"Christmas" is a delightful collection of eighteen holiday songs played in pianist Gary Clark's passionate and often showy style. As has been the case with Gary's previous recordings, the mix of music is eclectic, ranging from the classical "Gounod's Ave Maria" to "Jingle Bell Rock" to Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime Is Here" with many Christmas standards in between. One of the things I really like about Clark's arrangements is his sincerity. Despite the familiarity of many of the songs he plays, he always brings something fresh and new to them. He also brings a sense of fun to many of his pieces - "Jingle Bell Rock" is fairly bursting with enthusiasm and a party spirit. The jazzy take on "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is grinning from ear to ear. "Christmastime Is Here" of course reminds of the Peanuts specials, and keeps the melancholy Charlie Brown mood - a great arrangement! Clark treats us to his first recorded original composition, "Winter Rhapsody," a beautifully flowing piece that I hope is the first of great things to come! I really like the spirit and energy of this piece, and look forward to more originals in the future! Also included is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with vocals by Julie Davis. I'm not crazy about a single vocal selection on an otherwise instrumental album, but it is very interesting to hear the change in Clark's playing style as an accompanist rather than the soloist. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" almost dances with joy, reminding a little of that first sip of bubbly during the holidays. Whee! Other favorites in this most enjoyable collection include "The Christmas Song," "What Child Is This?," and "Silver Bells." With all the joy and merriment, I think it's a really nice touch that Gary Clark ends this collection with a beautiful arrangement of "Ave Maria," bringing us back to the true reason for the season. I've been listening to a lot of Christmas albums the past few months, and this is one of my favorites.