” at Bandelier which crisscrosses the mesas and ends with a steep drop-off into Frijoles Canyon. The piano is evocative and passionate here, and although there is not a steep drop-off musically in this piece, it’s a totally wonderful end to this fascinating album.
Dyan Garris – New Age CD
The Canyons and Mesas of Bandelier
Versatile glorious insights of nature Jill Haley – THE CANYONS AND MESAS OF BANDELIER: Those of you who are frequent readers of my reviews know that I have been reviewing Jill’s inspiring work for many years now… she is, of course, well known for her oboe and English horn playing, but on her 7th outing, she also plays piano with great skill.
…trust me when I say that DJ’s (of all stripes) will be plugging Jill’s “Fantastical Formations” into their playlists often… there’s a real sense of discovery on this marvelous piece – most enjoyable, and full of the freedom of nature!
The players on this marvelous album are close to Jill… her husband David Cullen (guitar) and their son Graham (cello), as well as Tony Deangelis on drums and percussion, and as you listen to “Tsankawi Footpaths”, you will feel a sense of adventure as each note emerges and inspires you.
Jill has put together a series of LIVESTREAMS for her tributes to our National Parks that I (most strongly) recommend you tune in to… I’m hoping she includes her beautiful “Frijoles Canyon Awakens” from this album in one of the podcasts… a brand-new dawn for all of us in these troubled times!
It wasn’t difficult (at all) to make my choice for personal favorite of the dozen delightful offerings Jill gives us… “Vista at Valles Caldera” has a simple, but beautiful, piano/guitar introduction that melds graciously into a free-flowing flight of imagination and soaring possibilities… in fact, this is my favorite New Age/inspirational piece (yet) for 2021.
I give Jill and all her players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this high-talent, high-energy album. Get more information on Jill’s website as it becomes available.
The Winds of Badlands
“Jill Haley has more than perfectly captured the timeless wonder of Badland National Park with her brilliant album, “The Winds of Badlands.” Through her musical mastery she paints a breathtaking soundscape; a panoramic vista that is unforgettable.”
Dyan Garris – ZMR and New Age CD
The Waters of Glacier
“An overall contemplative album from an accomplished artist,” The Waters of Glacier,” perhaps boasts some of Jill Haley’s finest work yet. Additionally, fans of the classic Windham Hill sound will be particularly enthused with this fantastic release.”
Candice Michelle of “Aural Awakinings”
National Park Soundscapes
“Much like the national parks which serve as inspiration for her wonderful music, multi-instrumentalist Jill Haley is, herself, a national treasure, especially for fans of acoustic instrumental music. This ultra-talented English horn, oboe, and piano performer sits at the top of everyone’s list of desirable session artists (just ask Will Ackerman) but more and more she has been also releasing some of the best instrumental music available.”
Bill Binkleman – Zone Music Reporter
Mesa Verde Soundscapes
“This is a thoughtful, well performed acoustic music project that features Jill’s sumptuous English horn playing as well as her oboe”
Jennifer Belfy – International Double Reed Journal
Zion and Bryce Canyon Soundscapes
“Although the National Park system is quite a big entity, Zion and Bryce Canyon Soundscapes is a very personal and impressive tribute expressed in the universal language of music and photography.”
Kathy Parsons – Mainly Piano
“With such a brilliant and diverse career behind her, is it any wonder that Glacier Soundscapes, created to bring life to Glacier National Park, is such a joy to listen to?”
Pagan Radio Network
“Most musicians know that the ability to improvise is a useful skill. Oboe and English horn player, Jill Haley, says she built her career on improvisation”
“Face it- most of us couldn’t even name a professional oboe player, let alone talk informatively about who’s playing and composing for the instrument in innovative ways. Here is a name to fill the gap – Jill Haley.”
The Double Reed Journal
“Jill Haley’s adroit facility all over the instrument makes her a fine ambassador on the oboe’s journey to the fusion field.”
“With some cuts already receiving airplay, Pennsylvania’s acoustic trio , One Alternative, latest release provides a pleasant, jazzy listen as Jill Haley’s delicate oboe weaves through the intricate guitar play.”