Five years between full length albums might mark a change in perspective, but not a full on change of course for Brooklyn based composer extraordinaire Sarah Dukes, as she returns with a remarkably consistent follow up to her 2011 debut FINDING FOREVER. Her sophomore release, LIFE SOMETIMES sees her once again working through pianist/arranger/composer Yaron Gershovsky, to offer an alluring and elegant album, wrought once again from the same careful balance of the head, the heart … and of course, the hands.
Gershovsky is the interpreter; the hands, if you will, of Sarah Dukes’ arrangements. The embodying entity tasked with bringing her resplendence to life, he’s a sort of musical illustrator for her precise and integral compositions. Though she was an apt pupil alongside mentors at New York’s Yeshiva University, Dukes is an entirely self-taught composer, who found that the complexity of her writing began to surpass her own ability to perform it. Sacrificing the architecture of her songs was not an option, so she sought out Gershovsky as a conduit: “I was familiar with Yaron’s work and found him very talented, but I was too intimidated to reach out to him at first.” Dukes confesses, “A good friend reminded me: the answer to the question you don’t ask is always “no”, and so I sent him an e-mail. To my surprise, not only was he interested, but he was very excited!”
The pieces that appear on Sarah Dukes first album were composed entirely while she was in high school, and though she continues here to playfully revel in the same manner of daydream and wonderment, two heart-wrenching precursor singles she released two years prior, suggested her having shifted focus, if only for a moment, to more somber themes. In 2014 she submitted the heartfelt and compassionate Raining Rockets, to address the savage and merciless Gaza Strip rocket attacks, and in October of the same year, an alternate version of LIFE SOMETIMES closing track “One”, was released in memorial honor of Leiby Kletzky, a Hasidic Jewish boy who was kidnapped and murdered on his way home from day camp. “I’ve experienced a lot more life…” She says, “The songs show a different perspective now.” Rest assured, LIFE SOMETIMES sees Dukes maintaining her adept penchant for crafting deeply evocative pieces that move seamlessly between the inquisitively whimsical, the mournfully bittersweet and the sublimely captivating.
From its onset, LIFE SOMETIMES takes you by the hand, and guides you through an intricate and prismatic Soundscape that seems to touch on every imaginable human sentiment. The opening piece “Stargaze”, mirrors child-like curiosity, searching and yearning, hoping for that astonishing something we’re longing to experience – and all by way of a graceful succession of notes that seem to build, swell and dissolve within their own texture. Dukes is meticulous in the way she intimates these moods, using song title to imply design, and harnessing the imagination of the listener. One can’t experience “As the Wind Blows” and not envision the gusts and gales and turbulence, as the song crescendos, and then wanes, into a finale that feels as though the keys themselves are aloft, just before they scatter into the atmosphere. It comes as no surprise the album was selected as a winner in the Global Music Awards, honored with a Silver Medal of Outstanding Achievement in the New Age Solo Piano genre.
LIFE SOMETIMES array of stirring impressions are as lush as they are boundless: “Falling Up” feels rejuvenated, but cautious, in the way we tend be when we realize that we refuse to stay collapsed beneath the things in our lives that trip us, and have us struggling to find a foothold. Each track paints its own unique picture, and leaps from one emotion to the next with fearless determination. “Life has more than its ups and downs. It has its forwards and backwards, twists and turns, loops and hurdles.” The artist explains, “And sometimes, life just is. But, it ‘is’ for a reason. Every moment is unique, and each and every experience we go through is for a G-dly purpose. And even though it may not always seem like it, the world is under perfect control. So embrace the present, because life sometimes is exactly where G-d wants us to be.”