Indie Music Reviews Horizons

I usually find instrumental CDs particularly challenging to review. They involve more concentration in the listening because the music is conveying everything. There’s no vocal or lyric to help carry the message. The music is the scene, the setting, the action, the message, and the magic. Which is why I hold instrumental artists to a higher standard than others. Their job is especially challenging.

For some reason, I had an easier time of it with Bill Cornish’s Horizons. It was like a movie screen flickered to life in front of me and then expanded to pull me into it. All I have to do is describe the scenery.

It begins with “Précis,” a majestic, new age orchestra of nature that begins with a simple exchange between the sky (flute) and the Earth (bass drum). The resonating sounds stir a response in the human spirit. The stars join in as delicately chiming bells. It’s a perfect overture.

As the CD progresses, I see celestial bodies stepping in style across the sky, swirling and sliding on stocking feet. I feel summer’s warm, low, enveloping groove. On one track, “Scatterbrain,” the music actually shows a sense of humor, illustrating this disjointed state of mind with uptempo jazz and a jittery keyboard riff. In “The Road Less Traveled,” the determination in the pressing of the piano keys evokes the rockiness and heavy undergrowth of the path.

Cornish has the gift. He doesn’t need lyrics, and he already has the singers. Nature is singing through this music. Cornish does a lovely job of transcribing the magic.

Gods of Music Reviews The Last Frontier (from Horizons)

This song: part ambient, part jazz, part world, but pretty much all great! Bill Cornish shows great talent in his piece, The Last Frontier - not only in the musical arena, but also in the technical aspects of composition and arrangement. Good spatial placement and very clear sounds make the song easy on the ears, while the simple but catchy melody should carry most people through repeated listens.

I usually find it hard to listen to synthetic trumpets, and if you feel the same way you may have mixed feelings about The Last Frontier. However, I definitely enjoyed this song, and would say that the trumpet sounds are still played extremely well - not overpowering, not understated. The fact that they're synthesized trumpets doesn't really detract from this particular song, it's just a matter of preference (then again, isn't all musical taste?)

The other instruments included in this composition include a funky bass guitar, world-influenced pipes and woodblocks, and gentle pads that pervade the piece. Each sound, presumably reproduced by a keyboard, is played with such skill, yet such apparent ease. No one instrument seems to be the focus; everything is carefully balanced in both power and pitch.

Though I hadn't heard Bill Cornish's music before this review, I will definitely be listening to this song and his others in the near future. I highly recommend this artist.

Smooth Jazz and More Reviews Horizons

Bill Cornish listed a posting on the Live365.com Jazz community forum requesting airplay for his new CD. I was one of the curious inquirers to take the trip to his website to see what it was all about. I was very impressed by a few tracks on his latest effort, Horizons, and decided to give it a review.

The first words out of my mouth upon listening to the CD's first track, "Précis" was, "Kitaro". It sounded like Cornish garnered the new age legend's influence on the track. "Days of Summer" is another great recording. "Days" sounds like a mix of Shakatak and Paul Hardcastle all rolled into one. Very smooth and not too acid jazzy! "Scatterbrain" reminds me of Bob James' early 70's releases.

This is a CD chock full of many New Age and Contemporary Jazz sounds that I think you'll enjoy. It's a very fine piece of work!!

South of Maintstream Reviews Horizons

Writing instrumental music is no easy task. In music with lyrics the songwriter has the chance to have the listener relate to the music in an obvious way, either by shared experience or emotion, etc., and thus to catch the attention of the listener. But when you take away the lyrics you take away the obvious meaning of the art. Its like abstract art, the artist must convey some emotion through the art and hope that it affects the person seeing the art in some way. Instrumental music is much the same as abstract art, except the artist in this case not only has to create one piece that can reach a listener without the obviousness of shared experience, they have to create an entire record.

Bill Cornish, in his latest effort, Horizons, offers 14 tracks of instrumental music with influences from new age/world music, to soul, to jazz. The variety of genres does well in keeping the record interesting. Each song has its own flavor and each song does a good job of inspiring a feeling or ambience, yet the record doesn’t feel disjointed. There is a commonality between all of the songs that makes the record cohesive and adds to the strength of the entire piece. The highlight of the record is the beautiful solo piano melody of “Solstice”, which stands out amongst the other well produced tracks as more minimalist, thus making it feel more honest and creating that feeling of inspiration that is lost in many instrumental songs.

