R. Carlos Nakai,
(Canyon, 2003)

R. Carlos Nakai serves up a powerful tribute to nature's beauty in Sanctuary. The music moves throughout the wilds, painting picture after picture of its grand majesty. A versatile performer, he uses both the bass cedar flute and the standard flute on this CD.

You can hear the sun rise in "Alpine Dawn" with the rays of light touching the mountains. There is an ethereal quality to "Raven Dreams" as the music is echoed and fades almost into silence repeatedly through the piece. "Choke Cherry Season" is a song for a summer's evening, warm and gentle. The long drawn low notes of "Shining Mountains" convey the vastness of the mountains.

The layering of one flute over another in "Coyote Moon" causes the background layer to almost sound like a coyote howling at night. The tempo of "A Song for Mrs. Bear" reminds me of the sometimes lumbering pace of the black bear - when the powerful animal is a nice, safe distance away. "Munk, Munk" has all the warmth of a lazy summer afternoon. You are shown a mist-covered field in "Elk Meadow" and at the edges you can almost see the elk.

The music in "Swallows, Nighthawks, Hummingbirds" soars and glides high above in the skies. You are then taken on a canoe trip through a forest in "Afternoon in the Aspens." The trip picks up its pace in "Spring Creek Journey" as you race down the creek. The high piercing notes of "Cimarron Sunset" signal that the day and the CD are almost done.

There can be such beauty in music and nature. On Sanctuary R. Carlos Nakai uses one to portray the other.

by Paul de Bruijn
28 August 2004

This Grammy-nominated offering by Navajo-Ute artist R. Carlos Nakai makes the unlikely not only likely, but magical: a one-octave flute creating an ambience usually heard only in classical music pieces.

In the hands of Carlos Nakai, it's no surprise at all. Elegant, nuanced and compelling, Nakai makes every haunting note in Sanctuary a complete statement that lets the listener know just how much he enjoys performing the flute.

Comprised entirely of flute music, free of any technical gimmicks and divided between two flutes -- the bass cedar flutes and the standard flute -- these traditional (in the sense that they capture and re-create the aesthetic qualities of natural surroundings) Navajo songs weave a hypnotic melody that lifts the spirit while simultaneously re-creating a familiar world into something you've never seen -- or heard -- before. Nakai connects to nature and its place within his culture as though it was a second language to him, and he brings the listener into that sacred sphere as easily as breathing.

Nakai almost palpably draws energy from the earth itself and, with every nuance of deceptively simple notes, pulls in the listener. It's a journey as much as anything, a wordless emotional drama that encompasses joy, sadness, discovery, and renewal.

Nakai is every bit the equal of any well-know classical musician. I have never heard an equal to his exemplary, inspired flute. Sanctuary is an enjoyable listen that will carry you away.

by Mary Harvey
14 April 2007

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