Joy to the World
2002 / Bachrach Productions
Review by Kathy Parsons
Joy to the World is an ensemble collection of favorite Christmas tunes played and arranged by pianist Matt Bachrach. The arrangements indicate some influence by Mannheim Steamroller and Yanni, but Bachrach maintains his own voice and originality. The group is made up of Bachrach on piano and synth, Ali Salcedo on hand percussion, Nathan Stiffler on drums, Terry Willey on “effects” percussion, Krystofer James on bass guitar, and D. R. Wilke on guitar. The CD opens with a big, bouncy arrangement of “Joy to the World.” Primarily piano, keyboard, and percussion, this is the track that really reminds me of Yanni’s style and joyful playing. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is mostly piano and percussion, and has a jazzy, laid-back feeling. “We Three Kings” is a carol that lends itself to a wide variety of treatments, and this one works well with an energetic rhythm and some nice piano improv. “What Child Is This?” is more electronic, and has a very “new agey” feel. A bit mysterious, this is a lovely arrangement. “The Little Lamb” is a piece that I was not familiar with, and since no composer credits are given in the liner notes, I don’t know if it’s traditional or an original piece. It starts out with variations on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and evolves from there - very sweet. “The First Noel” is a piano solo, and is an exceptional arrangement with improvisations on the melody. It begins in a gentle, almost music box style, and builds with each verse. I have to question the wisdom of including both “What Child Is This?” and “Greensleeves” since they have the same melody. The arrangements are different, and both are really nice, but to have the same melody twice in nine selections seems a little redundant. “The Little Drummer Boy” is a full ensemble piece with a rock backbeat on bass; a very enjoyable arrangement. “Silent Night’’ closes out the CD with a very quiet and introspective mood. It ends with a gentle version of “Happy Birthday,” which is a nice touch.
Joy to the World is a good choice if you like your carols a little different from the traditional sounds, but not TOO far out. The piano shines on most of the tracks, but several are ensemble pieces, adding to the variety of moods and approaches to these traditional gems. This CD and Matt Bachrach’s other releases are available from www.bachrachproductions.com.
November 1, 2002