Review by music critic Wildy Haskell

Ron Leshnower is a noted composer, educator and musician based in the NYC/Long Island corridor. Debuting his first orchestral composition at the age of 15, Leshnower went on to study piano with music staff at Yale University. Today he is a composer, conductor and teacher who continues to revel in the pure creation of music. Leshnower’s latest effort, a song cycle in 12 parts called Year, is on the cusp of release.

Year begins with “January: Anticlimax”, a parallax of musical personalities and styles. Thaws, cascades and slinky Mediterranean rhythms make this an intriguing start to the cycle. “February: Companionship” has a more ethereal feel that alternates between warm tones and the glacial feel of winter. “March: Determination” has a martial air, and is driven by a rhythm as big as the wind and as incessant as a heartbeat.

“April: Anticipation” breaks out in unmitigated jazz joy, expressing the break from torpor and movement of new life. Continuing this energy in the form of a happy waltz, “May: Rebirth” brings to mind the music of an old time carousel. This is perfect music for spinning in a field of tall grass with your arms outstretched in the springtime sun. “June: Fulfillment” mixes jazz and electronic sounds to create an unusual hybrid that sounds like a deranged form of elevator music.

“July: Euphoria” is a quiet thrill, more contemplative than you might imagine. Leshnower works it out as he ambles through nearly seven minutes of musical stanzas and instrumental short stories. “August: Nostalgia” feints toward classic new-age style strings before popping out into a brief, jazz-inspired riff. Leshnower juxtaposes these parts and styles in pure contrast without little sense of resolution. A spritely energy reasserts itself on “September: Passage”, with Leshnower digging into a progressive, melodic style that makes fair use of electronic sounds. The composition is an enjoyable dance.

“October: Beauty” has a regal feel, with a piano part that echoes sounds from centuries before. Leshnower builds a wonderful ambience here that’s like candy for the ears. “November: Gratitude” seemingly struggles along before breaking out in a celebratory rhythm and dance. The latter portion of this composition is joyful, and I would be worthwhile to hear this played out by a full orchestra rather than in the electronic format used here. “December: Reflection” brings the cycle to a scintillating close with long, slow piano runs and intermittent lyric passages full of simple beauty.

Ron Leshnower explores the feelings and minute changes that occur throughout Year, documenting each change in the shades and shadows of music. Joy, melancholy, sadness and rebirth are all here for you to experience, in a reflexive cycle that runs from song to month to season to song. This is not mere dinner music; not something you put in the background. Year is the sort of instrumental album you reflect on.

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