Rick Sparks – Half Moon Bay

Sept. 3, 2018

(New Age)

First off, there is nothing remotely associated with smooth or contemporary jazz here. However, while devoid of those grooves we so embrace and love, this new age project from pianist Rick Sparks, Half Moon Bay (you San Francisco residents can easily relate to that title, I’m sure, as can any visitor to the beautiful northern CA beaches) is rivetingly sweet, romantic, soothing, and heavenly. It’s of the stuff we always seek to meet in nightly dreams of escape from the harsh and manic world in which we often find ourselves.

The album conjures up the images and emotions it mentions in Sparks’ press sheet as it describes the allure of beaches. “The beach is a great place to relax, meditate, commune with nature, fall in love, nurture love or just escape from the pressures of everyday life,” Sparks says. “For me, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys were the absolute best at capturing that summertime beach magic.” In fact, he states that he “used the ocean and Brian’s great legacy as the inspiration” for this album. He captures it all quite well and, yes, you do experience all of those sensations mentioned.

On the lead track, “Sand and Stars,” one can really envision lying next to a love interest on the sand and caressing his or her ear with whispery promises while getting lost in a loving embrace or gaze. On the title track (originally penned by Wilson), it’s easy to place yourself at the beach, staring out over the ocean in introspection or reflection and perhaps finding the answers to some pressing questions. The whole “getting away from it all” thing is brought into being on track three’s beautiful “Sunlight In Her Hair” (of course, the romance of it all is also very present). I’ve only brushed the surface as there are other soul-reaching gems here, like the adorable “First Light” and Wilson-penned “Lonely Sea.”

And so goes the complete album — enticing, compelling, melodic, inviting. Nothing up-tempo and funky, but there are the danceable moments where you may just want to sway gently, holding that special someone closely, to the calling music serenading you here. This is heart, mind, and soul-at-rest music. Wrap yourself around it for one long, delicious, special moment – or night. – Ronald Jackson