[HOT TRACKS]The Doors and bossa nova: a new age for New Age

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[HOT TRACKS]The Doors and bossa nova: a new age for New Age

What's the world coming to if you cannot trust the kings of New Age music to put out smooth, somnambulant, almost formless albums of relaxing "adult contemporary" music?

Two of the leading New Age pianists, George Winston and Andre Gagnon, have each come out with releases that put a spin on their usual mellow styles. For Gagnon, it's a trip into the Latin world of bossa nova on his new compact disk "Escape." For Winston, the departure is more radical, as he tackles the world of Jim Morrison and the Doors in his album "Night Divides the Day." But for both, the changes from their established, winning formulas deliver unexpected and highly-elevated sounds.

Winston says he has always been a big fan of the larger-than-life rock group the Doors. Winston pounds hard on the keyboard to convey the Doors' energy in "Love Me Two Times," then glides lightly over the notes for "Love Street." He is most successful in his reinterpretation of "People Are Strange," but the marathon "Light My Fire" goes astray, with about 10 minutes of noise that is supposed to be classic rock.

The French solo pianist Andre Gagnon, alternatively, seems to have successfully made the jump to Brazilian music. If his former pieces were ideal for sleepless nights, "Escape" goes best with the sizzling sunlight. Gagnon creates a lush, concerto style, incorporating a variety of instruments, including the saxophone, synthesizer, violin and a chorus. He makes a coup with a well-orchestrated layering of styles.

The first and maybe the best track of the album, "Rio Non-stop," has a bossa nova rhythm transferred to the piano; the result is epic. "Commence en Vacance" is another jewel, proving that the melancholy New Age pianist can be danceable, exciting and melodious.

"Ta Samba" is a bit too flippant a presentation, too hasty and staccato. But "Rever En Hiver" soon makes up for it with a dreamy, up-tempo orchestration of acoustic guitar, saxophone and piano. The jazzy number "L'amour, L'amour" is the most experimental on the album, with a saxophone coming to the fore and the piano only backing the performance.

Winston is reportedly working on similar reinterpretations of music by other popular artists. He may be going down the wrong road; but Gagnon is already hitting the right notes.

by Chun Su-jin

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