CD: Paradigm Shift
Artist: Steven Halpern

If anyone has ever helped to create and define a musical genre it is Steven Halpern. In my thirty years as a professional new age music reviewer I have probably heard every album he has released. One thing I always like about checking out his latest album is that I never know exactly what to expect. Sure, he is well known for his elegant grand piano, dreamy electric piano, and atmospheric synthesizer textures, but over the years he has always managed to surprise by exploring new musical ground ranging from funky rhythmic grooves to mystical Eastern chanting, crystal bowls, Indian tabla drumming, and much much more.

A number of tracks on “Paradigm Shift” feature the world-class bass playing of Michael Manring, whose virtuosity has been heard on many of the classic Windham Hill albums. I was especially impressed with the intuitive interplay and melodic conversation between Steven’s keyboards and Michael’s Ebow bass on tracks one and five (an Ebow is a device which sustains the strings electronically giving a cello-like effect.) It almost felt like telepathy where they seemed to finish each other’s thoughts and musical sentences… pure magic. While Steven’s keyboard playing is always distinctive, there are certain things he does that really stand out to me, like the way he will introduce an ephemeral three note motif in descending octaves along with a rainbow of themes and variations. Although his classic approach is to downplay the role of melody and orchestrate the space between the notes, “Paradigm Shift” shows that he certainly knows how to massage a memorable melodic line and create a sense of compositional symmetry.

For Steven’s long time fans, everything they know and love about his music is found here in abundance. The mesmerizing meditative spell that is a trademark of the “Halpern Effect” is very much in evidence. “Paradigm Shift” is an exquisite addition to his vast catalog, and one that I highly recommend.

A few of Steven’s many classic albums: