MYSTIC JOURNEY
Kingdom Of Mountains
(Weishu Music)

 

New Age music is still a valid sonic solution in the post 9-11 world of America. Global warming and endless violence in our culture and country has left people with hypertension and chronic despair. One answer is musical therapy and one album that fits the bill to a tee is Kingdom Of Mountains by the musical group called Mystic Journey. The ten track CD is filled with titles with names like “Delicate Rainbow Flower”, “I Dream Of A Castle” and “Lebanese Girl”, but idealistic thoughts aside, Mystic Journey creates music that will improve your soul and change your life for the better. Players taking part on the Kingdom Of Mountains album include Suzanne Teng (world flutes), Gilbert Levy (world strings, percussion), Dann Torres (guitar, oud) and Jon Ossman (bass, dilruba). Mystic Journey gives life to instrumental World Music that is both ethereal and exotic, as well as soulful and healing. In his album liner notes, no less a musical authority than John Densmore (founding member and drummer of rock legends The Doors) has said that after listening to Mystic Journey, “your inner inner windshield wipers will have washed off what you don’t need”. If you’re down from the troubles of the world or in actual physical pain brought about by the stress of 21st century living, take a good listen to Mystic Journey's Kingdom Of Heaven and take your heart and soul on a most illuminating ride through inner space. www.mysticjourney.net

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy
of Mystic Journey


mwe3: Can you tell the readers how long Mystic Journey has been performing and recording together, who are the band founders and who is in the band now? Mystic Journey has a great sonic chemistry on the new Kingdom Of Mountains CD. Where is the band from originally and how did you meet? Sounds like sonic destiny brought you together.

Suzanne Teng: Mystic Journey started as a hippie band in the early 1990’s. I was living in the Bohemian mountain town of Topanga in the Los Angeles hills and we called ourselves Topanga. Over the years, the band evolved into Mystic Journey and in 1998 when I met Gilbert, the band solidified and we recorded our first album, which was titled Mystic Journey. There have been many different band members and guest artists over the years but for our second CD Miles Beyond, our band mates were Fritz Heede on strings and Barry Newton on string bass.

Gilbert Levy: About ten years ago, Dann Torres and Jon Ossman became the “significant others” of Mystic Journey.

Suzanne is from Berkeley, California originally. I’m from New Orleans and we met in Los Angeles where we both spent several decades living. Jon is from New York and Dann is a L.A. local. We met them in L.A. and definitely have a great sonic chemistry.

Suzanne: They are our brothers and we love them dearly. We have such a great time when we’re together, which isn’t nearly often enough, especially now that we live in different states, and we love playing music together.

Gilbert: We are so lucky to have them in our lives. Their sense of humor and their solid character and beautiful musicianship are priceless.

mwe3: How did Kingdom Of Mountains come together and when was the music written recorded? How many albums has Mystic Journey released and is the Mystic Journey sound an extension of Suzanne’s solo albums? How many albums does Suzanne have as a solo artist?

Suzanne Teng / Gilbert Levy: We started recording tracks not long after we released our third album Enchanted Wind. That was years ago, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that the pieces started to really flow and we felt we had the album.

Mystic Journey was our debut album. Miles Beyond represented our band sound. Enchanted Wind is primarily a solo flute album of flute meditations. Kingdom Of Mountains is our fourth album and is definitely an extension of Suzanne’s flute sound enhanced by a broader sonic landscape and attention to contemporary production concepts.

mwe3: Was the Kingdom Of Mountains album inspired by your moving to Santa Fe and how would you compare Santa Fe to where you were living in California? Is there a different musical mindset between recording in Santa Fe compared with California?

Suzanne Teng / Gilbert Levy: We moved from Los Angeles to Santa Fe to have a more peaceful life and raise our son Miles, who had an almost mystical connection to this town. The song and album title Kingdom Of Mountains comes from an early description of Santa Fe he put to paper shortly after we moved here. It has stuck with us.

It is really beautiful here and we have a great home and studio. It’s quiet and our closest neighbors are far enough that we don’t hear them. In our last home, we had to work around slamming car doors, dogs barking, dryers… yes, our neighbor had her dryer outdoors, and an unending stream of airplanes.

The one thing we miss the most though, is having so many incredible musicians that we knew and played with, close by.

mwe3: Suzanne’s flute sound is central to the Mystic Journey sound. Can Suzanne tell the readers how many flutes she has and which ones are featured on the new Mystic Journey album? What is involved with Suzanne being an endorsed artist for Yamaha and AKG? What other instruments does Suzanne play and on what instrument does she write her music?

Suzanne Teng: I have several hundred flutes in my collection but many of them are the same type of flute, just different keys. On Kingdom Of Mountains, I play mostly alto and bass flutes, which I feel are my primary voices. I also play the dizi (Chinese bamboo flute), hulusi (Chinese gourd instrument), bass Native American flute and bamboo flute.

I perform and record on my Yamaha alto and bass flutes. I teach clinics around the country and represent Yamaha on these low flutes, also called Harmony Flutes. I used to perform a lot with a wireless AKG mic but now mostly play into a stationary mic.

