|January 7, 2020|
Usually, one unique instrument is enough to make an album stand out from the crowd. “The Stick EWI Project” has TWO, Michael Kollwitz’s Chapman Stick, and Walton Mendelson’s Electronic Wind Instrument – the EWI. Kollwitz and Mendelson willingly share the limelight, and the listener can sense how each artist is trying to make the other one shine. This feeling of mutual respect strengthens the project immensely, making “The Stick EWI Project” into a delightful, inspired, and completely one-of-a-kind release.
Walton Mendelson grew up in Cleveland, playing the saxophone and flute as a child. In the late ‘60s, making the requisite pilgrimages to New York and L.A., where he immersed himself in the folk, rock, and jazz scenes. In 1989 he relocated to Prescott, Arizona, and began playing the EWI soon after. In 2018, he met Michael Kollwitz at a local venue where their very first impromptu jam earned them a standing ovation from the audience.
This episode of Dream Mixtape is dedicated to The Stick EWI Project:
In The Moonlight
It is hard to follow a one-of-a-kind song like “In The Moonlight”, but “Summer River Day” is everything it has to be; Cool, laid-back and unpretentious. The EWI sounds divine, and the Stick solo segment in the middle shows that Kollwitz is a genuine virtuoso.
No yin without the yang, right? “Missing You” is a sad and lonely song. I can also sense a deep-rooted gratitude and a myriad of good memories, making it into a good kind of longing. The somewhat abrupt ending might indicate that the feeling passed quickly. Here the EWI sounds almost like a harmonica.
The EWI violin
This musical journey ends in Central America. “Panama Heat” is a fast and delightful piece. If there is any doubt left that the Stick and the EWI are meant to be, this hot piece will make it evaporate. Notice when both instruments play at the same time; It is a breathtakingly beautiful duet.
In conclusion: When reviewing an album like this, it is easy to focus on the uniqueness of the instruments used. But that is not the complete story. Underneath it all is an album filled with rock-solid material. “In The Moonlight” is destined to become one of 2020’s first New Age music hits, while “Pleasant Dreams”, “Summer River Day” and “Panama Heat” give the album plenty of replay value.
Score: 95/100 – See our scoring policy
Private: Unexplored musical horizons The Stick EWI Project – In The Moonlight
Unexplored musical horizons The Stick EWI Project – IN THE MOONLIGHT: As many of you know, I’ve been reviewing Michael Kollwitz’s marvelous mastery of the Chapman stick for quite some time now, most recently for his Serenity II (https://contemporaryfusionreviews.com/michael-kollwitz-calming-tasteful-chapman-stick-beauty-michael-kollwitz-serenity-ii/) album, and have been totally enchanted by everything he’s created… when he asked Walton Mendelson to join him by playing EWI (electronic wind instrument) for this new project, things got even more magical… even for seasoned listeners, these will be unexplored musical horizons.
The EWI is a brand-new experience for me (and that’s really saying something, because I’ve dug down deep into instruments of all sorts over my many years of reviewing music)… the EWI is played somewhat like a clarinet and, interfaced with a synthesizer, produces the sounds of violins, woodwinds and brass instruments while preserving all the expressiveness of a saxophone or flute… when joined with Michael’s amazing talent on the Chapman stick, tunes like “Summer River Day” (samples will be posted when I’m told they are available), you’ll be just as highly impressed as I was; it’s almost like having a WHOLE jazz band playing for you right in your living room… I believe this tune will be getting HUGE amounts of airplay in the coming months and years!
The rich and lush tones the duo produce on the beautiful title track, “In The Moonlight”, will give you images of those laid-back moonlit nights that you will treasure forever and ever… a most pleasant sonic experience.
The oddly-titled “If It Ain’t Baroque Don’t Fix It” pairs Michael’s deft fingerings on the Chapman stick with some of the most enchanting string sounds from Walton’s EWI, and will provide hours and hours of joyful listening! Of the dozen songs Michael and Walton offer up, though, my choice for personal favorite was easy to make… it’s the closer, “Panama Heat”… their “pacing” on this piece is pure and perfect, and their total mastery of their respective instruments makes the entire album a total winner.
I give Michael and Walton a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this tantalizing sonic treasure. Get more information on Michael’s website (http://www.michaelkollwitz.com) when the album is officially released. — Rotcod Zzaj (Jazz Doctor, Dick Metcalf)
Scott Yanow, Jazz Historian and Journalist
There have been a countless number of jazz recording sessions through the years, but, as far as I can tell, none have featured both The Chapman Stick® and the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). Certainly, none have been comprised of a set of duos between the two instruments, until The Stick EWI Project's In The Moonlight.
