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Suzanne Teng: Mystic Journey

Teng's flute playing is all over the map, and on her latest album, that's a good thing.

By Derk Richardson

Autumn Light, 310-859-5846, www.mysticjourney.net

Suzanne teng's flute playing is all over the map. On Mystic Dreams, that's a good thing. "Topanga Dreams," the beautifully produced CD's beguiling opening track, seems to start in India, with droning tamboura, percolating tabla, and jingling ankle bells in the mix. But before long, Celtic harp, bongos, string bass, marimba, keyboards, and other instruments help transport Teng's lushly overdubbed flutes and piccolo to a nonspecific cultural region all its own.

As her global sojourn continues through nine other contemplative and celebratory tracks, the music touches down in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South and North America. A Southern California-based, classically trained virtuoso and ethnomusicologist who leads a large performance ensemble also named Mystic Journey, Teng plays traditional silver flutes as well as their relatives from China (the bamboo dize), Turkey (the ney), and the Andes (pan pipes). Her ambitious cross-cultural vision impels her to weave her fluid solos through accompaniment that includes guitars, djembe, oud, sarangi, kora, mbira, cello, dulcimer, harmonium, Tibetan bowls, zithers, windchimes, and a plethora of ethnic percussion.

Some of the upbeat numbers boast immediate pop accessibility through lilting melodies and infectious dance rhythms, while others create simpler, more spacious listening environments in keeping with Teng's reputation as a composer for healing practices like yoga and meditation.

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