INTERVIEW with InterContinental Music Awards, March 30, 2023
REVIEWS FOR SHIMMER
Shimmer on top 10 of the year lists:
TOP 10 WORLD MUSIC ALBUMS OF 2022- Lloyd Barde/BackRoads Music
TOP 10 AMBIENT ALBUMS OF 2022, Paul Asbury Seaman/LowLight Mixes
This is a situation in which being the product of the environment is a miraculous thing. In this case it is a huge, metal water tank built for the railroad in Northwestern Colorado in the 1940’s. In 2013 The Tank was turned into a giant recording studio with some very amazing acoustics. The husband and wife team of Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy recently took advantage of those wondrous audio properties on their latest album Shimmer - Ambient Flute from The Tank. Teng is a well-known flautist and Levy is a gifted percussionist who combine their substantial talents on the recording of a dozen tunes that give wing to the ambient category and allow it to fly and flutter in a unique resonating atmosphere.
The initial journey to The Tank inspired the first song called Hanging Lake. The duo pay homage to the beauty of the geological wonder of Glenwood Canyon using flute and hang drum, a pleasing combination. There is something magical in the sound of polyphony. Music that floats out into the air only to return to its source in glorious echoes makes for a peaceful experience.
In the tune Harmonic Dance Teng coaxes her flute into producing living reverberations. Every note dances in the voluminous space and returns to her as if she held sway over their existence, a Goddess over sound. And she clearly does. Her bass flute is in tune with the planet and it is the voice of the earth of yesterday. And tomorrow.
Shimmer, the title track and a solo bamboo flute saunter, is an outstanding slice of sheer ambient bliss. Her joyous, sonic creations rise as if carried by their own transformations like embers from a fire. These embers carry their own light, their own energies, and we who are below are bathed in them when they turn into audible rain.
Catch Me If You Can is a union of hand pan and flute. The music is butterfly and flower, clouds and sunshine, water and stone. Each complementary, but then again each different. The song is playful, improvisational, and expansive. The final note lingers for a very long time.
For me, one of the standout tracks on Shimmer is Calling the Raven. The raven is a creature of change. Of transformation. The music facilitates that change. On this tune Teng uses the humble ocarina while Levy strums a saz, a Turkish lute, that adds another mysterious voice to the piece. East does meet West. This song takes advantage of the echoing environment as the notes just seems to resonate forever. It becomes a immersion of sound.
Sounding the Bell is a tune that rings true. It ring pure and long like a continuous wave. Think of a ripple in a pond. I don’t know if it is a Tibetan bowl, a real bell, or just the unseen music of the spheres, but it softly vibrates all the way to your spirit. Suzanne’s gentle flute sings a sacred song as if it were a prayer. This is another favorite and I replayed it many times. It is completely calming.
The Crossing recounts a delicate Native American flute story that is heard from the deepest canyon on this earth. The notes are carried skyward by the endless updrafts and into the heavens. One can imagine shadowy figures walking across the desert in the night. Their only guide is the light of the stars above.
The final tune is called Una. Like sound waves made of cold heat, Suzanne’s bass flute produces a mirage in the mind. The cold heat song produces shapes and colors, light and darkness, joy and a sorrow. Each on their own wave and all of them comingling within the tune. A suitable conclusion to the album. Additional tracks include And the Crickets Sing, Mother and Child, Golden Temple, and Farewell Miranda.
I enjoyed every song on the recording. Listening to Shimmer made me feel like I was in a separate dimension where I was in the middle of some vast, yet pleasant blackness and I was surrounded by sound. It touched me. It filled me. It kept me buoyant as if I had no physical body. Every song created its own sonic environment. I urge caution if you listen to this music in the dark. You will be affected. Excellent album.
- R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews
Shimmer: Ambient Flute from the Tank is a beautiful, instrumental album recorded in a seven-story former water tank with acoustic reverberation of up to 40 seconds. These original compositions feature low flutes, bamboo flutes, ocarina, Mayan flute and Native American flute, as well as hand pan drums, Turkish lute, and more. A rich, ambient soundscape ideal for fostering meditation, creativity, or spiritual awakening, Shimmer: Ambient Flute from the Tank is a treasure to experience and highly recommended for both personal and public library collections.
