“Joy Garden” features pianist Lesley Spencer and members of the Chamber Pop Ensemble performing a beautiful selection of Spencer’s original music. The liner notes boast “100% real instruments – no synthesizers used,” and this album gives us the magic of a group of talented musicians working together to create more than an hour of seamless, heartfelt, musical treasures. A little bit pop, a little bit classical, this album sparkles with optimism and joy, as the title implies. Along with the piano, some of the instruments included are strings, flute, clarinet, oboe, english horn, mandolin, and percussion. All of the tracks feature the piano prominently, but there are no strictly solo works. The liner notes call “Joy Garden” “sonic perfume for the soul,” which may be a little heady, but gives us a good idea of the intention of the album.
Several selections such as “Entre Nous,” “One Last Dance,” and “A Night in Paris” could be themes from romantic movies. “Passionate Journey” has a slightly bittersweet feeling to its lovely, flowing melody, and the clarinet and strings bring out the emotions conveyed. “Daydreams” is much lighter and more wistful. The warm touch on the piano feels so cozy, and the flute parts add an ethereal quality. “Since I Met You” is a touching love song with piano, mandolin, and strings – a graceful slow dance with a love one. “The Lost Child” is kind of sad, but not desperate. There is more of a feeling of wonder than fear, and the piano and oboe make a lovely duo. “Midnight Rendezvous” is my favorite of this collection – a bit darker and more mysterious with passionate strings and piano – this one really stirs the soul. “Sarah’s Song” is a beautiful ensemble piece full of warmth and love. “Only Yesterday” is another gem that features oboe and piano – nostalgic with sweet memories. “Epicurean’s Delight” includes most of the ensemble players in a sunny, joyful closing piece. “Joy Garden” is a wonderful backdrop for other activities, but is consistently interesting for closer focus on the music. It’s a cozy, warming musical experience for these cold winter days, and a great soundtrack for the warmer ones to come.
KATHY PARSONS – MainlyPiano.com
“Lesley Spencer teams up with member of the Chamber Pop Ensemble to produce a glorious piano-based modern orchestra album. touching on contemporary pieces that idle between traditional chamber music and classical, Lesley Spencer adds to an impressive career. Perfect album to help deal with stress without falling into the snooze-zone that many chamber pop albums can dwindle in.”
SMOTHER.NET – SEPT. 2004
And Now, a Musical Interlude—When is the last time you heard an adult contemporary album that was totally acoustic? Well listen to this, literally. Lesley Spencer and her Chamber Pop Ensemble offer a stunning repertoire of light, flowing ensemble works on their album JOY GARDEN. This is daydream music that is a warm, intimate companion to every day living and loving. Spencer’s style is similar to that of pianist-composer Spencer Brewer (ironic, isn’t it?) with light contemporary works that border on the edge of classical pieces. A delightful combination. This is Lesley Spencer’s fifth album. She won highly prized recognition for her previous album titles CLASSICAL DELIGHT and AUTHENTIC FLAVORS. JOY GARDEN is a splendid follow-up and should do exceeding well on its own…
And now for our first selection. “Entre Nous”, the first cut on the album is that wonderful French parlor music that exudes warmth and romance. Romantic piano and sweet violin hold musical hands as they flirt and caress the day away. A sunny afternoon, a walk along the Seine and perhaps a stolen kiss is the result. My favorite cut on the album is “Passionate Journey”. This is glorious discovery music. The ardent, seek and you shall find ritual between newfound lovers. What color are her eyes, really. What is her favorite caress? Where does he like to be kissed? This is musical passion that flows like a ripple of pleasure down the spine of the romantically entranced. “Daydreams” has that effortless, transparent European flavor that paints the picture of a rainy afternoon. A quick run to the cafe makes your hair soaking wet. And then, that moist, passionate kiss in the doorway. At least that’s the picture in your dreams as the music floats by.
Don Stiernberg’s mandolin makes a vibrant impression on the tune “Since I Met You”. Spencer’s piano lead is a wistful witness as you remember what she looked like, what she was wearing and that first smile that bowled you over. Now she is the one thought on your mind. It’s just not fair. Do you believe in love at first sight? “Only Yesterday”, a mildly serious piece asks that question and many more as the music wanders along in your mind. He did smile at me a lot didn’t he? He touched my hand for second or two. Richard Castaneda’s oboe is amorously predominant in the work and makes for a sinuous, fanciful score to Spencer’s piano work.
I like JOY GARDEN for many reasons. First, it has a lot of music on it, fifteen cuts. All of the music has a consistent thread of gentle repose and warm, vivid textures. There are some light classical elements and a bit of humor to the music that avoids that stodgy feel. And lastly, it was very romantic. Seek and you shall find.
THE SOUNDING BOARD BY R J LANNAN/NEWAGEREPORTER.COM – JANUARY 2005
Yet another chamber jazz disc, though it’s being called chamber pop in this case. That is probably a more appropriate term instead of jazz because without being critical it can be said that it doesn’t swing. And it’s not meant to. This really closer to New Age than to jazz, but with a larger aggregation than one usually runs into the New Age music – around 14 members, including strings and woodwinds. Composer and arranger Lesley Spencer is the main voice on piano, often spinning out lovely melodies over a bed of strings and/or woodwinds. Only once do the proceedings get louder and more active; most of the 15 tracks provide a comfortable melodic ambience, but without the repetitive and often cloying static harmonies of many New Age albums.
JOHN SUNIER/AUDIOPHILE AUDITION
“Spencer shifts gears for her new outing for something more intimate and inner space oriented. She’s still making music that’s too cool for mass consumption but right up the alley for the gourmet, and this tasty offering can be appreciated in listening sessions or as background any place some soothing, non-pablum, adult music is needed. Evoking all your fave adult adjectives like warm, romantic, soothing, etc., this quietly joyful set is the kind of thin that can prove an adult underground exists. Well done!”
Chris Spector – Mid-West Record Recap – April 2005.
“Fifteen themes of a romantic nature, mostly with an optimistic focus, in the hands of this composer of an exquisite sensitivity. Starting from an approach near to new instrumental music and symphonic classicism, Lesley Spencer unites elements from these and other trends, shaping pieces where the melody is at all times remarkable. The music has in the piano its main vehicle of expression. This composer displays a great performing strength with her chosen instrument.
AMAZING SOUNDS – SEPT. 2004