2010 / Steven C. Music
It is such a joy to review an album that I want to jump up and down about, and Steven C.’s On Christmas Night
is that kind of album. Not entirely a solo piano recording, some of the tracks include violin, recorder, vocal texture, and light percussion. This collection is more diverse than many and spans time periods from as far back as the 9th century’s “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” through the more recent “Walking In the Air” from The Snowman
and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” from the ever-popular A Charlie Brown Christmas
. The arrangements stay true to the traditional melodies, but they are done so beautifully that even the time-worn chestnuts are fresh and new. Steven’s 9’ Bosendorfer sings with all of the heartfelt wonder, hope, and joy that these sixteen pieces can evoke, and, of course, Steven’s fingers (and heart) deserve all of the credit. This is an album that would be exquisite background music for a holiday dinner, wrapping gifts, or trimming the tree, but it is much too good to keep in the background. Sit back and let the sounds wrap around you like a warm quilt or a lingering hug.
On Christmas Night
opens with the title track, a traditional English carol I was not familiar with. Piano, keyboard and guitar provide an invitation to the celebration, and then segue into “Gesu Bambino” with piano and violin (the late Yuri Merzhevsky) playing a touching and deeply emotional duet. Next up is a wonderful pairing of “I Wonder As I Wander” and “Coventry Carol,” two very dark minor-key pieces that I love. This one is a breathtaking piano solo. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is another one of my favorite carols, and this one features Roxanne Layton of Mannheim Steamroller on recorder. There is also light percussion, which modernizes the piece while staying true to the spirit of the original. The medley of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” and “Mary Had a Baby” adds a gospel touch - rhythmic and jazzy without jarring the mellow vibe. “What Child Is This” is a stellar piano solo - slow, tender, and graceful. Steven’s arrangement of “Joy To the World” is much more subdued than you usually hear it, but expresses a subtle kind of joy - a beautiful interpretation! “Walking In the Air” is one of my favorite songs of any season, and this is one of my favorite arrangements. The piano part is flowing and doesn’t have a lot of embellishment - just quiet string washes in the background. Love it! “O Holy Night” can be a real powerhouse of musical emotion, but Steven’s arrangement is delicate and gentle with recorder, voice, and light percussion in addition to the piano. “Do You Hear What I Hear” is a contemporary carol very effectively given a slightly jazzed solo piano treatment. I’ve read that “Silent Night” is one of the most-recorded songs of all-time, so can anyone still do anything original with it. Yes, as Steven proves - simply beautiful! Steven closes this incredible album with “Christmas Time Is Here,” a bittersweet jazz classic that tugs at the heartstrings. Just piano and bass - perfection!
I have a lot of favorite Christmas albums, but On Christmas Night
is going to stay a favorite for many years to come. I give it my highest recommendation. It’s available from www.stevencmusic.com
, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes.