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BIRDS OF PARADISE

LOTUS BLOSSOM

AFRICAN VIOLET

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CRITIC'S CORNER

EXPOSE MAGAZINE'S PETER THELEN:

"Waybright is a composer, keyboardist, floral artist and wildflower preservationist. This project brings all of that together in a twelve track CD + 32 page CD sized book featuring illustrations, artwork and stories about each of the wildflowers that every track represents. Waybright's compositions are intensely melodic and brilliantly orchestrated, each with it's own spirited vision and expressive purpose; even though this is a concept album, any of these pieces could easily stand on it's own: zero filler. The material seems to span a lot of interests, but it fits well somewhere between progressive rock (structurally and conceptually) and - don't want to say new-age, the word has too many negative connotations, and the material here really transcends a lot of fluff that new-age music tends to be, but it should appeal to some of the same listeners. The casual listener might at first be reminded of Kit Watkins' solo work, yet the material here tends to be more upbeat and positive, not a lot of dark moodiness or ambient soundscapes. Interestingly enough, it's some of Kit's old band mates supporting Waybright here: Rick Kennell (bass and orchestrations), Stan Whitaker (guitar) and Ron Riddle (drums) with Gary Blu (flute and horn melodies) and GerardoVelez (congas and timbales on a couple of tracks). Overall, Beauty Gone Wild is nothing short of superb, and there is plenty here within to satisfy the tastes of even the most discriminating progressive rock listener. Highly recommended."

PROGRESSION MAGAZINE'S JOHN COLLINGE:

"Ever hear of Happy the Flowers? Let me explain: This beautiful instrumental ode to the magic and beauty of flowers - headed by keyboardist/orchestrator Leah Waybright - includes three members of Happy the Man among the supporting cast: guitarist Stanley Whitaker, drummer Ron Riddle and bassist Rick Kennell. The album is packaged in a fabulous, full color 32 page hardbound book the size of a CD jewel box. Stories and paintings illustrate the folklore attached to various plant species, and reading along while listening to the music is an enchanting experience. Much of Beauty Gone Wild is a smoothly woven orchestral tapestry of melodic and rhythmic cross-currents, though heavier moments reflect hints of old Happy the Man. The drums/percussion work on "African Violet," for instance, is exquisite, while the closing "Forget-Me-Not" provides additional aggressive edges. This album would be an excellent gift for that woman in your life whose reception to progressive music is lukewarm at best. You'll enjoy this one together, no question. As for all you Happy the Man completists out there, grab it while you can!"

FROM GNOSIS 2000'S MIKE PRETE:

"A concept album! It must be prog! In a way, this is true, but Beauty Gone Wild eschews the typical pitfalls of the oft-cliched concept album. Based on twelve different wild flowers, each is aurally personified, capturing the environmental feel of the flowers. A classically trained keyboardist, Waybright is first and foremost a floral artist, and with this album, combines both her passions successfully. The music is reminiscent of Happy the Man; new agey, serene, yet always with a solid, bouncy feel to propel the music along. Not surprising, Stan Whitaker, Rick Kennell and Ron Riddle are the other prominent instrumentalists here, with a few guests on reeds and percussion. Forming a more than competent background, the HtM members are not the main stars here; Waybright is clearly in control and is the main force in the proceedings. Digital keys are the main focus, but she uses nice and safe timbres, avoiding the cheese factor. Waybright does a wonderful job of illustrating each flower in song. As can be expected, tracks like "African Violet" contain tribal-like percussion and a few overlaid jungle sounds. "Birds of Paradise" brings to mind a steamy Malaysian jungle, with more ethnic percussion and echoed sounds of birdcalls overhead. The majestic "Forget-Me-Not" closes the album with great synth lines and some excellent acoustic guitar. A peaceful and beautiful album, Beauty Gone Wild provides a nice outlet from the typical bombast of symphonic prog. To top off the exquisite music, the album comes with a small, hardcover book featuring painted scenes involving each flower, and a brief history of the flower written by Waybright. Like an Impressionist painting, Beauty Gone Wild will absorb you in that vaguely familiar texture."

ELECTRONIC MUSICIAN MAGAZINE:

"Leah Waybright has a very smooth sounding recording here. The songs are thoroughly addicting. Leah has a wonderful talent to make her keys sing. She is a very creative composer, who can really get to your heart. I'm impressed as this is s a work of art and it is a must for any modern jazz, modern age, or easy listening music lover."

FROM THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK, JOURNAL NEWS:

Leah Waybright, curator of Wildflower Island at Teatown Reservation, wears many hats-floral designer, teacher and lecturer. Happy is the woman who can enjoy several talents, pursue each with enthusiasm and then combine them to create a thing of beauty. And, even better, make others happy by doing so. Such is the case with Leah Waybright. Her recently released book-compact disc, "Beauty Gone Wild," is a testament to her love for wildflowers as well as her skills as a composer, pianist and communicator.

But wait, there's more.

Waybright, who became curator of Wildflower Island at Teatown Lake Reservation, a nature preserve and education center in Ossining, also happens to be a highly regarded floral designer as well as teacher and lecturer. She has practiced her floral craft in suburban Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York, including at Flowers by Frank Laning in Chappaqua. A member of the American Institute of Floral Designers, she has been teaching at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx since 1988. Her four-session class on "Basic Centerpieces and Arrangements" begins July 15. Leah Waybright with lilies, roses, delphinium, viburnum and asters, set off by ivy, at a demonstration seminar in Chappaqua. In music, in writing, in gardening and in floral arranging, all the same principles come into play, Waybright says, ticking a few of them off: "Shading, harmony, rhythm."

Watching her pirouette behind a table stacked high with piles of flowers in different hues, shapes and colors-selecting a branch of gracefully arching high-bush blueberry from on pile, a few lush roses and lisianthus from another, perhaps thrusting in sprigs of limonia-is like seeing a choreographer who knows all the moves but is still surprised by the dance. Just one hour during a recent presentation for the Briarcliff Garden Club called "Mad About Color," and without a dress rehearsal, Waybright put together seven unique flower arrangements, all the while describing what she was doing and why. The audience applauded every arrangement, commenting on how fluidly and seemingly without effort she created the pieces. Elegant yet natural was the look she achieved. "We may not love every flower," she said at one point, commenting on some people's propensity to sneer at carnations, "but I do." She held up a magenta carnation called 'Fancy' and found the perfect place for it in the arrangement. Stargazer lilies, pink roses, blue ageratum, Queen Anne's lace and asters in a simple box, in an arrangement by Leah Waybright. Not only did Waybright research the history, mythology and folklore surrounding the flowers and write their stories, but she also orchestrated her compositions for each flower and performed them on piano and keyboard. The musical pieces for the album were composed over several years and recorded in Waybright's living room.

After working in florist shops for 20 years, Waybright, in her early 40s, decided to "retire" from her day job in flower shops but certainly not from floral arranging, giving demonstrations to garden clubs, teaching at the New York Botanical Garden, composing music or giving piano lessons to children in the evenings, another of her favorite activities. "I retired into gardening," she laughs. With a bit more free time, she looked for an opportunity to volunteer and found it at Teatown Lake Reservation, in Ossining. "I started to volunteer with Jane Darby, the curator, at Wildflower Island, in hopes of becoming a guide," she recalls. "We became best friends, and she became my mentor." After Darby died, Waybright was named curator of Wildflower Island. Along with her duties of guiding tours and organizing the thirty-some volunteers and the programs at Wildflower Island, she serves on several committees championing the preservation of wildflowers. Leah Waybright, who teaches floral design, with a white anemone.

In the lushly illustrated book accompanying "Beauty Gone Wild," Waybright dedicates her composition "Forget-Me-Not" to Darby. It is a moving piece and doubly effective when listening to the music while reading her account of how the wildflower came to be named. "The language of flowers defines eternal love as the forget-me-not," Waybright writes. "As a tiny blossom growing by the water, it must entice an onlooker to come very close to notice its beauty and charm."She goes on to describe how a young man, enchanted with the tiny sky-blue flower growing above a river, stoops to pick a bouquet for his companion but slips and falls down the steep bank into the swiftly moving stream. As he emerges long enough to see his love at the river bank, he shouts, "Please love me ... and never forget me." The bouquet of blue flowers floats to the surface and thereafter is known as the forget-me-not.

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