|A Child Is Born/A Celebration In Time|
by Willard Manus
Here are two superb CDs celebrating the holiday season.
A CHILD IS BORN features the keyboard work of Geri Allen, a professor in the University of Michigan's music department. Alternating between the Fazioli Pianoforte, Farfiza Organ, Concert Celeste, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano and Honer Clavinet, this virtuoso infuses such traditional Christmas tunes as A Child is Born, We Three Kings and Silent Night with exquisite warmth and beauty. She also contributes two original compositions, Journey to Bethlehem and God Is With Us, to the mix. Occasionally backed up by singers (Connaitre Miller, Barbara Roney and Carolyn Brewer), Allen
captures all the reverence, joy and hope of the Christmas holiday. (motema.com or geriallen.com)
Equally praiseworthy is A CELEBRATION IN TIME, the new Justin Time release. Jazz pianist Oliver Jones, Canadian vocalist Ranee Lee, the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir and the Daphnee Louis Singers from Haiti join forces on this one. Jones, a disciple of Oscar Peterson, leads a trio in spirited instrumental versions of We Three Kings of Orient Are, O Little Town of Bethlehem and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (among others).
Lee, who has been compared to Sarah Vaughan, shows off her luminous voice on The Christmas Waltz and What Child Is This?, then steps aside to let the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir and the Daphne Louis Singers belt out roof-raising versions of Silent Night and Gras Bandye, a Haitian Christmas song (in French).
Lee, the Gospel Choir and Jones collaborate on the 10th and final cut, Hymn to Freedom, written by Oscar Peterson and Harriette Hamilton. "It has been my theme song for more than twenty years," said Jones. "We performed it this year in Ottawa for Queen Elizabeth. We are always inspired when we play it."