Cornish is obviously very talented. As a career musician he knows his stuff and you get a good feel for his variety of talents on Horizons. As said above, the record is well produced, but not overproduced. Some musicians of Cornish’s caliber sometimes feel the need to completely show off their musical abilities and end up giving us 20 minute long super jams that bore all but the most devoted fans. But Cornish saves the super jams for the live shows and only puts the music that is necessary into each song. This is a good sign of musical maturity, which in conjunction with musical ability is necessary to create a holistic musician.

The rub in Horizons is two fold though. First of all, the record is fourteen tracks long. Although Cornish puts up a good effort to keep the listeners interest, with fourteen tracks for all instrumental, eventually he succumbs and some of the tale end of the record begins to feel tired, even though the songs themselves are good. Secondly, it is apparent that most of the record was done through the use of computers a nd keyboard sounds. While this is the least expensive route to take, the manufactured sound detracts from the real life feeling that is usually necessary in an instrumental record (unless you’re going for that manufactured sound). It tends to make the songs sound more cold than they ought.

However, this is a good addition to the catalog of an already moderately successful musician. Any fan of new jazz should give Horizons a listen. And, if Cornish ever decides to play live shows with this project, the show would probably greatly complement these songs and be very entertaining.

Get Underground Reviews Horizons

A beautiful serene soundscape that melds the choicest flute, piano, guitar, synthesizer, organ, and expertly programmed drum pattern cuts into one wonderful unforgettable mind-expanding adventure. Can’t miss out on this one. It helps you see, imagine, create, wonder, hope, and understand. They say listening to classical music makes you smarter, well listening to Bill Cornish makes you wonder. Influences range from jazz, to middle eastern sounds, to world music, with a tinge of rock influence and sexy latin groove, all layered and structured in a way that makes the most sense to those who have a tendency towards the non-sensical.

Standout tracks include "Whirlwind", a track that takes off from the beginning with the tribal sounds of bongo that unconventionally, yet effectively, thrust into a wailing blues-style electric guitar solo over Cornish’s version of the sultry sounds of latin salsa. Another is "The Last Frontier", melding Eastern sounds with a hip-shaking bongo good time.

In this Deep Forest style, epic film soundtrack mesh of aural bliss, Bill Cornish provides the perfect accompaniment to a couple o’ caps and a soothing psychedelic journey into the inner workings of your soul…the deepest depths of your desires…I’ll shut up now!

Gods Of Music Reviews The Road Less Traveled
(from Horizons)

The Road Less Traveled features a flute and piano, accompanied with various keyboard sounds (although most of them are imitating traditional instruments). Extremely well produced and structured, this is a new age work of very high standards.

Mr. Cornish’s music has a lot of world and jazz influences to it, and this is no exception. Although the tonal center of this work is mainly western, you can see many other influences sprinkled throughout the work.

The piano plays energetic harmonic lines, while the flute plays very lyrical melodies over it. Keyboards provide harmonic and rhythmic support, as well as changes of color in the song. Although people will probably have differing opinions on this one, but I think the audible breaths that the flutists takes add a nice touch to the song, giving the work a more down-to-earth feeling. The melodic and harmonic lines work nicely with each other, and the transitions between each section are very smooth.

Although there is a lot of variation in this song for sure, for my taste I could use a key change somewhere in the track. The ending phrases especially, which usually hold the biggest potential as the most exciting part of the song, were a little disappointing when I found that it was repeating earlier phrases and already heading for the exit. I hear a climax at mid-3 minute something, and I could also see the song potentially ending as early as the mid-4 minute mark. Instead, though, it spends a good two minutes or so “ unwinding” from the climax, and with earlier phrases being thrown in it loses quite a bit of its effectiveness and impact.

The flute is particularly known for it’s exceptional agility and it’s ability to hit extremely high notes. Personally I would’ve liked to see more virtuostic lines written for the flute. The lyrical passages were very nice, but it doesn’t feel like the instrument has been used to its full potential. The range that the flute plays in stays pretty low throughout, and when it hits high, it never goes beyond the “comfort range”, despite the fact that the flute becomes much much more audible at the extreme ranges. But then again who cares about this #$#) anyway? If it sounds nice it sounds nice.

