The "neo-classical" and "instrumental" categories are incredibly broad. The character of the music, the instrumentation, the proficiency of the performers... you really get all kinds. Getting the attention of the listening public, breaking out from the pack, may be a difficult proposition, but *standing* out once observed is inevitable if you've got the goods. Ann Sweeten has got the goods. She has more than a dozen albums to her credit, and on September 3rd, 2021 she will release her latest, the lovely "Change is In the Wind."

Ms. Sweeten, a Steinway Artist, does not just perform piano on her albums, she also scores and arranges for a variety of instrumentation, and she clearly has a knack for it. She has an assurance that comes from an intersection of talent and experience; in "May 24, 42 Years Ago", for example, she collaborates with cellist Eugene Friesen, but she resists the rookie mistake of feeling the need to lather the entire piece with his presence out of some sense of "making it worth his time" or somesuch. Instead, she adorns the piece with beautiful grace notes from the cello that add depth and warmth to the lower register of her piano. Likewise, in "What My Eyes Can't See" it is almost a shock when Nancy Rumbel's English horn and and Charlie Bisharat's violin join her, punching up the emotion like the exact right pinch of salt in your favorite stew.

When you commit to reviewing music (or anything else I suppose) you quickly learn that not everything is going to be your cup of tea. You do your best to provide fair and honest analysis despite whatever bias you might have. It is, therefore, an unexpected pleasure when you are given a treat to spend an hour with, and the upcoming "Change is in the Wind" by Ann Sweeten is exactly that. Whatever your genre preferences usually are, the overwhelming truth is that this album is *good*, and all else is secondary.

~review by Patricia Mullen

Artist: Ann Sweeten
2021, Orange Band Records
CD $16.00, mp3 $8.99 (presumed, final pricing not set at the time of this review)