I play the Turkish ney and zurna, Indonesian suling which is a lovely bamboo flute that I have custom made in Bali. I import and sell them to others since I so love this flute. Other flutes include Native American flutes, ocarina, Egyptian mijwiz, Bulgarian dvoyanka, panpipes, penny whistle, African fulani flute and others. The instruments inspire the pieces I write for them. I mostly write on the alto flute, which is the one I can most fully express myself on.

mwe3: The percussion sound is also key to the Mystic Journey sound. How many different instruments does Gilbert play and what is his background in music as far as how he got started on drums? When did he play with the Marsalis brothers and what other session work does look fondly back on? What is Gilbert’s favorite drum kit and who are his favorite drummers and percussionists?

Gilbert Levy: Over the years, my percussion sound has evolved. I studied tabla and North Indian classical music, which informed my drum set playing and vice versa. Part of my journey was shaped by a significant injury to my right hand, which caused me to reconfigure how I approached drums in general and to learn to play with my left hand. The positive aspect of this is it’s caused the drum/percussion approach to our music to be much more compositional. I found myself playing a lot of drum kit on this album because it called me but the hand drums are represented by frame drum, dumbek, udu, sabar, and largely the hang. For those who don’t know about the hang, it is the most marvelous metal melodic drum ever.

Coming from New Orleans, I was inundated with the beautiful poly rhythms that are native to the New Orleans sound. Lucky me. Even though I loved and was influenced by Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker, etc., it was easy to dive into the beautiful world rhythms coming from African and the Middle East and South America.

For some reason the only instrument I knew I wanted to play was the drums at a young age. Strings and keyboards came later, especially after my hand injury.

Many years ago, when I lived in New Orleans we had many touring bands and Branford and Wynton both played with us at various times. I’ll never forget 11pm on a Saturday night during a break, Wynton doing homework!

I have a hybrid drum-kit comprised of African drums with elements of a conventional drum kit and I incorporate hand and finger drums in and around the drum kit.

I would have to say Zakir Hussein, Eric Harland and Trilok Gurtu are my most significant drumming influences.

mwe3: Is there a set way the music on Kingdom Of Mountains was made? Is there a lot of improvisation on the new album or is there more structure on certain songs? Do you prefer to record in the same room with the other members or do you record in different locations? It’s amazing how far the recording world has come in the past twenty years alone and now with artists and band members emailing in their parts and it’s like a drag ‘n’ drop paradise.

Suzanne Teng: Every piece we write is created differently. Sometimes we start with a recorded flute part and add to it. Sometimes it’s adding on top of a rhythm track. Some are purely improvised and others are more thought out and composed. But all of them start with and incorporate some improvisation.

We usually record one track at a time, or sometimes the two of us will record together, but we haven’t had the luxury of recording all four of us together in a pristine recording environment, but we’re planning on it!

mwe3: How did Mystic Journey decide to bring Dann M. Torres and Jon Ossman into the group and what do they add to the sound? Do Dann and Jon add more of an ambient jazz sound to the mix? I saw Jon plays sitar too.

Gilbert Levy: A natural musical affinity from the beginning attracted us to Jon and Dann. And as we said earlier, their humor and character drew us in to their magical musical world.

I would say Dann adds ambient sophistication with his elegant guitar playing not to mention his oud, which is not always necessarily played in a traditional way.

Jon has so much musical experience that he can hang with or add to anything we do. He has studied classical sitar and plays the dilruba with us quite a bit.

If you feel a jazz lilt, it’s probably from my New Orleans background.

mwe3: How did you arrange the quote on the Kingdom Of Mountains from John Densmore? With so many of the original 1960s Doors fans now in their own 60s and early 70s, is the music of Mystic Journey a therapeutic, sonic antidote for the stress of the 21st century? Is John Densmore a kind of New Age fan? What an honor to have a quote from one of America’s greatest rock drumming legends!

Suzanne Teng: John is a friend of ours and is a supporter of our music. He comes to our concerts and we feel he really gets what we’re after. I asked him if he’d feel like giving us a quote and he graciously had no hesitation. He’s quite a man with words.

We’d love to think that our music is a therapeutic, sonic antidote for the stress of the 21st century!

mwe3: Is the future looking bright for Mystic Journey? With such a high level of musicianship in the band now could you guys be on the verge of breaking new sonic ground for the entire New Age / Ambient World Jazz world? What other sonic destinations are you planning to visit next and are there other recording projects, shows and more planned for 2018?

Gilbert Levy: We sure feel the future is looking bright for Mystic Journey! We are on a roll creatively and we’ve established methods for working together that bring us joy. We don’t intend to break new sonic ground but we’re not letting anything hold us back. We appreciate the sonic intelligence of, for example, contemporary rap music and are open to any influences and/or inspirations that come our way.

Suzanne Teng: I love the phrase New Age/Ambient World Jazz sound for our music! We have several tracks recorded for the next CD and some exciting shows, including a tour in the country of Lebanon.


 

 
   
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