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Before I started composing my own pieces, I’ve been a piano teacher for many years. Perhaps, this is the reason why I could so much relate to the story of Pam Asberry who, like myself, has been teaching piano for decades without daring to compose. As Pam Asberry said herself, it felt much safer to play someone else’s music rather than trying to create her own and risking a failure. Until one day a simple melody came to her and she expanded it to a full composition. Then came the next one. And another. They appeared “like shells plucked from the seashore and tucked into my pocket as souvenirs from a magical day at the beach.” This is where Pam Asberry’s inspiration came from - from numerous seashores she had the pleasure to visit.
“Seashells in my pocket”, Pam’s debut album, opens with “Cozumel Blue waters”, lulling the listener with waves of warm tones, both deep and clear. While listening to this piece, I could imagine a person sitting on a sand in a dim light and listening to the music of the sea. Subtle changes and harmony moves emerge at the middle part of this composition, gradually changing the atmosphere until the very end. I paricularly enjoyed the tone of the piano and the intonation of the pianist in this tune.
The second track, “Wishing stones”, brings along some Celtic flavour through unusual harmonies in the intro. From the very first change of chords it turned into one of my personal favorites on this album. Mysterious, positive, elegant - all these vibes are blended together into a gem of a composition, ending with a finale that is both lovely and triumphant. My 10 years old son (also a pianist and a young composer) was listening to the album together with me and he described the music as “confusing, wondering, pondering, childish and happy, then getting deeper and darker, but finishing with the original childish unworried feeling of unquestionable happiness, rushing to meet you”.
The album keeps unfolding the tropical scenes with the next track, “Island Cathedral”. Classic Sarabande came to my mind, while I enjoyed the opening sounds of this third composition. As the name suggested, music left me with a strong feeling of an awe and amazement, witnessing the magnificent combinations of sounds, as well as big and meaningful spaces of silence between the notes. Each note was in its place and the soul was just singing, thanks to the choir effect, similar to Tchaikovsky’s “In Church”. At the middle of the track, chords started building up to a poignant wonder of music.
Right after the spiritual aftertaste, Pam changes the scene with the next tune: “Sleepy tide”. It sets the simplicity of Canon in D: naive, pure, charming, with a rich dialogue between high and low registers. Those repetitive melodies put me in a transcendent mood: their ebb and flow put the listener into a joyful meditative state of mind.
The following, fifth track, has a minimalistic melody and fragile harmonies, perfectly reflecting its title: “Moonlight over Morea”. I immeditaly thought of one of those Schubert’s minors that are not sad, but longing and angelic. This track is another favorite of mine on this album. Being an Autumn person with changing moods myself, I found this music to fit me personally and artistically.
“Dunn’s Riverfalls” is a complete contrast to all the previous tracks. It is almost as dramatic and intense as Chopin’s fast virutosic preludes. From the very beginning it is speeding up to reveal the story behind the music, ending with a grand slowing down.
“Palm trees away”, the seventh track, perfectly pictures its title with sounds: daydreaming, misty, with endless possibilities, open spaces, soaring melodies and singing without words.
The following “Mysterios Caverns” lures me in with clusters of intriquing harmonies. The notes are widespread across the piano, the low register is used to accompany high notes, leaving a lot of room for imagination. This is yet another favorite of mine, especially due to lush jazz turns and spaces between melodies.
The nineth track, “Cadillac Mountain Sunset”, is masterfully setting up climbing melodies in its majestic and challenging journey to reach the tranquil peaks. At 3:30 the track becomes very cinematic with the notes being even more spacious and resoluted.
“The Mermaid’s Tears”, again, had some Celtic harmonies, much like “Green Sleeves”. I just fell in love with those intense, constantly moving arpeggios. It also reminded me of “The House of Rising Sun”. This tune is charming, refreshing and neoclassical at its best!
The eleventh track, “Monterey Morning”, was the very first tune composed by Pam Asberry. It’s rushing and driving, and the positive vibe is so genuine in it. What a refreshing combination of moods and rhythms!
The next composition, “Ocean Stars”, is also very positive and masterfully crafted with its repetitive high notes melodies and stunning gentle raindrops of single notes echoing on top of layered moving harmonies. Such a hypnotic music, surprising and taking me deeper with each movement of the harmony. The ending is humorous, as it musically quotes “Twinkle-Twinkle”.
“Sailing home” is epic and full of sweet nostalgia, a perfect way to conclude this enchanting album.
Like the seashores and seashells themselves, “Seashells in my pocket” is both relaxed and colorful, melodic and lively, reflective and emotional. Highly recommended!
Album review by Milana Zilnik
Proof-reading by Arty Sandler