Label: Sticks and Stones

CD review written for Spa Magazine Jan/Feb 2002

Don't let "Serengeti Sunrise" fool you. The slow, haunting flute that opens this excellent CD is about as New Age-y as Panorhythmica gets. After that, the CD lives up to its title, blending rhythms from all over the map with jazzy guitar melodies to produce 13 uniquely satisfying instrumentals.

Like the "panorama" suggested in the album's title, this music creates aural landscapes that can ebb and flow with your mood and your speaker volume. Keep things romantic and low-key, and the music fades into the background, uplifting but never intrusive. Turn things up a bit, though, and you've got the perfect musical accompaniment for a sophisticated party.

While the rich, full sound of this CD suggests a much larger ensemble, there are, in fact, only two primary musicians making all this wonderful noise: Michael Whipple (flutes, recorders and percussion) and Mark Esakoff (guitars). These two native Californians have taken their influences--jazz, classical, baroque, world music, even rock and roll--and fused them into an inspired collection of tracks that are as evocative as they are danceable.

Esakoff has an incredibly fluid, percussive guitar style that lends itself perfectly to these songs, most evident on tracks such as "Agua Del Fuego," which brims with Latin salsa inflections, and "Road to Panorhythmica," which could claim influence from the Beatles as much as Tito Puente. Whipple's flute weaves its way subtly throughout this CD, dancing coyly with guitar chords and bossa nova beats on tracks such as the buoyant "Monkey in the Middle."

In less competent hands, the many influences and styles that waft through this album could have produced an unfocused jumble. However, Esakoff and Whipple have the skill and dexterity to keep the real star—the rhythm—in the foreground, with everything falling into place around it. Even after you've listened to this CD many times, its musical depth will keep it fresh and engaging, as new melodies and beats continue to emerge—and amaze!

[This article was reprinted on NetMusic's site.]

Copyright Lisa M. Moore
May not be reproduced in whole or part without my written permission.