Don’t let my long winded critiques scare you away from this song. This is actually very nice new age work, worthy of at least a listen. Or two. Decide for yourself! (But if you did that why would you be reading this review?)

TheWiredWeb.com Reviews Bill's Online Catalog

Bill Cornish is a San Diego-based keyboardist across a broad landscape that traverses Rock, Jazz, World Fusion, and Orchestral. What follows here is a review of the presented solo material on his mp3.com page.

While his performance gigs have included the keyboard chair for the rock act The Thomas Connor Band, jazz fusion group Tropic Zone and the group Crystal, his solo work resides mostly in the realm of New Age with welcomed forays into Smooth Jazz. In fact, it would be what this writer calls 'Old School New Age'. That is, the Bill Cornish catalog on mp3.com recalls the golden years of the Windham Hill and Narada labels in the mid to late '80s. Lots of real piano and warm, lush analog sounding synths. Digital sounds played in real time where the synths are used merely as additional sound pallettes and are not the main performer or compositional tool (Bill is quite the craftsman player and composer). Cornish lists Shadowfax, Bob James, Vangelis, Deodato, and Kitaro as similiar artists and this describes his work quite well.

The click through to his mp3.com page... well presented graphically, not so much muck to wade through like this writer's. Just a few links to buy his "Leap of Faith" and "A Change of Seasons" albums at cdstreet.com, a few press blurbs and banners, and ten mp3s (of which only one is downloadable as of this writing). One gets the sense that the 'retail ready' CDs (vs. the lower audio quality of mp3 CDs) would be well bought given the already superb production values and sound of the mp3s streaming at 128Kbps.

So here's the song to song breakdown:

"Shinto" is from Cornish's "Leap of Faith" album and is labeled World Fusion (due to the Japanese bamboo flute melody and the artist's Shinto shrines inspiration) yet would be more appropriately categorized as New Age. This is the epitomy of the 'Old School New Age' sound, elements of Kitaro and Shadowfax shining through. An all-synth piece with the aforementioned warm and lush patches. The flute sound and melody is gorgeous and emulates the 'real thing' quite well. Towards the middle of the piece the flute sound calls and answers another fine sounding kyoto line while bubbling over rich string pads and a syncopated percussion groove that has gradually built up from an ominous ambient beginning. The groove is a punchy synth bass tied to an acoustic sounding back beat drum kit wit h auxillary accents. This has been one of favorite tracks on mp3.com for about a year.

The Road Less Traveled" is a piano and flute piece with minimal staccato accents of synth strings. Acoustic New Age recalling George Winston. This is a "long distance collaboration" between Cornish on piano and Garrett King of Jazz911 on flute. Clocking it at just under six minutes, it is dynamic and fluid. Not quite meditatively relaxing (due to the dynamics and movement of the piano figures) but nevertheless quite peaceful and an enjoyable listen. At times, the piano arpeggios sound like a time signature-jumping quote of the traditional holiday Carol of the Bells... all the while providing wonderful harmony for the legato flute line floating above. This is the one downloadable track. Get it while you can, as it does not appear to be included on either of Bill's albums.

"Days of Summer" is a Smooth Jazz fest. This is the Bob James influence. A bubbling vibraphone line carries the melody. A smooth groove featuring, again, a nice acoustic sounding drum kit and an especially fine and funky Jaco-sounding fretless bass line rounded out by electric piano rhythm. From the "Leap of Faith" album.

"A Change of Seasons" is placed in the Symphonic Electronica genre on mp3.com... but again this reviewer is still hearing New Age (albeit a more aggressive performance). A piano piece with pizzicato string lines. Again, some of the arpeggios recall Carol of the Bells... but hey, that figure seeps into my head year-round, so it is at least memorable. Technically, Cornish displays mastery of the keys on this piece with plenty of flowing figures across a broad dynamic range (given the compression of the mp3 algorhythm). Each phrase is well crafted and performed and seems to have a proper head, body, and closing... like a perfect sentence. From the "A Change of Seasons" album.

About "First Snow", the artist states the track "brings back a very specific memory of being in a little one-room cabin in Alaska watching the snow fall early one morning". The piano plays a more harmonic and rhythmic role here, though makes its own melodic statements when not supporting the melody, provided by a synth patch somewhere between the timbre of oboe and clarinet (call it a 1.5 reed sound). The melody line is melancholy yet cathartic and the vibrato on the oboe/clarinet sound is well used for a lyrical and expressive subtlety. The piece begins peacefully at a ballad pace but slightly builds in volume and tempo as the snow accumulates and gently rounds out like the smooth resulting drifts at the end of a heavy fall towards the end of the 4:09 run time. Definitely a well-named 'tone painting' from the "Leap of Faith" album.

