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Album Review: Winter
Brad Jacobsen
Cover image of the album Winter by Brad Jacobsen
Brad Jacobsen
2018 / Brad Jacobsen Music
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Winter is Brad Jacobsen’s ninth solo piano album to date and his third Christmas album. His 2015 release, Midnight Clear, was awarded “2017 Album of the Year” by SoloPianoChristmas.com at the 2018 Whisperings Solo Piano Radio awards event near Seattle earlier this year; Brad’s first Christmas album, Deck the Halls, was released in 2011. Also a school librarian in Washington State, Jacobsen is a wonderful storyteller and his music often reflects that with vivid tonal colors and a descriptive style of playing. The overall feeling of this album is the peaceful serenity of a wintery landscape and the stillness of falling snow. There are no Santa songs in this collection, and the eleven arrangements are mostly carols that aren’t on every other Christmas album. None are obscure - just not all of the “usuals.”

Winter begins with a medley of “I Saw Three Ships” and “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella.” Both songs express a “celebratory anticipation” that sets the tone of the album. This arrangement is on the reflective, subdued side, but a festive spirit comes through very clearly. Focusing on the “holy” aspect of “O Holy Night,” Brad’s arrangement is very quiet but deeply emotional with a gently flowing melody that expresses so much - gorgeous and very affecting. “Pat-a-Pan” is a French carol from the early 1700’s that tells the Nativity story from the perspective of the shepherds playing simple instruments. Built on haunting minor chords, I have always loved this piece and Brad’s arrangement is wonderful! I can’t wait for the sheet music! “Coventry Carol,” another favorite carol of mine, is given a simple but heartfelt arrangement. An interlude in the middle brightens the mood a bit and then returns to the darker, more somber melody. I really like Brad’s comment about “Still, Still, Still”: “I love the theme of purity and innocence that is central to Christmas, and I really tried to arrange this in a child-like, almost music box style.” “Bell Carol” (aka “Carol of the Bells”) is a piece that can take on a remarkable variety of stylistic changes from fairly quiet to big and boisterous and everything in between. Brad took on the challenge of creating a peaceful arrangement that isn’t too repetitive. The extended introduction gives no hint of which song this is, so the melody doesn’t get repeated much at all. It’s a beautiful and very different arrangement and I like it a lot! “Il Est Ne, Le Divin Enfant (He is Born)” picks up the tempo a bit in a joyful arrangement that also borrows small passages from a couple of Brad’s other pieces. Brad keeps “In the Bleak Midwinter” simple with an arrangement that seems to sparkle like light on fresh snow - delicate, poignant and another favorite. “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” ends this very special album with a sweet lullaby that gently reminds us of the “reason for the season.”

New music from Brad Jacobsen is always a treat, and Winter is no exception. It is available from www.BradJacobsenMusic.com, Amazon and iTunes. Sheet music is on its way!
November 16, 2018