2011 / Kyle Pederson
Review by Kathy Parsons
12.25 is pianist/arranger Kyle Pederson’s second collection of original interpretations of classic hymns - this time of the Christmas variety. With the goal of presenting the eleven piano solos in ways that people have never heard before, Pederson has created an album that stands out from the crowd of new Christmas music released this year. Pederson admits that some of his arrangements might be considered “avant garde” by those who want to hear Christmas music in a more traditional setting, but I always enjoy fresh interpretations of seasonal carols and songs and welcome the opportunity to experience timeless favorites in a new way. Not that these arrangements are radically different - the carols are recognizable, but don’t expect to use this album for a sing-along. Pederson has added many new passages and phrases, changed rhythms and chord progressions in places, and has generally made these songs his own. Improvisation is kept to a minimum - these arrangements were worked out in advance and practiced thoroughly - but the freshness of spontaneous musical discovery is present in each piece.
12.25 begins with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” an ancient Christmas carol that often conveys a feeling of tragedy. Pederson’s arrangement has the melody at the beginning and the end, with an energetic middle section of cascading chords. One of the verses has these fast-paced notes behind the traditional melody - an interesting contrast of styles! The final section is again dark and somber. I really like Pederson’s “Silent Night.” The melody is mostly intact, but the timing and phrasing are quite different from the usual versions. The mood is hushed and peaceful, but Pederson has managed to make this song sound very contemporary. “In the Bleak Midwinter” isn’t quite as well-known as some of the other songs, but it has become very popular with instrumentalists over the past several years. The lovely melody is given a graceful setting that is not all that bleak - warm and inviting is more accurate. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” has phrases of “Carol of the Bells” interwoven into its melody - an effective pairing. Each verse becomes a little bigger and more intense, so it’s on fire by the time we reach the end! “Do You Hear What I Hear” is a gentle delight with bits of “Away in a Manger” floating in and out. “Lo How A Rose” is a very different interpretation of this old German tune. Dark and somewhat somber, the melody is woven into Pederson’s own music, bringing it into the 21st century. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” incorporates some improvisation, giving this old favorite a moderate jazz feeling that works well and brings our musical excursion to an end.
12.25 is recommended to those who like Christmas music with a fresh new interpretation and unexpected changes. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
November 14, 2011