Suzanne Teng is well-known in the new-age community for her expressive flute playing, often in a world music context. This is a live solo album recorded inside Ridgely, Colorado’s famous “Tank” (a huge, now abandoned, water tank that has attracted many musicians for its amazing reverb). This is an excellent meditation album, consistently slow and soothing, but never boring...great new-age flautist has added her voice with an improvised performance that stands among the best...Teng offers deliberateness and deep reflection ---Paul Asbury Seaman, LowLight Mixes
REVIEWS FOR WHISPER
Artisan Music Reviews/R J Lannan
Flutist Suzanne Teng and multi-instrumentalist Gilbert Levy have created a New Age and Contemporary music album entitled Whisper. Teng brings to bear her incredible composition and performance skills on multiple flutes while Levy adds his experience on a plethora of ethnic and World instruments to produce nine tracks of reverent, calming music. Sometimes you whisper to keep a secret. Sometimes a whisper is used so as not to disturb. And then there is the whisper that speaks directly to you, and hopefully, gets your attention. Let us do some deep listening.
Whisper, the title tune, wafts into your mind like a gentle vapor. You can feel it, but you can’t really touch it. Levy introduces an unusual instrument, the Saz, a Turkish lute. Teng’s mellifluous alto flute dances like a wraith made from notes of pale light. All the other instrumentation you hear is the physical augmentation. Soon you will know what the whispers mean.
If you are standing on the obverse side of the looking glass, you might hear the tune Watching Us from Other Worlds. It calls, it cajoles, it beckons you to step through and become immersed in an experience of the mind. The watchers want what you want. Your hope for quietude. Your want for succor. And your deep desire for peace. Your spirit travels on the notes of Teng’s ethereally fluid flute and Levy’s muted Novapan drum with the accompaniment of Jon Ossman’s Dilruba (a kind of bowed sitar from India).
The sense of Winter Prayer is a cold west wind, an azure sky, and Nature’s mural of painted rocks in the desert. Teng’s sinuous serenade is a plea for peace for all. A slow motion realm spins gently around you as you become the center. Waves of affirmative vibrations embrace you like a comforting cloak.
Genesis feature’s Levy’s delicate hand pan introduction to Teng’s earthy bamboo flute. The Beginning of All must have something quite exquisite if the music is any indication. The hand pan sets a pace, a tempo whereas the flute is like a dancing dragonfly, everywhere and anywhere.
She Dances with the Sea has a minimalist’s impression with harp, flute and synth, but there is no lack of musicality. It is a fog shrouded mystery of a woman standing on the shore. The scene only becomes evident when the clouds release the moon. Then the dance begins. A silvery being created from foam, salt, and water that sways with every wave and partners with the woman, creating a duo that lives in separate worlds, but they dance as one. Teng’s murmuring flute is like a drug, hypnotic, intoxicating, and literally, transcendental.
Teng’s flute character is definitely Native American in the tune White Buffalo. A wave of sound hangs in the distance, but close to your space is the flute song of the Sacred Buffalo wafting in the wind in the most respectful way. Revered for more than two thousand years, this omen, this harbinger, represents many thing in spirituality. Once you communicate with the Creator in a heartfelt manner, you may witness the White Buffalo, the sign of plenty and also a sign of change on the earth. If we saw the Sacred Buffalo today, would its coat still be pure white?
Other tracks are Sweet Jack, Brigitte on the Steps, and Gammapanna. The softest whisper speaks the loudest. Whisper is the voices of cultures, of lands, of people from everywhere. It is the ancients, it is the contemporaries, and it is posterity. Teng and Levy’s enthralling music reminds us to listen to the most important whisper of all. To quote Dee Waldeck, “Listen to the whisper(s) you hear from within, give your soul the voice to be heard.” Highly recommended.
-R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews
Midwest Book Review/James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Award-winning music artists Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy present Whisper, a beautiful, emotional, and instrumental album of original music crafted to soothe the mind and spirit. Light, exotic, and gently relaxing, Whisper is a mellifluous experience that can be savored on its own, or played to help one calm the mind while engaged in other tasks. Highly recommended.
ONE WORLD MUSIC/Steve Sheppard Music Reviews
Oct. 25, 2021
It’s strange how music brings back resonances of the past, thoughts of how things once were, and then it eventually releases and heals them, music is indeed the panacea to cure woes and change moods. I remembered whilst listening to this release, several moments that were incredibly tough times for me that flooded back, music on the album helped me let them all go, here is an album that was created through one, if not the toughest time for us all, the pandemic, and one can with ease feel and enjoy its soothing tones throughout, easing the cadence of the day.
Whisper by Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy is one of the finest works of an ambient structure to have come across my desk in a long, long while, listen to the opening piece, the proud title track Whisper, the gentle acoustic guitar of Levy enhances the sublime soothing flute of Teng, this is one of those tracks to simply stop what you’re doing, listen, and just be in the moment with.
Sweet Jack is our next port of call; the soft keyboard chords create a wonderfully serene musical back drop, whilst both artists once more manifest something so beautiful, that time ceases to exist when one listens to its beautiful refrains.
There is a wonderful piece on this album, one that flows like a rich vein of honey on a summer’s day, and this moment of beauty is called Birgitte on the Steps. The calming energy of this track reminds me of the good old days of Deuter’s rich tapestry of tone. There is a warm and meditative quality to this arrangement that simply cannot be denied.
The fascinating and deeply mysterious Watching Us From Other Worlds is up next, the hovering intensity here is sublime, the textures added by Levy on acoustic guitar here are clever and crafted, and add such a weight to a track that seems to drift across the horizon of the night sky, and thinking about that, this song would be perfect to have playing whilst gazing upward to the stars.
I have been longing to say this for a long while, but winter is coming, and it is, as I write this I can see the coat tails of October disappear into the distance, and the footfalls of November growing ever stronger. Winter Prayer is a delicate offering to the season of change and rest, and one that brings a warming performance to the heart and soul of the listener.
As we move ever onward we come across a composition entitled Genesis. The multi-instrumental nature of this piece was utterly transfixing; this may at first appear to be a piece with a minimalistic nature, but Teng’s flute creates a floating dimension of sound and tone, which coalesces with this creative backdrop of a musical narrative.
On She Dances With the Sea we have a track with such depth and emotion, Teng’s flute is masterful here, leading the dance across this ocean of instrumental music with such consummate ease, one could almost feel a slight Celtic motif here too.
Our penultimate track is one of my personal favourites and called White Buffalo; Buffalo alone is a very powerful animal totem, the White Buffalo doubly so. The spiritual energies of this track drifted across the plains to touch the very heart of the ancestors themselves, in a composition that is deeply felt, the harmonic convergence of tone here was stunning, on a track that you could leave on repeat for hours and not even notice that any time had passed at all.
The final offering from this brilliant album is called Gammapana and what a sublime way to finish the album. This release has taken me to realms of peace and tranquillity I hadn’t touched for years, and this final creation has such a vastness to its construction it would be easy to get lost within its beautiful mesmeric realms.
Whisper by Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy is a manifestation of utter class, here is an album that could fit into a multiple of genres and still come out top on each one. Whisper by Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy is an album that was born from the chaos of the pandemic, created to bring hope and calm, and the final result is a release of outstanding natural beauty, this is ambience at its very best.
REVIEW BY JANET MAWDESLEY FEBRUARY 14, 2020
Ethereal and etheric Autumn Monsoon from the husband and wife team of Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy, begins at the very basis of spiritual music with the haunting simplicity of the native American flute and gentle percussive elements combined to blend effortlessly with the etheric body, to help cleanse, sooth and uplift to a divine, spiritual plane.
This award-winning duo are no strangers to creating enchanting, uplifting and spiritual music, as this is their fifth and also highly acclaimed album, which transports immediately to a place of tranquillity and beauty.
Autumn Monsoon begins with the gentle sound of the flute and drums carefully combined, which is used to set the scene for the spiritual journey to be followed, that will leave a beautiful sense of peace and tranquillity in place of stress and turmoil.
Each of the pieces flows seamlessly into one another to achieve a complex layer of sound that simply seems to drift out of the ether, rather than have been created by human ability and instrumentation.
But how best to describe pure enchantment; Imagine if you will the seasonal change from the torrid, hot, endless days of summer to a time of astonishing natural beauty, a time when the earth begins to settle for the winter months. The leaves are changing, clad in the glorious riot of browns, reds, ambers and flashes of green which are beginning to fall, covering the ground in an endless carpet of beauty and colour.