Emmett Chapman developed his innovative tapping technique on the guitar in 1969 and by 1974, had invented The Chapman Stick. Related to the guitar, it has ten or twelve strings, it is played by tapping the strings, and its best players can play chords, bass patterns, and melody lines simultaneously. The EWI was invented by Nyle Steiner around the same period of time. It is an electronic wind controller similar in fingering to a saxophone and looking a little like a soprano-sax. It is essentially a wind synthesizer that, like The Stick, has unlimited potential.
Since both The Stick and the EWI can be an orchestra by themselves, on In The Moonlight, Stick master Michael Kollwitz and the EWI specialist Walton Mendelson show a lot of restraint. They perform a dozen group originals that are melodic, atmospheric, and often picturesque. The music generally fits the titles on such selections as "Pleasant Dreams" (a relaxed ballad), the mellow "Whispering," "In The Moonlight" (which is quite wistful), the lightly swinging "Summer River Day" and the humorously titled "If It Ain't Baroque Don't Fix It." Many of the selections, particularly "Spinnakers Bay." would be excellent choices for soundtracks. Mendelson's EWI ranges in tones from sounding like a harmonica on the wistful "Missing You" to emulating a violin a bit on the romantic "Lasting Love." While Mendelson is often in the lead, Kollwitz takes care of all of the rhythm section functions, and one would swear in spots that there was a guitar, keyboard, and electric bass.
One could imagine The Stick and the EWI "battling it out" and really creating some crazy sounds together. However, In The Moonlight is primarily a peaceful and soothing but not overly predictable set of melodic music that finds the Stick and the EWI blending together in a unique fashion.This recommended set is well worth checking out. —Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including Jazz On Record 1917-76 and The Jazz Guitarists
December 13, 2019
In my enthusiastic write-up review of Michael Kollwitz’s Billboard charting early 2019 release Serenity III: More Peaceful Music on the Chapman Stick® – the third in a successful annual series of relaxation collections that began in 2017 – I used terms like “mystically melodic,” “soul transporting” and “cool and calm euphoria” to describe the vibe and his approach to his unique stringed instrument.
I urged fans not simply to listen and enjoy but to research its creator, Emmett Chapman, and the Stick’s remarkable ability to combine elements of guitar, bass, bass, keyboards and percussion into a single instrument that is played more like a piano than guitar. I also remarked that Kollwitz’s relationship with the inventor is equally fascinating.
My encouragement to research as you listen continues with the early 2020 release of The Stick EWI Project: In the Moonlight, Kollwitz’s deeply soulful and richly textured dual album with Electronic Woodwind Instrument master Walton Mendelson. Also developed in the 70s and prominently featured in the early days of the genre that evolved into the smooth jazz radio format, the EWI is played somewhat like a clarinet. Interfaced with the synthesizer, produces the sounds of violins, woodwinds and brass instruments.
The backstory of this project is a simple collaboration of creative minds. In 2018, Mendelson – a veteran saxophonist and flutist who began playing EWI professionally in 1989 – met Kollwitz at a local venue where their first impromptu jam earned them a standing ovation from the audience. Even before its official release, In the Moonlight, the result of that initial magical pairing, won a Silver Medal designation in the instrumental category of the Global Music Awards.
While the overall vibe of the 12-track collection is as lyrical and gently meditative as much of the material in Kollwitz’s Serenity series, the opportunity to weave his hypnotic string melodies around Mendelson’s varying tones allows for a more sonically intriguing and much deeper and heartfelt emotional expressions.
From the lush dreamy atmospheric opener “Pleasant Dreams” – where Mendelson alternates between saxophone and clarinet and Kollwitz creates fascinating “crying” wah effects – through the passionate and increasingly intense romance “Lasting Love,” the first ten tracks of the project offer stunning mood modulations that invoking joy and whimsy, melancholy and somber reflection and the spectrum of emotions in between.
The thoughtful titles often hint at the flavor of the soul seductions – i.e. the breathy sweetness of “Whispering,” the carefree, easily rhythmic cool of “Summer River Day,” the musical equivalent of sparkling sunlight and shadows on the water on “Spinnaker’s Bay” and the soft spoken reflections of “Missing You.”
The final two tracks on In the Moonlight seem cut of a different stylistic cloth, wrapping the set with some unique flourishes. “French Windshield” finds Kollwitz in his hypno-meditative mode before getting a bit snappier in his playing as he is egged on by Mendelson’s modulation of the EWI that makes it sound like a spirited accordion, not simply playing melodic lines but riffing a bit and making everything a bit jazzy. The two take that exotic romantic flow to greater heights on the lighthearted, playfully rolling closer “Panama Heat,” a realm where the balmy rhythms created by Kollwitz’s strings dance in the splashes of sunlight generated by the EWI’s super sensuous violin tone.