Review: Scott Yanow (author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists, The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76)
Carol Albert is a classically-trained pianist with a sound of her own. Based in Atlanta, she has toured Europe several times, performed throughout the U.S. and recorded five previous CDs.
On Christmas Mystique, Ms. Albert has created an atmospheric set of Xmas-related music. She is the main soloist and adds her voice to a few of the numbers in addition to arranging most of the music and contributing two originals.
Trumpeter Darren English is a key member of the supporting cast on several of the selections including the opening “Mary Did You Know” where he interacts with Carol Albert’s haunting voice. The leader’s “Christmas Without You” is a wistful ballad that features some excellent playing from guitarist Dan Baraszu. The pianist’s other original, “Dreamer,” has some spoken word from Susan Bennett, fine flute contributed by Wouter Kellerman, and an effective quote from “Beautiful Dreamer” during the classical-inspired arrangement.
“We Three Kings” is given a unique treatment with an appealing groove, muted trumpet, and a melody that only emerges gradually during the danceable performance. “Come Emmanuel” sounds quite exotic in this new setting with a fine contribution from trumpeter English.
The remaining five selections put the focus very much on Carol Albert’s melodic piano playing. “Carol Of The Bells” has a classical feel, “Deck The Halls” is modernized quite effectively, and “Greensleeves” is beautifully and thoughtfully played, sounding as if the pianist is thinking aloud. After a relaxed and respectful treatment of “Silent Night,” the program concludes with a very sensitive solo piano rendition of “Christmas Time Is Here.”
Christmas Mystique lives up to its title, a set full of subtle creativity and quiet but often stirring interpretations of music related to the holiday season. Carol Albert’s CD is well worth several listens.