Life is beginning to slow down, the last of the seasonal warmth enjoyed, long lazy evenings spent relaxing and reflecting. In the words of an English poet some many years ago, autumn is a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Such is the deep rich depth of Autumn Monsoon.
Autumn brings with it a sense of timelessness, a settling of the elements in preparation for a time to go within, to heal and rebuild, as does the mystical journey Autumn Monsoon created by Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy; a journey which will be enjoyed many, many times over for its peace, healing and spirituality. https://bluewolf-reviews.com/music/spiritual/autumn-monsoon/
Artisan Music Reviews
December 03, 2019 / R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews
I got on the Suzanne Teng bandwagon a little late, but I am so glad to be here now and loving the ride. Her expressive flute playing is medicine for the spirit. Then you add talented percussionist Gilbert Levy to the mix and you have Autumn Monsoon, a 10-track harmonious journey to a place unexpected. Teng on several different kinds of flutes and Levy on hang drum, tabla, and many more banging objects complement each other on a collection that is somewhat genre-defying, but could be labeled New Age, ethnic, Native American, and World, with some atmospheric crossover pieces.
Generally, we equate monsoons with the wind and rain and storms that originate in the Indian Ocean and travel northeast over much of Asia. This time however, we travel to America’s southwest, to Arizona and New Mexico and maybe across the border. It is sometimes referred to the Southwest Monsoon, but on this occasion, I’m sure it’s the Autumn Monsoon.
Subtle hang drum and flute deftly coordinate on the opening number Autumn Monsoon. The Native American flute in this piece is a benevolent wind, caressing the land. The percussion is the heartbeat of the earth. This song is much more delicate than I would have imagined, but then the planet is always in a fragile state of balance.
We find ourselves in the southern part of North America where desert meets jungle and life is very different. Suzanne and Gilbert’s song, Maya, reminds us of one of the most advanced and yet, mysterious societies to grace the planet. Farming, science, and mathematics were only a few of their talents. We measure time today by their concepts. We build from their knowledge of architecture; we feast from their ancient, bountiful table. The music is a bit dark and mysterious, with a pair of flutes that influence the tune with a hint of bliss.
The flute and drum keep a steady pace. The sky is azure blue. The desert is dry, the sun fierce. He cannot stop, for he is the Traveler. He has stories to tell. History to impart. Then on to the next village. Many Native Americans tribes used oral history to keep their records. Tales around the fire and stories to keep the long winter’s cold away. Coyote was often called the traveler. He is meaningful and relentless. This is his music.
A shake of rattles, a pounding of drum is heard. Dancing around an unseen fire, Teng’s flute voice rises like musical flames heavenward on the tune Canyon Ghosts. The gentle, undulating melody reminds us that there is great wisdom in the voices of our ancestors. We must heed their warnings.
The tune Journey of Life seems to sum up the entire theme of the album. The musical mystical excursion maybe have southwestern flavor, but the principles behind it are global. If we take care of this earth, then we can take care of its inhabitants. The lesson could not be any simpler. This is a rather complex tune with methodical drumming and an exquisite flute melody that is way past hypnotic. The background synths are resonant and melodious. Everything meshes perfectly on this one. It quickly became my favorite on the recording.
Suzanne Teng is a world-class flute player with more accolades than can be noted on a single page. She has done music for film, television, and multiple record labels. Gilbert Levy is a well-known percussionist that has contributed his talents to rock and jazz bands including Wynton and Branford Marsalis. He also plays a number of exotic stringed instruments on many of the cuts on the album. Teng & Levy are joined on Autumn Monsoon by their band members (Mystic Journey) Dann Torres on guitar and John Ossman on bass. The entire album is relaxing and peaceful. Teng’s flutes, more than a dozen of them for this offering, have an exotic air about them that fit just about any mood. I highly recommend this album.
– R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews
Zone Music Reporter, The Industry Source for New Age, World, Ambient...
November 25, 2019
Album Review by Dyan Garris for New Age CD and Zone Music Reporter
“‘Autumn Monsoon” is true medicine for the soul.’” – Dyan Garris
“Autumn Monsoon,” the newest release from multiple award-winning husband and wife team, Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy, features 10 tracks of ethereal, instrumental music created with Native American flutes and drums, percussion, and stringed instruments from around the world.
Here, we embark upon a mystical musical journey to India, through the American Southwest, West Africa, the Saharan desert, and even to the galaxy Andromeda, all the while honoring the distinct voice of the Native American flute, which is the centerpiece instrument on the album.
The music of their group, Mystical Journey (Suzanne Teng, Gilbert Levy, Dann Torres, and Jon Ossman), has been licensed for hundreds of film, television, commercial and video productions and was featured on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
On “Autumn Monsoon,” their 5th album, Teng and Levy are the primary songwriters and have released the album as a duet. The 10 tracks feature Teng on Native American flutes with Levy on an array of world strings, drums and percussion, the bass dulcimer, Turkish lute (saz), Inuk (hybrid guitar), and the melodic metal drums, Hang and Rav. Teng also adds performances on the alto and bass flutes, Indian harp (Swaramandala) and voice. Fellow Mystic Journey members Dann Torres and Jon Ossman contribute masterful performances on the guitar and dilruba (the East Indian fiddle, which is a cross between the sitar and sarangi).
The mystical, exotic, chill-groove album opens with the ethereal title track, “Autumn Monsoon.” This is a haunting, hypnotic, flute melody embraced by drums and world percussion, and perfectly lays the foundation for all that comes next. Immediately following is the sinuous, snaky, and sensuous, “Indian Sisters.” One can feel the gentle power of the “Divine Feminine” principle winding throughout and rising. Beautifully done.
The mysterious and exotic “Maya” is a favorite with its layered flutes, strings, synths, and world percussion beat. This is very relaxing, peaceful, and reverent. Ditto for “Traveler.” This is masterfully done, with perfect mix and production. “Blue Ngoni” has an engaging flute melody and an African beat. One gets transported to an ancient time quite easily here.
“Canyon Ghosts” is quite ethereal and haunting. This is another favorite. Great beat and percussion accompany Suzanne’s seemingly effortless flutes. I found this so relaxing as to be trance inducing. Again, we have the superior mix and production that are a hallmark of this album.
The gorgeous, “Sueños” (which means “dreams”), is aptly named. Here we can completely chill out with this day-dreamy and calming song. It’s total serenity. Next, we are most gracefully transported to “Andromeda.” Ethereal and atmospheric, one can feel themselves breathe freely again. What an amazingly relaxing song. And the flute here is extra exquisite. Perfect.
The “Journey of Life” is multi-layered and complex. We can literally feel ourselves traveling on the path of life, and beyond, actually. Again, the instrumentation is beautiful, as throughout.
The album closes out with “Prayer for Claire.” Etheric, heart-touching strings, along with extremely ethereal flute, bring us to a place of reverence and respect. Simply stunning. Perfect ending
This album is not just “another Native American flute album.” It’s “wow.” And it’s true medicine for the soul.
One World Music Radio
November 06, 2019 / Steve Sheppard
Autumn Monsoon By Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy
Written by Steve Sheppard
I had listened to this album intently and was certain I had heard this style of flute performed on another album, until I slapped my head with my hand, with the realisation that this was some 2 years plus ago, and under the name of Mystic Journey, Teng and Levy’s skill set brought me a fantastic album called Kingdom of Mountains back then, and now were off on a new voyage entitled Autumn Monsoon.
This musical partnership have graced us with their music over the years on film, TV and various other commercial projects. I must admit to be a bit of a fan of their work as it sets a beautiful place of calm for us eager listeners to listen from, we therefore start this voyage with the opener and title track Autumn Monsoon. Teng’s flute here is majestic in creating an autumnal feel to the composition, whilst the crafted percussion manifests a wonderful base from with which we can all explore this graphic musical narrative.
The longest piece off the release is up next and called Indian Sisters, the scene is immediately set with simplicity, and we could with ease, be on the hills sides gazing down upon the valleys of a textured Indian countryside. Levy’s multi instrumental nature not only in this track, but in the entire album will bring us a fine array of plucked and percussive moments of genius. I would dare to say that this is a particular favourite of mine, but on an album of near on perfection that’s difficult, but the mood and graphic nature of this offering is utterly sublime.
It has been said that this pairing create music that will lift the listener to a place of beauty, that can be further emphasized by this following offering called Maya. The gentle nature of this track is soothing and most healing; there is also an underpinned and very lush sense of a Celtic refrain here that is equally charming.
The opening to this piece, Traveler, was superb; guitars lay down a bed of music that is almost like walking the boundaries of the wastelands in some middle Earth betwixt and between what we know as reality. Teng’s flute then brings an almost native energy to the proceedings as we seem to be moving further onward down a dusty track, where remnants of a forgotten past lay discarded as the world has moved on, this is a fine cinematic performance by both artists, and with ease my personal favourite off the album.
On Blue Ngoni we have an intriguing piece; one that offers up something truly fascinating to listen to, with the symbiotic partnership of percussion and flute, there’s a beautiful depth to this piece that I also found attractive as well, the sounds of the Ngoni were so fluent within this charming musical narrative.
Canyon Ghosts is one of those tracks that is simply magnificent in every way, the tones and wonderful instrumentation draw such evocative images of a spiritual location when the ancients reside, but can only been seen by those with a pure heart and intentions. The flute of Teng here is masterful, she creates such a mood filled landscape, and this sonic soundtrack is added to by the patient and timely percussion of Levy; note the textured layered backdrop here as well.
A truly meditative offering can be found on this next composition called Sueños. One could with ease slip into the other realms whilst listening to this transfixing offering. Levy’s musical talents bring us work on many instruments, so I hope I am right to applaud the work of the dulcimer here, one that at times reminded me of the work of the legendary new age artist Deuter.
As we move deeper into the dark waters of this album we come across a truly galactic track entitled Andromeda. Yes, another favourite of mine, I stated early there would be many. The soulfulness with which Teng’s performance is blessed with here is huge, and the outcome of this splendid arrangement is one that brings us something musically so vast, we could roam within its tones for eons.
We arrive at the penultimate offering off the album, it is called Journey of Life. All life is a circle, and everything the power of the world does is done in a circle, this I do believe. This is a beautiful composition, I mentioned the soul of Teng’s performance earlier, well this is the very track where you will not only see, but feel it present its stunning achievement. A mystical offering can be found here, one that is so deeply powerful and also very moving, a track that shows the sheer class of both artists at their very best.
We have now arrived at the very last portal of the album and we are given one last musical gift from this symbiotic musical partnership, which is called Prayer for Claire. A moment of reflection is before us, a moment of thought and a time to reflect on another, this was a nice touch at the end of a beautiful album, musical honour and respect, and of course love.
Autumn Monsoon is one of those albums you just can’t wait to get your hands on, perfect in all ways, brilliantly performed and craft fully produced. Teng and Levy have done it again, there intelligent and sparkling musical presentations have once more gifted to us listeners one of the finest contemporary instrumental albums of the year, and the fans and listeners of true quality music, should be queuing around the block to get hold of this one.
The Flute View
December 03, 2019 / Viviana Guzman
Autumn Monsoon is the new album from Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy. Autumn Monsoon features 10 tracks of ethereal and evocative instrumental music played on Native American flutes and drums, percussion, and stringed instruments from around the world. The album was conceived as a musical journey across the world and beyond--way beyond, including India, the American Southwest, West Africa, and the Saharan desert, The "way beyond" is from "Andromeda" about a journey to that galaxy. The Native American flute in its various permutations lends itself to dreamlike contemplation, and the duo take full advantage with Teng's soulful playing, combined with various other flutes like the bass and alto, and other diverse instruments like the frame drum and even a hammer dulcimer.
Suzanne Teng’s mellifluous flute sounds, warm the heart, and soothe the soul. Gilbert Levy provides a euphonious backdrop. The Teng Levy Duo make harmonious music that deeply nourishes, the sonic embodiment of serenity.
The album is perfect for for meditation or shamanic journeying. If you listen closely you can, indeed, take the journey that is promised to a familiar or foreign land, though you're left, appropriately, without the touchstone of a cultural instrument when you're venturing to Andromeda, as that track features a haunting flute and an inter-galactic backdrop.
Autumn Monsoon is a good way to get some dust on your mental traveling shoes, including some interstellar star dust.
The JW Vibe - Music That Sticks to My Soul
November 07, 2019 / Jonathan Widran
Two intriguing questions occur to me when listening Autumn Monsoon, an intricate, hypnotic-exotic, soul-transportive collection showcasing the lush melodies, globally expansive rhythmic flow and stunning aural tapestries of New Mexico based husband and wife Suzanne Teng (flutes) and Gilbert Levy (world drums, percussion).
The first pertains to discography. Teng released a flurry of releases in her first ten years as a recording artist, but her last work before this latest epic was Enchanted Wind in 2006. Logic tells me that it’s because of her frenetic work schedule that incorporates work on hundreds of other albums, video games, film and TV soundtracks and commercials, as well as her life as an educator who has sat on the Music Education panels for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Yet more whimsically, I visualize Teng trekking gleefully yet methodically around the world, stopping just long enough in each place to accumulate an arsenal of flutes that include the Chinese dizi, bawu and hulusi, Turkish ney and zurna, Indonesian suling, panpipes, penny whistles, Native American flutes, ocarinas, the West African fulani, Egyptian reed mijwiz and Bulgarian dvoyanka. Ditto Levy, who stirs the percussive global fusion magic via African and Middle Eastern hand percussion, the metal melodic Hang and Rav drums and stringed instruments like the Turkish saz, African ngoni, bass dulcimer and hybrid guitar Inuk.
The other query that comes to mind concerns the provocative title Autumn Monsoon. It’s a provocative yet lyrical musical journey throughout the globe, full of rhythm and movement, but also deeply relaxing and spiritual. So just how does the concept of “monsoon” connect with those transcendent, peace-promoting elements?
Then the thought comes – it’s a heavy storm of sounds, a maelstrom of passionate soundscapes, but one that sweeps in and cleanses the soul, giving birth to fresh “Suenos,” or dreams, as we meet, among others, some mystical “Indian Sisters,” those whose souls reflect the brightness and enduring genius of the “Maya” people, and others who identify as “Traveler” on this road to better understanding our place in the universe and the commonality between cultures.
To that point, as they venture to India, the American Southwest, West Africa, the Sahara desert and even to another galaxy, Teng and Levy challenge us to identify just where each track is rooted spiritually and geographically. Along the way, they – and by extension, we – encounter the deep haunting echoes of “Canyon Ghosts,” explore the subtle seductive mysteries of the “Blue Ngoni” and breathily imagine soar beyond the confines of earth to the Andromeda Galaxy – which for the uninitiated is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light years from Earth. Its name stems from the area of the Earth’s sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda.
Closer to home, the duo creates a sparse overall reflection on the “Journey of Life” and the mystery we are caught up in, and sends a beautiful parting “Prayer for Claire,” which wraps the set with heartfelt grandeur.
Contemporary Fusion Reviews
October 22, 2019 / Dick Metcalf, editor
Uplifting serene musical adventure Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy – AUTUMN MONSOON: I have to tell you that this is my first listen to Suzanne and Gilbert’s wonderfully uplifting and serene musical adventure; it certainly will NOT be the last (in fact, I’ll be hitting the promoter up for any and all albums they have done). As always, the very best way to get a sense of where their creativity led them is to watch them in action in this trailer video of the title track for the album, “Autumn Monsoon“:
…you’ll find many more exciting videos/performances when you SUBSCRIBE to the Suzanne Teng & Mystic Journey YouTube channel – I did it IMMEDIATELY, and you should too.
Suzanne performs on an assortment of Native American flutes, with Gilbert on an array of world percussion and drums, the bass dulcimer, Turkish lute (saz), Inuk (hybrid guitar) and the melodic metal drums Hang and Rav. Teng also adds performances on the alto and bass flutes, Indian harp (Swaramandala) and voice. Fellow Mystic Journey members Dann Torres and Jon Ossman contribute glorious performances on the guitar and dilruba, the East Indian fiddle… one of the most enlightened pieces I have ever heard (and that’s SAYING something, because I have listened to 1000’s) is the 5:46 “Sueños” (it means dreams)…Suzanne’s flute is (quite simply) haunting on the introduction, with swirls of strings in, around and through her notes… I just LOVED this tune… I predict it will be getting MAJOR airplay on stations (of all sorts) around the globe!
One of the shorter pieces on this fantastic release, “Traveler“, has some excellent percussion woven underneath Suzanne’s crystal-clear flute, and will hold you captivated for the entire 4:25… the pacing is exquisite on this very engaging composition.
It was the sustained flute passages on the introduction to the longest piece on the album, “Journey of Life“, that made it my personal favorite of the ten songs offered up for your acoustic adventure… as the percussion and strings of all sorts blend together with Suzanne’s flute, you will be transported to higher planes than you’ve ever reached before!
I give Suzanne, Gilbert and their players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this most memorable (and collectible) album. Get more information on the Mystic Journey page.
- Rotcod Zzaj
“This album is spellbinding, dramatic in a quiet way..." (Autumn Monsoon)” - Matthew Finch
“Stunningly Beautiful" (Autumn Monsoon)” - Sherry Finzer
— Higher Level Media
October 07, 2018 / RJ Lannan
Ready to Travel
I was strategically positioned to listen to and enjoy Mystic Journey’slatest album Kingdom of Mountains. It was a soft, misty, rainy day. I was looking out my window at the mountain in the distance. It was kismet.
I have known about Mystic Journey’s founder, world class flautist Suzanne Teng for some time, but I have never reviewed her or her music until now and I am delighted with the album Kingdom of Mountains. I remember a series of radio shows called “Theater of the Mind” back in the forties (I’m not that old and this has nothing to do with Ludacris) and this gently flowing music is similar in which it creates sonic landscapes and aural experiences that fill the mind with wonder. The ten tracks of New Age/World music have a homologous theme of secret and distance places. Teng is accompanied on her globetrotting endeavor with the talents of percussionist Gilbert Levy (co-producer, engineer, and chief bottle washer), guitarist Dann Torres, and multi-instrumentalist Jon Ossman. Bear in mind that not all kingdoms are surrounded by stone walls or perched on high mountains. Some are in places you’d never expect.Let us begin our journey.
The album opens with the track Subhadra. This enthralling tune is dedicated to the sister of Krishna. Subhadra is beautiful and brave and represents the finer characteristics of femininity. She is kidnapped by the brother of Krishna, but marries him with love in her heart in the end. Listening to this ethereal music I could imagine the moon hiding behind clouds, but there is pale light from a candle burning. The music is intoxicating as it is unhurried. Loving is inevitable.
Kingdom of Mountains, the title tune, is a unique piece in that it contains a myriad of ethnic influences. I envisioned myself in the Great Smokey Mountains, or maybe the Caucasus Mountains somewhere in Turkey or even on a lonely peak on Mt. Tai in the Shandong province of China. The flavors of this song produced by Teng’s Native American flute was mesmerizing, and hauntingly so.
In the middle of western Mali you travel up the Niger River and there lies the capital city of Bamako. You can grab a taxi van and head over the bridge. The city has some unique architecture that you can view all day long, but the nights, ah, that’s another thing altogether.Midnight in Bamako is a musical walk through quiet streets, many lit only by starlight. Stop at the café and have a tall glass of red hibiscus dabileni. Teng’s flute music strolls around the warm, sultry night. It is like a lover turning corners, sneaking down alleyways, and making his or her rendezvous as a sliver of a moon smiles down.
There’s a secret place where the four winds play high up on the mountain. The snow is deeperthan a man is tall and the cold is fearsome on the Sierra Nevada. Such is the setting for the tune
Viento. Mystic Journey’s tune is uplifting and rhythmic with Levy’s exotic hang drumpercussion balanced with Teng’s ascending furtive alto flute.
On the one hand, I Dream of a Castle has a jazzy tone, a cool, understated vibe, but very solid. On the other hand, however, what a melancholy cry the bamboo flute has in this one. This must be a castle made of dreams and memories. This was one of my many favorites on the album for its paradoxical mood. Thoughts of the castle might be sad, but being there is the most satisfyingfeeling. Teng’s flute soars high above the castle.
I liked all ten tracks for their mood altering powers. One only has to listen to be transported to places our hearts yearn for. The musicians play as if they are one, each an important element that complements the other. Noteworthy is that Gilbert Levy, the percussionist is co-writer on all the tracks along with Suzanne. Teng’s musical skills are outstanding as she transmutes emotion, color, and an awe-inspiring sense of place into the notes. Highly recommended and trust me, search for their others albums as well.