"African Skies" is the electric sophomore release from jazz piano prodigy Joel Holmes. Mr. Holmes has been lighting up the Eastern United States for years and has recently been touring the world with Grammy-nominee Nnenna Freelon. Somewhere in between touring and earning his jazz performance degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at John Hopkins, Mr. Holmes managed to create ten of the most inspirational songs you are likely to hear this year.
The album opens with the dynamic title track. The hot Latin rhythms are distinct and the saxophone interpretations of the world-renowned Gary Thomas is breath taking. The interplay between Cuban percussion phenomenon Melena and Mr. Thomas is as rich as it is haunting. Likewise, Mr. Holmes's piano solo is riveting. He takes the original melodic theme and takes the listener on a roller coaster ride as the passion of this band explodes. This is an unforgettable song.
Jetting to another continent entirely, Mr. Holmes makes expert use of the Emerald East String Quartet on "Chinese Fishing Song". The confident string play in this song in particular is refreshing and beautifully compliments Mr. Holmes's mature-beyond-his-years piano work. The refreshing string textures continue in "Fatima" but Gary Thomas steals the show with expressive, thoughtful flute solos throughout. The arrangement and dynamic tempos on "Fatima" shows striking maturity from a young composer only 25 years of age.
Joel Holmes is the right artist that has created the right album at the right time. "African Skies" is a plush adventure of styles, genres and cultures. From the African continent to Cuba to the Far East...from contemporary jazz to fusion to R&B Joel Holmes takes his listeners on a global sonic journey that is not to be missed.