Ezra Winston - a sampler

Year of Release: 1999
Label: n/a
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Having been listening to "The Painter And The King" for the past month or so now - an MP3 I downloaded from their site - I have been looking forward to the CD versions of Ezra Winston's albums. In fact, I was listening to this very track on the way home from work earlier in the month, thought about including a short review of the track in Ruminations. However, when I arrived home and went through my mail, there waiting for me was a review sampler CD of this and other selected tracks from Ezra Winston's oeuvre (thanks guys!).

I first became aware of Ezra Winston from a track on the Musea sampler Seven Days In A Life; a track that appears here as well - "Dark Angel Suite." When the band emailed ProgressiveWorld.net with news of their new website, I went to check it out. In doing so, I downloaded the above mentioned MP3 (I had been asked, as well, what I thought of the music).

What I think is that this is some of the best Italian progressive rock I've heard. It's classically influenced, like most Italian prog is. "The Birth And The First Flight" dates from their debut disk Myth Of The Chrysavides (1988) and begins in subtle but dramatic fashion - with keyboard washes, light flute-like tones and acoustic guitar arpeggios? in some ways it is reminiscent of Yes' more lyrical moments, or even Steve Roach's soundscapes. It is the "First Flight" part of this track that is evident in the lead, as the flute gently soars lazily in the afternoon sky.

But before long, the song bursts forth with swirling electric guitar signatures and assertive percussion, the keys never far away. One bird has become many, all swooping and diving. The interplay between the instruments is spectacular?as the keys and guitar intertwine, trading off the lead in long, sinuous strands.

"The Waiting And The Knowledge" is next, another gentle keyboard and flute begun piece, that slowly adds percussion as the intensity grows. Soon, understated vocals emerge, more as instrument than as focal point. Mauro Di Dinato (keyboards) has a pleasant singing voice, not like anyone I can name in particular ? though Jesus Filardi of Galadriel comes to mind. Intricate bass lines are laid down through the tune, beneath keyboard, guitar, and flute leads that again trade off in a swirling effect.

"The Painter And The King" (Ancient Afternoons, 1990) opens with a playful flute intro that is answered by the full band (where the flute is the "painter" and the band is the "king," I suppose). There is a very medieval feel to the musical phrase that also sounds very royal - you can almost see the trumpeters on ramparts, their horns lifted to the sky, as a brisk wind whips the standards furiously. Later in the track, there is a stunning sax solo that oozes so much warmth and drama. To encapsulate this track is difficult as it is so textured and varied. It is subdivided into five parts: "I. The Arrival of the Painter," "II. Nightmare," "III. The Sentence," "IV. Execution," and "V. Over the Candle-light."

Le Orme's Aldo Tagliapietra guests on "Nightstorm" (also on Ancient Afternoons) on both vocals and bass.

As on other tracks, the symphonic passages dominate all the tracks here, and I would imagine the albums from which they are taken. There is also great use of brass or brass-tones (trumpets mostly, both high and low toned), though Paolo Lucini is credited only with acoustic and electronic wind instruments. The more I listen to this, the more I am inspired to track down the albums, not waiting for their CD debut. So, now I'm biased, because I really like this, despite the vocals being a little lost in the mix ("Nightstorm" aside).

"Ancient Afternoon Of An Unknown Town" has a slight Marillion guitar-thing going for it - staccato notes played with resonate tone (in "shorthand" - Rothery-esque). This is a very dark track, full of dark swirling keys, and sonic effects?in a way, it's rather chilling, evoking images of dark, overcast skies - at least for part of it (there is a trumpet tone used here that made me think of Herb Alpert, too).

"Dark Angel Suite" is bit more neo-proggish in its sound, though retaining enough (more than enough) of that Italian prog sound and classical influence to keep it well away from sounding like any one band in particular. I love the keyboard washes here ? there is such a sense of tension in them as they swoop up, then slowly back away in steps. And, in fact, just when you think the tension is going to break - a long sustained note - it backs away. Yet the track concludes in dramatic fashion, the tension released by following another route (rather than over the peak, around it, or through it). Well, I'll just have to listen to this disk again. And again.

Meanwhile, while you (and I) wait for the CD release (or wait while tracking down vinyl copies) ? as of this writing, Ezra Winston are working on a third disk of material, after which Myth will be reissued, with Ancient Afternoons to follow afterward. This latter will be getting a "new cover concept," the band say.

Based on this sampler alone, Ezra Winston get my high recommendation. In fact, in my MP3 playlist, "The Painter And The King" has the top spot (my opinions on the rest of my playlist are in the December Ruminations).

(P.S.: As this sampler didn't come with a cover or anything, per se, I've borrowed the album cover image from Ezra Winston's debut)

The Birth And The First Flight / The Waiting And The Knowledge / The Painter And The King / Nightstorm / Ancient Afternoon Of An Unknown Town / Dark Angel Suite

Mauro Di Donato - vocals and keyboards
Paolo Lucini - acoustic and electronic wind instruments
Steve Pontani: guitars and loops
Daniele Iacono: drums and percussion

Myth Of Chrysavidas (1988)
Ancient Afternoons (1990/2000)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin IT

Added: December 13th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.ezrawinston.com
Hits: 1666
Language: english


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