"Scatterbrain" is another Smooth Jazz track that plays well back to back with the "Days of Summer" track and has a similiar 70s Bob James feel. The melody here comes from a Rhodes-type electric piano sound and sits well over a laid back yet funky groove. From the artist's "Change of Seasons" album.

At just under eight and a half minutes, the album title track "Leap of Faith" is labeled Symphonic Electronica. Perhaps this is what Cornish initially envisioned when composing, but the final result is again more New Age. Perhaps even akin to the 'last but not least' slightly different track on a Jean-Luc Ponty album (the electric violin sound of the melody is a nice touch). There's lots of great counterpoint going on here in the dialog between the violin and the piano with accent colors of a resonant frequency-sweep filter synth line and glockenspiel-type bell sounds. Somewhere around 5:40 of the epic 8:20 run time we hear a build up on tympani and tom type percussion that leads to a slight change in feel... the resonant synth pad begins to burbble, the violin and piano up the ante in notes-per-phrase and pace before rounding out again in the last several minutes. Definitely an intelligent composition and an interesting listen.

"Nightflight" wins the 'which-of-these-is-most-unlike-the-others' award of these ten tracks, due in large part to the more electronic sounding bass and sequenced drum sounds. It's a Smooth Jazz/Acid Jazz jam featuring Bill's piano chops in fine form. It begins with some Linn type high-pitched tom bubbles... the synth pads enter, a mellow round funky synth bass, the Down Tempo/Trip Hop type drum pattern. Then the piano hits. The melodic runs here are quite expressive and executed well, especially the syncopated descending figure at around 3:30 which kicks booty with some major jazz color. Overall a cool juxtaposition of quantized electronica with the very human keyboard skills of Cornish. From the "Leap of Faith" disc.

Per artist, "peaceful memories of Nova Scotia" are captured in "On The Shores of Cape Breton" from "Leap of Faith". A solo piano piece with minimal horn synth pads in a more classical realm... again with hints of those Carol of the Bells-type arpeggios. Bill definitely digs that riff.

"Away" is a sort of Smooth Jazz vibraphone ditty over a polyrhythmic World Fusion groove with some choir/string pads and piano flourishes and hints here and there of a tamboura or sitar sound (filtered with a nice sweeping pan production touch that seques phrases). Another Shadowfax nod indeed (always a good thing). On the "A Change of Seasons" disc. This track and "Shinto" are definitely my faves.

Yeah... so overall, fans of Windham Hill and Narada in the 80s, and the well chosen similiar artist list above, can't go wrong with Bill Cornish. The production, composition, and performance are all top shelf. His material consistently represents the New Age and Smooth Jazz genres very well.


AmbientVisions.com Reviews Leap of Faith

The marvels of Modern Musical Technology now allow just one guy to sound like a whole orchestra, using electronic and sampling synthesizers, drum machines, “atmosphere generation,” and lots of multitracking. San Diego’s Bill Cornish is one of these one-man orchestras, using his keyboard skills to create what sounds like the production of a studio band or at least a well-balanced jazz ensemble. There’s a kind of polished commercial quality to this music, and I could well imagine it as the soundtrack to either a leisure-oriented TV program or an ad for something upscale like wine or fine cars.

Cornish knows his jazz harmonies, and shows them well on cuts like Shinto (track 1), and On the Shores of Cape Breton, (track 2). No boring three-chord minimalism here. On other tracks, such as The Falls of Multnoma (track 6) he recreates a "folk-jazz" sound, led by a melodic line on the (sampled for keyboard) oboe, that harkens back to the Windham Hill sound of the ‘80s. It’s got a kind of easygoing California sensibility, though he sometimes throws in some "world" influences from the Middle East.

But that is only mildly spicy, not overpowering. There are no hard edges to this music, no electric guitars or "tribal" percussion; it’s meant to be pleasant and undisturbing. Even the up-tempo title track, Leap of Faith (track 12) is a kind of diluted echo of old-time synthesizer rock. Perhaps this album lacks the assertion and aggression of more ambitious one-man synthesizer efforts, but its gentleness, in these troubled times, is also a virtue.

