Richard Crandall (born in 1943) is a musician who is largely self-taught, performing on guitar and piano for a number of jazz, folk, and rock performers. This album features him playing mbira, one of a family of African instruments colloquially known as finger pianos. The sound of the mbira is so immediately appealing -- bell-like and resonant -- that almost anything it does sounds terrific. Crandall uses the instrument simply, with regularly pulsed rhythms, repeated melodic patterns, and modal harmonies, and the simplicity of his music works well with the mbira's pure, lovely sound. The River, the longest piece at 14 minutes, consists of a loop of a repeating mbira melody, over which Crandall improvises contrapuntal traceries. The music is basically static, but is so fully engaging that the listener never feels the need for it to be other than what it is. The same could be said for many of the pieces on the album. Several, such as Japanese Lullaby and Spring Steel, feel too short; they could have easily been extended several times without wearing out their welcome. On most of the tracks, percussionist Cyro Baptista joins Crandall, providing either a rhythmic ostinato or a broad range of timbral colors, using primarily folk instruments. Beckoning, one of the album's most attractive pieces, is notable for the complexity and variety of percussion rhythms and colors. The album is fully successful, whether taken as a new age invitation to meditation or as a compelling use of the simplest elements to create folk-tinged art music. Tzadik's sound is clean, present, and atmospheric.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins