Ralf Illenberger – The Kiss: Five Waves Of Bliss

Ralf Illenberger - The Kiss: Five Waves Of BlissRalf Illenberger returns for his third post-Narada effort on indie label In Joy Records, and this time he’s got another winner…and an unusual concept.

The Kiss: Five Waves Of Bliss takes the form of a long, instrumental suite, subtle at times, but too involved to ever become mere background music, as with most of Illenberger’s guitar jazz pieces. The music kicks in with his unmistakable style in the second movement, Love Flow, but the real aural treat here is “Symphonique”, the third movement of The Kiss, which contains textures so complex that it takes a couple of listening to truly get all of what’s going on in the background with its echoplexed acoustic guitars and different parts playing on either side of the stereo image. “Beyond The Clouds” chases that down with some atypical electric guitar solo work that rivals anyone strutting around on a rock concert stage right now. Illenberger’s really starting to join the “studio-as-instrument” crowd with impressive results.

The only conceivable drawback to Illenberger’s stylistic experimentation on The Kiss is that the entire album, being a single, connected work, maintains a somewhat similar tone throughout. For those rating: 4 out of 4accustomed to more variety on Illenberger’s albums, this might throw them for a loop. But others may appreciate the audacious attempt at a modern-day crack at a classical structure.

Overall, another outstanding work from an underappreciated – and most undeservedly obscure – master of his art.

Order this CD

  1. First Touch (8:21)
  2. Love Flow (6:50)
  3. Symphonique (7:14)
  4. Beyond The Clouds (6:31)
  5. Fields Of Love (7:29)
  6. Afterglow (3:53)

Released by: in joy music
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 40:18

Ralf Illenberger – The Gateway

Ralf Illenberger - The GatewayThe latest from Ralf Illenberger is a stunning change in pace from the serenity of Sedona, his previous entry. Though still experimenting with unusual harmonies, this album ramps up the intensity with a little more emphasis on rhythm and percussion, and even some electric guitar and keyboard touches. It’s easily his most exotic-sounding work since his solo debut on Narada ten years ago, and in my opinion, his best since 1993’s Soleil. Some of this material features the kind of complexity that most of us would expect to hear in a rating: 4 out of 4movie score, as opposed to a more mainstream instrumental album, and in places it reminded me very much of Mike Oldfield’s very experimental Ommadawn. Highly recommended!

  1. The Gateway (5:25)
  2. Cosmic Boogie (6:28)
  3. Wide Open (3:57)
  4. Blue Planet (5:15)
  5. Order this CD Caveland (7:24)
  6. Someone’s Coming (5:16)
  7. Electric Storm (5:40)
  8. The Winged Isis (7:42)

Released by: in joy music
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 47:48

Ralf Illenberger – Sedona

Ralf Illenberger - SedonaThis long-overdue album by my favorite jazz guitarist is just now surfacing in some parts of the country. Ralf’s latest release, surprisingly, sees him popping up on a label other than new age powerhouse Narada, and his material also shifts into a different direction, with harmonies which are more abstract and dissonant than his previous work. Illenberger still maintains his style of building a nearly hypnotic, cyclical sound underlying the melody, which keeps his music complex and interesting enough to rating: 3 out of 4avoid being thought of as background music. The experimentation on this album makes one wonder if Ralf has any plans for another release anytime soon…and just how different will his next album be?

  1. Riding the Wave (4:46)
  2. Falling Down (3:37)
  3. Sedona (3:01)
  4. Frogs (4:01)
  5. Order this CD Secret Canyon (4:33)
  6. Crying Sky (4:46)
  7. Full Moon (4:41)
  8. Once Again (3:52)
  9. Ravens Above (9:49)
  10. Still Blue (5:09)
  11. Face Shift (4:08)
  12. Dream Catcher (5:11)

Released by: in joy music
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 58:02

Ralf Illenberger – Soleil

Ralf Illenberger - SoleilAfter his 1990 album veered away in a very different direction from Circle, Ralf thankfully drifted somewhat closer to the styles he explored in his debut album with his latest release to date. There is a greater emphasis on jazz elements than the second album’s rockier feel, which is as it should be – Illenberger’s music is much more suited to jazz. If anything, this album offers quite a few surprises, including the addition of vocalist Susan Osborn and more keyboards and piano than previous albums. The rating: 4 out of 4only problem with Soleil is that it has been Illenberger’s last album to date – and considering the promise that this one showed, that’s a crying shame. If you liked Circle, you’ll love this.

  1. First Beam (1:43)
  2. Dancing Kachinas (3:22)
  3. Thin Blood (4:18)
  4. Soleil (5:28)
  5. Order this CD You and I (4:38)
  6. Nightfall (2:51)
  7. Dark Glow (6:15)
  8. Traveler in Time (5:04)
  9. Sunstorm (5:24)
  10. Quiet Morning (6:21)
  11. Southwest (4:52)

Released by: Narada
Release date: 1993
Total running time: 50:16

Ralf Illenberger – Heart & Beat

Ralf Illenberger - Heart & BeatThough this album was my introduction to Ralf Illenberger, it pales in comparison to his other works. There seemed to be a conscious attempt with Heart & Beat to veer toward a more rock-influenced sound, and while Ralf can manage that style of playing as deftly as he can jazz, it’s such a disappointment to hear him trying to step into that genre. Still, there are good tunes on here.

rating: 2 out of 4

  1. Heart & Beat (4:52)
  2. Love Bird (3:43)
  3. Forrest (4:46)
  4. Fun Tango (4:50)
  5. A Sunday At Home (4:00)
  6. A Heart Rocks (3:28)
  7. Eastern Boardwalk (5:52)
  8. Order this CD Sign Of Horus (3:36)
  9. Marimba (Rain Dance) (2:58)

Released by: Narada
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 38:05

Ralf Illenberger – Circle

Ralf Illenberger - CircleIf you haven’t heard of this guy, you’re in a sadly deprived majority. Illenberger’s probably the best white jazz guitarist working today, and his style is truly unique. Whatever it is he does, it achieves wonderfully listenable results. His agility with a good riff salvages most of this album from ever being background music. And it’s still probably his best overall album to date. The album’s title track is a wonder of multi-tracked guitars which wander in a sort of musical circle, a theme which pops up throughout the album rating: 4 out of 4and is best exemplified in “Gemina”. “Blue Darkness” and “Ballad” are two other amazing pieces of music. Definitely one for my Damn Near Perfect Album List, and I strongly urge you to seek it out and get hooked on Ralf.

Order this CD

  1. Horizons I (5:15)
  2. Blue Darkness (4:56)
  3. Big Change (6:19)
  4. Jump (5:31)
  5. Gemina (4:28)
  6. Moonfood (3:21)
  7. Nightflight (6:25)
  8. Ballad (3:49)
  9. Horizons II (4:24)

Released by: Narada
Release date: 1988
Total running time: 44:45