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 dont need.
If youre 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
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 1990s. 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. Im 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 were together, which isnt
nearly often enough, especially now that we live in different states,
and we love playing music together.
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 Suzannes
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 wasnt 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 Suzannes flute sound enhanced
by a broader sonic landscape and attention to contemporary production
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
It is really beautiful here and we have a great home and studio. Its
quiet and our closest neighbors are far enough that we dont
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.
Suzannes 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.
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 Gilberts 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 its 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 dont 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.
ago, when I lived in New Orleans we had many touring bands and Branford
and Wynton both played with us at various times. Ill 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?
Its 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 its 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
its 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 havent had the luxury of recording
all four of us together in a pristine recording environment, but were
planning on it!
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
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, its 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 Americas greatest rock drumming legends!
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 were
after. I asked him if hed feel like giving us a quote and he
graciously had no hesitation. Hes quite a man with words.
Wed 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?
Levy: We sure feel the future is looking bright for Mystic Journey!
We are on a roll creatively and weve established methods for
working together that bring us joy. We dont intend to break
new sonic ground but were 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.