Omar Akram

Secret Journey

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Secret Journey is new age pianist Omar Akram's third album, but it is his first to be released under his full name; his previous releases, Opal Fire and Free as a Bird, were billed simply to Omar. On the evidence of Secret Journey, Akram might consider using an even longer name, the Omar Akram Band, for example, or some more imaginative title, since the music on the album is anything but solo piano work. On the contrary, Akram's piano is just one instrument weaving around in the arrangements alongside Charlie Bisharat's violin, Pedro Eustache's flute, and Ardeshir Farah's and Ramon Stagnaro's acoustic guitars in what is really ensemble playing. Akram, the son of a diplomat, has a broad international perspective that informs the music he writes with producer Gregg Karukas, who provides much of the rhythmic accompaniment in the form of drum and percussion programming and additional keyboards. The rhythm tracks often exhibit a Middle Eastern or Indian influence, particularly when Ron Wagner, whose credit is "ethnic percussion," weighs in. But the major element in the music is the interaction between Akram, Bisharat, Farah, and Stagnaro, with Eustache coming in here and there, and as often as not, Bisharat and the guitarists are more dominant than the pianist himself. Fans of contemporary instrumental music should be prepared for some exotic flavors on this pleasant, stimulating album, though nothing that will really disturb their palates.

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