When categorizing an artist's music becomes a challenge, that is a good thing -- at least from a creative standpoint. CDs that are hard to categorize can be intimidating for marketing people at record companies, but creatively, it is likely to be a plus because artists who don't fit neatly into one category are often artists who are trying to avoid being generic or faceless. Musician, composer, and producer Gentle Thunder is such an artist; her album, Beyond Words, is not easy to categorize, although the best description is probably "instrumental world fusion with jazz and folk overtones." This early 2006 release was described as "new age" in a press release, but despite favoring a tranquil, relaxed, ethereal approach, Beyond Words isn't really new age; certainly not in the strict sense. Gentle Thunder's world music credentials, however, are quite strong. The instruments she plays on this 61-minute disc include the hammer dulcimer (which is associated with Celtic music) and Native American flutes; Will Clipman, one of the people who accompanies her, is heard on various African percussion, including udu drums. And the jazz overtones come from pianist/keyboardist/saxman AmoChip Dabney, whose soprano sax work hints at Weather Report and the Yellowjackets. In terms of ethnic influences, Gentle Thunder looks all over the globe for inspiration; elements of Native American, Asian, African, Middle Eastern and Celtic music all assert themselves during the course of the album. But despite being far-reaching in that sense, Beyond Words never sounds confused or unfocused. Gentle Thunder and colleagues Clipman and Dabney know exactly what they are doing on this nicely executed CD.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson