The Magic Of Christmas
2018 / Autumn Music Productions
Review by Michael Debbage
Pianist Philip Wesley is no stranger to Christmas recordings this being his second visit to this festive time of the year. Though it has been over 13 years since he released Comfort And Joy, intentional or not there are no revisits of the same carols despite the 18 tracks present here. Though what has made this Christmas recording compelling is that throughout the album Wesley sprinkles us with the magic dust of eight self composed songs or at times almost interludes.
Comfort And Joy was recorded and engineered by fellow pianist Michael Dulin and has held up well over the 13 years that have since past. While it might be the benefits of studio advancements since then, there is no doubt that the production of Alex Carter and the mastering plus light occasional orchestration of Doug Hammer is a huge step forward. So warm that it will have you holding a hot cup of cocoa next to your crackling fireplace as you drift off remembering your Christmas pasts and the one about to happen.
While the album opens up with the brief original “The Whisper Of Winter” it sets the tone for a very different yet familiar Christmas album. As it relates to Wesley’s compositions two of the tracks feature very light orchestration embellishments from Doug Hammer, one of which is the sublime and gentle “Memories Of Christmas Past” that will bring reflective tears to your eyes. Add the deep slow rhythmic strokes of “Home Is Where The Heart Is” and the slightly slower title track, it is very clear that Wesley took a lot of thought into these compositions that sit perfect next to the classic carols. Speaking of the classics, Wesley is in the zone on the more reflective moments such as “O Holy Night” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” where his piano playing personifies perfection. Even the pace of “Jingle Bells” is slowed down to deliver the most soulful rendition one has ever heard of this typically playful carol.
While Comfort And Joy is a regular visitor to my “turntable of choice” it is clearly a festive recording designated for a certain time of the year. However the perfect placement of Wesley’s peaceful and tranquil self compositions throughout The Magic Of Christmas will make this not only a favorite to play on the quietude of Christmas Eve but frankly one that could be played throughout the year.
December 24, 2018
Review by Kathy Parsons