I was surprised to learn that pianist Philip Aaberg was doing a Christmas
album. He was one of the regulars on Windham Hill’s “Winter Solstice” tours and albums, but his artistic integrity never allows him to do anything overtly commercial, as Christmas
albums so often are. I never should have given this a thought, as Christmas
is “Aaberg the Artist” through and through. A consummate pianist, Aaberg’s signature style with lots of open spaces shines in this collection of five original pieces and six arrangements of traditional carols. On his website, Aaberg says, “This isn’t a party album. Play this after your guests have gone home, all the presents have been opened, and you want to get ‘straight to the actual’ as poet Richard Hugo says.” Deeply introspective, but full of emotional warmth, this collection will appeal to the more musically experienced who aren’t looking for a sing-along album of holiday tunes. Aaberg’s own “Montana Sleighride” is the liveliest of the pieces, depicting the fun and excitement of a ride in the snow at night as well as the cool brilliance of snow reflecting the light of the moon and stars. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is given a decidedly untraditional treatment that is full of Aaberg’s personal touches, making it his own. “What Child Is This?” is given a loving, gentle lullaby-feel, as is “Away In a Manger”. Aaberg’s “The Gift” has been a favorite of mine since it appeared in his book of piano solos several years ago, so it’s great to have the recording now, too!
Philip Aaberg has been one of my favorite artists for many years, and this CD continues his tradition of excellence and artistry at the piano. It is currently available from www.philipaaberg.com and www.sweetgrassmusic.com
. Highly recommended!