GodsofMusic.com reviews A Change of Seasons

The following review appears in a new release from Quiet Storm Books entitled The Gods Have Spoken, a compilation of some of the best independent artists on the net. The largest independent music review site on the Internet, GodsofMusic.com has reviewed over 3000 songs and continues to average over 200 reviews a month. The staff isn't made up of music journalists, but music enthusiasts. You won't be disappointed - there is something here for everyone. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to The Casey Cares Foundation.

ARTIST: Bill Cornish
SONG: A Change of Seasons
GENRE: New Age/ Symponic
SIMILAR: Vangelis meets Winston meets Tesh

(Fair warning, I'm going to be effusive in this review.)

EPIC. That's the word that is burning into my head as I listen to this piece. EPIC.

Bill Cornish is an accomplished veteran of the music business, with years of studio and live show experience in multiple genres. Even so, his solo music well exceeds this reviewer's high expectations. And a textbook case in point is his magnificent new age opus entitled "A Change of Seasons". EPIC.

Every aspect of this piece is extraordinary. The composition is remarkable. Vast swatches of bright solo piano blend with almost symphonic phrasings, coalescing into a musical journey that is at once delicate and overwhelmingly powerful. And the ending adds a perfect touch of subdued emotion, that only serves to enhance the overall impact of the song. Tremendous.

The instrumentation is just extraordinary. The piano is played to its utter emotional limit. The pizzicato bass line is inspired. The string, brass, and synth lines blend perfectly with the overall sound. From an arrangement point of view, this is a masterwork.

The track also showcases Bill's remarkable piano and keyboard talent. One would expect a professional musician to be able to play his instrument, but Bill displays both fantastic chops and a careful sensibility. Very well performed indeed.

If you want to get goosebumps, just prepare yourself for the piano's triumphant return at 3:10. I listen to that phrase over and over, and it still carries enormous power. Wow.

All in all, this is the finest new age piece I have heard in literally years, and one of the finest pieces of music I've heard in quite some time. Even if you think new age music is some kind of geeky form of elevator music, you need to listen to Bill Cornish. He will show you just how wrong you are. I give him my highest of recommendations.

(P.S. This is only the second time I have ever given out a 10.0 in any category, and it is well deserved indeed.)

Charisma - 9.00
Technical Skill - 9.5
Structure - 9.0
Interest - 9.5
Lyrics - N/A
Performance - 9.5
Arrangement - 10.0
Recording Quality - 9.5
Long Term Appeal - 9.5

Raw42 Reviews Shinto and Leap of Faith

The accomplished San Diego keyboardist Bill Cornish makes what my dad would call "proper music". There are no overdriven resonant filters, no up-to-the-minute stuttering beats, no subwoofer-destroying deep bass – just great musicianship, pure and simple. The two tunes submitted, probably best categorized as "new age", strictly speaking reside outside raw42's purely electronic/industrial domain. However, their quality is such that I'm going to say a few words anyway.

Shinto's lead melodies are carried by an assortment of "ethnic" instruments – there are plucked strings, percussion, and first and foremost a nicely recorded reverberating flute line. The gentle tension, building gradually throughout the piece, is underpinned by a subdued drum track and augmented by airy synthesizer pads. The tune proceeds without any significant structural detours to a slightly abrupt ending at 4:26. An enjoyable listen.

Leap of Faith is a grander, more progressive effort. the underlying melodic structure is provided by Bill's rhythmical rock-style piano and the lead instrument is a violin sample (at least, I think that's a sample – Bill's mastery of the pitch bend and modulation wheels is such that it could just be the real thing!) It's clear that a lot of thought and preparation went into the composition & arrangement of this one – every constituent part knows exactly what it's doing and where it's going. A touch of synthesizer nostalgia is provided by the appearance of some old-fashioned presets, the like of which Joe Zawinul would be proud. Thumbs up again.

It's a little unfortunate that in the last few years even highly competent new age music has acquired something of a bad name – doomed to sit quietly in that science store in the mall, lodged between the plasma ball and the glow-in-the-dark planet stickers. This is quality work, beautifully executed and produced, and should be recognized as such. A glance at Bill Cornish's mp3.com earnings suggests that I am not alone in this opinion.


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