by: David Lanz / Michael Jones

New age pianists split performance duties down the center on this holiday album. Each chose to perform an extended variation/improvisation, plus a shorter song -- only four tracks in all. Jones performs an eleven-and-a-half minute variation on "Good King Wenceslas" and the radiant "Carol of the Bells." The "Wenceslas" variations are not the typical jolly-good version you might hear from carolers. Jones opens up the vistas of passages giving a sense of warmth. Then he will flit the melody like the wind swirling snowflakes. At these moments, you might forget about the tune, but of course the warmth of the noble melody is repeated. "Carol of the Bells" peals out the theme immediately, and Jones bases the variations on rhythmic patterns rather than the melody; he reinvites the melody in a somber tone. David Lanz's "What Child is This" is delicate and reverential. The album ends with a dynamic 12-minute variation on the famous theme from Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major." Because of the abstractions in the variations, this album will be suitable for those occasions where you want suggestions of Christmas, but don't want to go overboard.

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