Christmas At Our House
2005 / Equity Digital Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Pianist extraordinaire Michael Dulin’s long-awaited Christmas album is here, and it was well worth the wait! Making traditional music of the season sound fresh and new is a real challenge, but Dulin has done it with effortless style and the finesse he is known for. Dulin often adds keyboard embellishments to his music, but for this album, most of the tracks are solo piano. Combining his long career in classical music with jazz stylings, Dulin has created a Christmas album that is uniquely his own and that is certain to become a favorite of those who add it to their collections. All but one of the tracks are traditional sacred carols, and the one original piece is one of Dulin’s most beautiful compositions to date.
The album opens with an exuberant arrangement of “Deck the Halls.” Bubbling with joy, this track immediately demonstrates what an incredible pianist Dulin is (one of the best in the world to these ears!). “O Come Emmanuel” is one of my favorite carols, and Dulin’s arrangement is serious and reverent without going to the pitch-black tone that many have given the song. This is truly a highlight on an incredibly good album. “Silent Night” is gentle and delicate, and you can almost see snow falling in the moonlight. “The First Noel” is sweetly simple and has some slightly jazzy touches that bring it up to date without changing the spirit of the piece - very warm and charming. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is an easy, flowing ballad in Dulin’s inimitable style that makes the song his own. “Joy to the World” picks up that pace a bit, but keeps the song delicately rejoicing. My favorite track is Dulin’s original “Mary’s Babe’s A Sleeping.” I think this quote from Dulin says it all: “It has a sweep and a sadness that seems right for the CD - sweet dreams of a baby who will bear such enormous burdens and die such a tragic death. I wanted to telescope all of that into the lullaby.” Dulin’s treatment of “O Come All Ye Faithful” is a gentle call to worship. “Away in A Manger” was my favorite carol as a child, and Dulin conveys the sweet innocence that I still love about the piece. “O Holy Night” is often very dramatic and powerful, but Dulin chose a more gentle approach that works elegantly. The emotions are there, but are more serene. The biggest surprise of the album is “We Three Kings,” which echoes Dulin’s incredible “Night Rhythms” on his “Atmospheres” album, one of my all-time favorite Dulin pieces. This is a jazz piano arrangement with keyboard accompaniment and rhythms. Although different from the rest of the album, it fits right in and supplies a bit of magic - kind of like an unexpected gift. The closing tracks is a short reprise of “O Come All Ye Faithful” played in a big classical style.
What a great Christmas album! Several years in the making, Dulin has outdone himself once again. Give yourself an early Christmas treat, and enjoy it for years to come. Very highly recommended!
July 27, 2005
Review by Michael Debbage