Lee Boice,
Sacred Spaces
(self-produced, 2000)

Sacred Spaces, a solo project by New York City-based Lee Boice, starts off with an Indian raga-inspired chant and sitar piece titled "New Dawn." I was scared that I was going to be listening to a CD comprised of Hindi improvisational melodies. Fortunately, this CD -- which is actually pretty good by the way -- moves on to some more palatable styles of music. Hindi music can be enjoyed in certain places at certain times, such as at an Indian restaurant, but I am not one who would want to listen to a full CD of it while driving. Sacred Spaces has made it in to my car's musical rotation.

Boice has experience playing guitar, dobro (basically, a louder guitar), sitar (a stringed instrument from India that most would recognize by its sound) and keyboards. According to the promotional materials, he is a member of the band Indofunk, which blends funk and modern jazz with Indian raga forms. He is also a guitarist for Chucka Riddim, a rock/reggae artist from New York. As if this didn't keep him busy enough, Boice is also the guitarist for Mark River's River Kat Band, also out of New York. Where did he find the time to produce a solo CD?

The best selection on Sacred Spaces is "Jugalbandi of Jazz." This tune starts off with a simple percussive beat with a light Indian melody that slowly fades out right before a jazz/funk sound takes over. Boice's experience on the synth guitar is highlighted. Another piece that grabs my attention is "Ceremony," which has some light vocals and a persistent percussive beat that I consider to be quite an engaging little hook. The atmosphere of the CD as a whole is sort of tranquil and contemplative. You are more likely to sway to the rhythms instead of wanting to dance.

While this CD was a "solo project" for Lee, he was joined by a few other musicians. Ustad Sultan Khan sings (the vocals take a back seat to the instruments) and plays the sarangi, a classical Indian string instrument played with a bow. Badal Roy provides percussion on the tabla -- another Indian instrument. Steve James plays the violin as well as the sarod, an instrument of Indian and Persian descent which might be loosely likened to a 4-string guitar. Finally, Bill Buchen provides percussion on the tabla.

It is possible that many listeners would enjoy Sacred Spaces from the first note. For many, though, it might take a couple of listens before the talent involved in melding all these musical styles into a coherent amalgamation of sounds is apparent. Boice definitely knows what he is doing when it comes to blending music from around the world. My only complaint is that "New Dawn" should have been titled "Old Dusk" so it could have closed out Sacred Spaces instead of opening it in a misleading direction.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 2 February 2002

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