Insider Gossip
  Monthly Hot Picks
  Book Reviews
  CD Reviews
  Concert Reviews
  DVD Reviews
  Game Reviews
  Movie Reviews
  The Home of WAXEN WARES Candles!
  Check Out Anne Carlini Productions Now!!
  NEW! Crystal Gayle
  MTU Hypnosis
  NEW! Ellen Foley
  Elise Krentzel (Author, Under My Skin)
  Nicolas Cage [The Unbearable Weight ...]
  Sony Legacy Record Store Day [November 2022]
  Michigan Siding Company for ALL Your Outdoor Needs


Title - Convergence
Artist - Lunar Octet

For those unaware, a decades-long institution in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and also the nearby Metro Detroit area, the Lunar Octet is back with a potent collection of originals inspired by such wide-ranging influences as mambo, samba, funk, Afrobeat and jazz on Convergence (releasing June 18th, 2021 via Summit Records).

The title itself suggests a confluence of rhythms and styles, and that is precisely what this band of multi-directional musicians has been doing since meeting 36 years ago in Ann Arbor and subsequently recording their 1994 debut, Highway Fun for Schoolkids Records.

Reuniting in the studio 25 years later, the members of the Lunar Octet documented their collective growth while remaining committed to their original mission on Convergence.

1. Norms Nambo
2. Toote Sweet
3. Oye
4. Subway Tension
5. Mambossa
6. Flugel Tune
7. Dancin in the Doghouse
8. Elephants
9. Samba Diabolico
10. Cruisin
11. Heart of Congatar
12. Until I Find the Words
13. Olduvai Gorge
14. Samba Over Easy

This vibrantly colorful and wholesomely welcoming new album opens on the upright bass-led Norms Nambo and the adamantly trumpet-led Toote Sweet and then we get the rhythmic Latin percussion passion of Oye and then come the free flowing hipsway of Subway Tension and the flavorful mambo-bossa nova crossover Mambossa.

Next up is a track as far removed from its definition of being either a harpsichord or a grand piano, the metrical Flugel Tune which is itself backed by the soulful, early 70s Stax Records-imbibed Dancin in the Doghouse, the glitteringly precise piano work of Elephants and then we get the trumpet-led, structured diligence of interpretation within the magnificent Samba Diabolico.

A couple of my own personal favorites here are the groovy Cruisin and the maracas-infused back beat of Heart of Congatar, which are followed by the resonating, and atmospherically wondrous, cultured woodwind appeal of Until I Find the Words and the gorgeous, and sentimentally crafted Olduvai Gorge (actually named after one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world, found in Tanzania).

Closing on the reworked rhythms normally associated with the musical style, but now wholly, and uncharacteristically having had its rhythmic patterns under emphasized, its relatively simple harmonies formed anew, the quite breathtakingly sculptured Samba Over Easy is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the definitive stand out tracks on this quite fantastically crisp and fresh new album.

Originally formed in 1984 as the Afrobeat flavored Lunar Glee Club, the group morphed into the Lunar Octet in the 90s and began taking on the influences of samba and jazz through the compositions and arranging of alto saxophonist and principal composer Steve Hiltner.

The New York City-born Kaufman absorbed music in the Big Apple (represented by his tune Subway Tension) before his family moved to Puerto Rico.

Through his mentor Norman Shobey (Arons tune Norms Nambo is dedicated to Norm), Kaufman began studying conga and later widened his repertoire with a year abroad in Israel, where he soaked up Middle Eastern music and began playing the darbuka drum.

Other founding members of the band include drummer Jon Krosnick (who also anchors the West Coast-based fusion band Charged Particles), tenor saxophonist Paul VornHagen (who also leads the Cuban jazz combo Tumbao Bravo), trumpeter Brandon Cooper (an in-demand freelancer in the Metro Detroit area) and guitarist Sam Clark. Rounding out the Lunar Octet are young piano sensation Keaton Royer, bassist Jeff Dalton, and percussionist Olman Piedra.

Regarding the groups long hiatus and recent return with Convergence, Krosnick said, The early 90s was the peak time for the band, when we were on national radio broadcasts and playing at major festivals. But then band members moved away.

I took a job teaching at Ohio State, Steve Hiltner moved to North Carolina, others moved elsewhere. So we lost momentum. But we rediscovered ourselves five years ago and said, Hey, this music is cool, let us keep doing this.

That reunion came in 2014 with a performance at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. And regular performances have followed ever since. Its been fun to come back with live shows, Krosnick continues. And now with the release of Convergence, we are feeling like we can create some buzz about the band and do some touring.

Lunar Octet:
Steve Hiltner, Saxophones
Paul Vornhagen, Saxophones, Flute
Brandon Cooper, Trumpet
Sam Clark, Guitar
Keaton Royer, Keyboards
Jeff Dalton, Bass
Aron Kaufman, Congas, Percussion
Olman Piedra, Timbales, Percussion
Jon Krosnick, Drums

Official CD Purchase Link

Lunar Octet @ Facebook

Luna Octet @ Twitter