Sigh! I've striven for over 30 years to reconcile myself to Steve Halpern's work, but I'm afraid, given this latest from the prolific (50+ albums) and successful keyboardist, it's a rum go at best. Strikingly, the young Halpern had been studying with Ron Carter, Archie Shepp, and Joe Ford while also looking academically into music as healing agent and, when an invite to the Montreaux Jazz Fest fell through in 1970, he took that as a sign to pursue what has made him one of the New Age movement's more notable figures.
Halpern's electric piano opuses are designed as 'anti-frantic alternatives' for de-stressing and relaxation, but all they make me want to do is get up and put on jazz instead. When I want to relax, I'll do so through Steve Roach, Loren Norell, Vidna Obmana, and cats like that who seize my brainworks and put me to sleep while engaging the farther shores of imagination. Halpern's music is atmospheric, tropical, and sedately utopian, highly reminiscent of the paintings of Gilbert Williams, but too thin. I found the same with his old confrere Georgia Kelly and occasionally Daniel Kobialka, myself tending to dive into contemporaries Michael Stearns and others instead.
Not much has changed over the years, and though I agree that his work is indeed destimulative, I've also found Steve can go a bit far when proselytizing his philosophies. Like fellow healer John Diamond—who used to bug the pisswater out of me when I was interning in holistic medicine in the 80s—he's much mistaken when deriding metal and other musics, but whereas Diamond's just airing conservative prejudices, Halpern's actually artistically doing something about what he sees as problematic. Deep Theta 2.0 is one long suite with arbitrarily demarcated movements and features three guests: Jorge Alfano, Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin, and one of the seminal New Age progenitors: Shawkie Roth. It's designed for the kind of people you see going to palm readers, astrologers, and New Age conventions, but…the rest of us? Well, let's just say I don't eat Cream of Wheat for breakfast any more either.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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