CD: Transcend
Artist: Phillp Wesley

reg_Transcend cover full-resolutionNo doubt, everyone experiences ups and downs in life ranging from minor to catastrophic. Composer and pianist Phillip Wesley certainly has, and through his music has documented those times in a way that not only touched the hearts of listeners around the world, but also has earned him numerous awards and accolades. His seventh and latest release, Transcend, occupies a special place in his discography. In an exclusive interview, I asked Phillip to elaborate on this. In his words: “Transcend is actually the final in a trilogy of albums.  First came Dark Night of the Soul a music allegory for experiencing deep emotional pain and suffering.  Followed by Hope Endures picking up where Dark Night leaves off, entering the unknown and leaving the darkness behind and walking in faith hope and love. Transcend is about rising above it all to a new perspective, rising so far above and beyond your problems that they seem a distant memory and insignificant.”


Digging a little deeper, he went on to say: “Much of my music is autobiographical.  I tend to write about what I know and experience in my life.  This is especially true since a divorce in 2006 and major life changes threw me into a deep pit of depression and anxiety. The result was my album Dark Night of the Soul. Early on my music was typical of the relaxing style that most new age music seems to follow.  However I quickly learned what generated attention and what fans of my music liked the most while performing out in public, and that is my more intense and darker sounding music.”


Phillip is well aware of the power of music to touch the soul of its listeners. In our interview he shared: “I have a degree in Music Therapy and practiced for almost 10 years. My specialty was mental health.  It was during that time I honed my piano skills and musical voice. I saw a segment of the population that most people will never see.  So perhaps early on it was those experiences that shaped my self-expression at the piano – to give voice to angst and sweet melancholy. Suffering is part of the what it means to be human, and everyone can relate to that in some way whether it’s a divorce, loss of a loved one, illness etc.  I give voice or at least try to in those raw emotions through my music.”


His music seems to strike a particular chord, so to speak, with listeners as evidenced by his DarkPhillip Wesley Night of the Soul being named as one of the “50 Greatest New Age Albums of All Time” on the New Age Reviews website. His independently released music has been featured in radio, TV, film and print and can be found on many of today’s most popular platforms. Phillip’s albums continue to dominate the New Age genre and have reached #1 on the iTunes charts, The Top 100 on Amazon, #1 on Amazon New Age Music, Best Seller at CD Baby, and most recently #12 on the Billboard Charts (New Age Catalog Chart) sharing company with well-known performers Jim Brickman and The Piano Guys. And on the stage, Phillip has shared concert billing with other popular solo pianists such as Michelle McLaughlin, Joseph Akins, and more.


From the album’s opening notes on track one, “Less Traveled,” it is obvious that this is music that is powered by emotion. Strong left hand chords accented by lighter right hand arpeggios mark the first movement, which extends over half of the piece. I don’t know if I’d use the word “dark” to describe the mood, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t quite evoke visions of rainbows and unicorns. It’s a serious and pensive piece that reveals a depth of feeling right from the start and perhaps a brief look back at where he has come from when the journey of this trilogy began. As we move into track two, however, the atmosphere elevates with the lighter and more luminous “Unbridled Spirit.” It was here that I began to get a sense of Phillip’s keyboard virtuosity in the composition’s comparatively complex melodic structure as contrasted with the simpler phrasing of the first piece.


The album’s title track is nothing short of, well, transcendent. It is powerful, moving, and uplifting. However, I appreciated Phillip’s sense of dynamics when he dropped into a quieter mode intermittently. On the other end of the emotional spectrum are the wistfully haunting strains of “Distant Memory.” Yet, not one to remain in any particular emotional zone from song to song, a track called “The Chase,” as the title implies, is a high velocity romp that I could definitely imagine in a film soundtrack.


Phillip in concertOne of my favorites is a heartfelt composition entitled “Union.” Written in ¾ time, I found it’s waltz-like rhythm and evocative chord progression to be quite moving and soul stirring. That feeling carries over into the next piece, “The Courage To Change.” However, a change is also on the horizon as we move into the more sensitive and introspective “Haunted Past.” The yin-yang comparison between these pieces illuminates the remarkable range and diversity in Phillip’s writing and playing. Perhaps no song illustrates this more than the enchantingly ethnic Eastern European influences of the next to the last song entitled “Gypsy.” The album concludes with its longest track, the 7 minute “Echoes Through Eternity.” This is a gorgeous impressionistic piece that is the most archetypal “new age” track on the recording. I especially enjoyed and found most appropriate, the use of digital delay on Phillip’s piano, which allowed the notes to echo and trail off into the distance. It was an unexpected touch and one that worked perfectly given the song’s title.


And so concludes a musical trilogy and deeply personal emotional journey. One of the marks of a gifted composer and instrumentalist is the power to draw the listener into  the ebb and flow of their feelings through the music and create a sympathetic resonance within them. Phillip Wesley elegantly displays this ability. Through his evocative compositions, he has bared his soul and in turn provided a poignant listening experience that emanates from a deep well of passion, grace, and sentiment.




Video from an earlier release: