When I started listening to contemporary jazz in the late 80s, the music I enjoyed most was that created by those who had something more to share than a five-minute pop-jazz composition. Since most of the music I get these days fits into what has become smooth jazz, I was ecstatic to receive two discs that reminded me of why I started listening to this music in the first place. Composer/keyboardist Ray Lyon has released a couple of recordings in the last few years – his latest is Beginning To See. It’s worth checking out. However, his Figures of the True really hypnotized me. It got my attention with the first song, “Valley of Vision” which has a hook that caught my ear while I was cooking dinner for my family. The kids also loved the music that I had playing – even my wife, Mrs. Adult Contemporary, wanted to know who it was. I started paying closer attention. The catchy opener was just an appetizer. With the following song, “The Yearning Sky,” Lyon gets to the main course. He’s got stories to tell and he tells them very well. He uses synthesizers to full effect, creating the right soundscape for each composition. It’s not all keyboards – the music is elevated further by a variety of artists on drums, bass, percussion, guitar, saxophone, and even his wife on french horn. Even though Lyon’s sound is different, his ability to tell tales without words reminds me of the best Metheny/Mays compositions.
Lyon’s inspiration comes from The Bible and each of these songs features a scripture that the track can be a soundtrack for. However, as he notes, if faith isn’t your cup of tea, “just put the CD in your stereo and enjoy the music. Sometimes, music is just…music! No explanations are necessary.”
Reading a passage while listening would certainly add something to the experience but I didn’t need any extra help to get into Figures of the True. Each of these pieces have their own rich, colorful sound. You can’t help but be pulled in.
On the Web: Ray Lyon | Balsam Pillow