Christmas
  • Released: December 1, 2009
  • 15 track(s)
Christmas - Jason Farnham

“Christmas” is Jason Farnham’s fifth album to date, a long awaited tribute to the holidays. The CD includes a total of 15 tracks of original arrangements of Christmas tunes, using both traditional melodies as well as new twists on familiar themes. Farnham used the Charlie Brown Christmas album as inspiration for the disc- (check out “We Wish You A Merry Christmas Charlie Brown Style”). Sure to get you in the mood for the holidays, this CD invites you to sit back and relax, keep the fire going, and grab a cup of hot cocoa. Enjoy.

The album opens with a charming arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High”. A cymbal swell brings it in, followed by the warm, classic Jason Farnham style piano. Next up is “Carol of the Bells”, also featuring an original piano arrangement, with the introduction reminiscent of Philip Glass. The mood quickly changes as heavy brass joins the piano in the chorus, and we can truly hear Mussorsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” influences in this Ukrainian piece. Third, “What Child is This” is a surprising departure from the piano, as English horns and harpsichords dominate the melody here. The Medieval English style of the instrumentation works very well for this traditional tune. Farnham returns to the sweetness of the piano in “The First Noel”, as a gentle drum loop and slow strings accompany the melody from a calm, low dynamic at the beginning to an expected crescendo by the end. Cymbal swells and added percussion keep the emotion going throughout the story-like melody. We are delightfully surprised again as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” begins not with a piano, but a solo cello. One cello becomes two, and soon a concert grand piano joins the mix, creating a wonderfully classical feel until the end…

“Christmas in L.A.” is the first original composition we encounter on the album, and it sits comfortably as number six, nestled in between two classic Christmas tunes. Upon first listen, we really get a sense of the temperate winter climate in Southern California; the piece is in a major key with verse-chorus style form, and an added bridge with swirling counterpoint keeps the motion going. Number seven is “Silent Night”, and here Farnham gives us the first solo piano track , beautifully accompanied by a woman’s choir, joining the piano on the second verse. Next on “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, we are whisked away to Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher or perhaps a rocky New England coast as crashing ocean waves, a solo flute and harp take us on this picturesque journey. The piece evolves again as a full choir and church organ take over the melody as an unexpected surprise in the last verse. Number nine is “O Holy Night”, and Farnham again returns to the simplicity of the piano with light string accompaniment. In this piece, Farnham’s arranging skills are evident, as he is able to back off and “get out of the way” in order to let the piece speak for itself without unneeded embellishment…

“Song of the Angel” is the second completely original piece on the album, and the last “relaxed” track before the more animated pieces toward the end of the disc. Featuring the piano and a boys choir, “Song of the Angel” is best described as delicate, magnificent, heartfelt, and divine. Next, Farnham switches gears with “Calyps-O Christmas Tree”. The track starts as normal with a solo piano, but then the real fun begins as a calypso rhythm, bass, percussion, and marimba join the party. The result is a lovely, amusing take on an old familiar melody, as we are swept away and invited to celebrate Christmas in the warm Carribbean sunshine. The following track is titled “We Wish You A Merry Christmas Charlie Brown Style”, and after about 45 seconds of playing time, you’ll know why. Simple, yet extremely effective, the piece features only a trio of piano, upright bass, and a quick jazz rhythm. You’ll want to grab a cocktail for this one and take in the zest of this clever arrangement. “We Three Kings Tango” is no disappointment either, featuring latin based rhythms and a Spanish style of piano playing. About halfway through the piece, an exciting, witty piano solo makes its appearance, complete with flamenco style clapping and castanets. Ole!

“I Got The Jingle Bells Blues” features a traditional blues progression, and we feel for a moment that we may be in an old time smoky Chicago bar. Then the sleigh bells introduce the familiar “Jingle Bells” theme, and the piano moves into an entertaining boogie-woogie technique. The tail end of the track becomes quite festive as horns and a trumpet solo enter into the picture, making this a marvelously creative arrangement, to say the least. The final track on the CD is “Love Around The World”, a well-produced, innovative song about world peace. Farnham’s catchy melody invites us to sing along “Love Around The World” and will undoubtedly stay in your head for a number of days. The real gem of this track, however, are the fifteen or so voices that exclaim “Love Around The World” in an impressive fifteen different languages. The song even features a YouTube video, which can be found on Farnham’s YouTube page. A perfect way to end a beautiful album. Recommended!

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