Jeff Ball,
The Shape of Light
(Red Feather, 2007)

This CD, like nearly all Native American flute music, is mellow and otherworldly sounding. The flute is paired with one or a few other instruments on each track, except for the solo "Tranquility" and "Never Alone."

This is more or less defined by this flute's limited number of notes and the fact it is not tuned to a Western scale. Jeff Ball, in fact, states on the CD sleeve that he does not use diatonically tuned flutes on any of his CDs (this is his seventh).

One thing that is different for the The Shape of Light and Ball's other CDs is the use of a hang, played by Ron Kravitz or Ted Natale. This is a metal drum, played with the hands, that looks something like a flying saucer. It sounds most like a steel drum, only softer.

The hang is used extensively. Its quiet metallic sound provides both percussion and melody, giving a naturalistic backing to Ball's flute. Violin, cello, acoustic guitar, fretless bass, rainstick and shuruti box also appear on various tracks. The latter is for a steady drone. Unlike some Native American flute players, Ball does not use nature sounds or chanting.

This CD is also unusual because it includes other flautists: Peter Phippen on bansuri bamboo flute and Morgan Ball on high flute on the longest track, the 10.5-minute "Escape of the Medicine Man." The sounds of the other flutes are different enough to provide interesting harmony to Ball's playing.

Ball varies his playing, using different registers and vibrato, as well as beautiful melodies.

The Shape of Light is a fine addition to the genre of Native American-related music.

review by
Dave Howell

3 November 2007

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