Review by Lois Jackman

I’ll admit, I’m usually a little skeptical of local artists I’ve never heard of, but Bryan Rombalski’s Two Steps Closer to Zen was such a refreshing surprise that I’m a little ashamed to have been so jaded. From the very first mesmerizing rhythms to the final Zen-like message I was delighted, intrigued and thoroughly entertained.

While each tune is very different from the next, he keeps a coherent overall sound that gives a clear statement. You know you are listening to Bryan Rombalski. Enchanting rhythms throughout give a world-music feel which is juxtaposed over a variety of cleverly crafted tunes and instrumentation. Little snippets of jazz, reggae, African folk and New Age make the sound authentic and refreshing.

I was slightly confused for a brief moment by the jibberish on the third track, but it somehow works in the overall scheme of the CD. Rombalski has a very good sense of when enough is enough, and avoids overstating rhythmic messages. The music moves along at a pace that keeps you on your toes a little, while not being too disjointed. It's a cohesive message he sends through a wide variety of textures and sound bytes. The music floats easily from one cultural reference to another, using creative and interesting treatments.

Again with my silly preconceived ideas, I thought, at first, that the synthesizer was going to sound dated. Clearly I was wrong here too! Used in a very different way than the pops backup of the early 80s, it unabashedly leads the melody and is an integral part of the blend of the band.

With tender appreciation of the listener, this CD is pleasant, energetic, transcendent, approachable and earthy. I can imagine this music in a cool coffee shop, on a MP3 player while exercising, at a friend’s party, or as the background to a massage. It's smart, enchanting, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. Mr. Rombalski, I am a fan!

Bryan Rombalski and Three Worlds & Friends will celebrate the release of this album on Saturday, Nov. 5th at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library Auditorium, Midland, MI. Special guests include the Sangeeta Kar Dance Ensemble. Tickets are $10 at the door. 

Lois Jackman is a professional musician and arranger, as well as an educator and arts advocate from the Greater Detroit area. 

© Lois Jackman, 2011