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State of Grace III by Paul Schwartz

A very serene piece of work by an artist considered to be "one of the world’s leaders in creating eloquently-spiritual, modern-classical music that fully integrates elements of both pop and new age." This is the third installment of the State of Grace project, though the first I’ve heard. I must say that, although I’m not really a fan of most of this material, Schwartz does a remarkable job of showcasing his command and expertise in this environment. Being a very accomplished and learned artist, I guess one should come to expect such excellence from one so well-traveled in the world of creative musical sound.

As the promo states, the arrangements here are wide-ranging from modern, pulsing, rhythmic patterns to a piano-and-violin piece and from small acoustic ensembles to large orchestrations. What are his credentials, you ask? Well, he is the son of famed Broadway and film composer Arthur Schwartz, whose credits include "Dancing in the Dark" and "That’s Entertainment." His mother was an actress and dancer. Schwartz himself began taking piano lessons at age 4 and formal piano lessons at age 6. It shows.

This artist's musical journeys and feats are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that serving as the assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony under Andre Previn and serving as the conductor of the Rodgers and Hammerstein ballet musical "On Your Toes" at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center (which was followed by his conducting of the musical on Broadway, along with other subsequent musicals) certainly proves that, when listening to his creations, you are witnessing one of the world’s most polished musical geniuses.

Schwartz mentions that this could be construed as Christmas music. Perhaps, but it is definitely a new age gem. In fact, a couple of pieces remind me of the sweet sounds of the group, Secret Garden. The beautiful, ethereal strings are evident throughout and serve to both effectively sedate and caress the listener. It is a project that’s bent on grabbing you by your aural senses and sinking into your heart. It has the soft, fluffy makings of a dream.

The album proudly features the light, pure vocals of songstresses Lizbeth Scott and Rebecca Luker, who only do this album that much more justice. My favorites are the opener, "Christe Redemptor," "Center of My Heart," the absolutely spellbinding "Lux Aeterna," and ".... et lux perpetua." The last two pieces are taken from Schwartz’s previous State of Grace releases. I can clearly see why he would want to have followers revisit those.

This is not your head-bopping, foot-tapping smooth jazz or the deep, reflective essence of fusion or straight-ahead jazz, but what it is will certainly appeal to the side of you that occasionally seeks peaceful solitude, complete with music for peaceful thought.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Paul Schwartz
  • CD Title: State of Grace III
  • Genre: New Age
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Zakatak Music
  • Tracks: Christe Redemptor, Agnus Dei, Beams of Heaven, Center of My Heart, Lux Aeterna, lux perpetua, To You, Listen, Somnium, Salve Regina, Soledad Bonus tracks: Turning to Peace (from Grace II), Be Still My Soul (from Grace I)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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