Since the advent of adult contemporary music, no single release defines the genre's sugary joys better than Dan Siegel's 1987 classic Northern Nights. Gems like "Rhapsody" pretty much set the tone for what pop instrumental music and contemporary jazz are all about, and still get airplay on the diet jazz stations years later. Siegel, who started doing this type of music long before it was en vogue (circa 1980), has felt somewhat constrained by all the expectations. Over the years, he's grown disillusioned with the limits of the adult contemporary format, and has longed to expand beyond the fluff and into some true exotica. The result is Hemispheres, one of his most original and intriguing discs. A smorgasbord of worldbeat sounds, beats, and textures, the collection allows the composer to keep a lower profile on the keyboard and keep the focus on some very unique all-star instrumental collaborations, including the title cut's violin (Charlie Bisharat), koto (Osamu Kitajima), Sitar, and shakuhachi. The smooth, tropical Homeland features steel pan (Andy Narell), banjo (Bela Fleck), and harmonica. Dori Caymmi's Sitar, Peter White's accordion, Rick Braun's trumpet, Boney James' sax, and the koto combine on the hypnotic "Ancient Footsteps." "Stix & Stones" finds Siegel in a percussive groove under Narell, Fleck, and Bisharat. There's also an explosive acoustic meets electric string fusion with Richard Smith, Ottmar Liebert, and a mandolin; and finally, a flute and bagpipe extravaganza. And that doesn't even cover the pleasant vocal track, sung by Kelly Coleman.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
feat: Randy Drake