O Christmas Isadar 2012 / Mainya Music 42.6 minutes
"O Christmas" is Isadar’s second solo piano release this year. Seven years in the making, it is an exuberant and joyful follow-up to his 1999 release, "In Search For the Meaning of Christmas," which was also solo piano. Like the earlier album, "O Christmas" is comprised of a fascinating mix of Christmas carols, some familiar and others more “off the beaten path.” Isadar’s playing and composing styles are uniquely his own, combining unusual arrangements and complex rhythms into a delightful listening experience for anyone looking for Christmas music that is different from more mainstream releases. (Pianistic fans of Isadar’s music will welcome the news that there is a companion sheet music book for this album as well.) I have been a fan of Isadar’s music since his 1999 release, Active Imagination, and had the pleasure of hosting a house concert for him in July 2010. In a live setting, I was even more blown away by his incredible playing and the depth of his music. "O Christmas" is a brilliant showcase of Isadar’s original interpretations of some well-worn Christmas gems as well as his amazing chops.
The album begins with “Good Christian Men,” a light-hearted, effervescent take on a Christmas classic. Faithful to the original melody, Isadar adds some original passages that make the piece his own. If this one doesn’t give you a lift, repeat as necessary! The medley of “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” and “March of the Toys,” while rather dark and mysterious, conveys a playful and gentle spirit - a favorite. “O Christmas Tree” is smooth and easy-going - a bit slower than you usually hear it. “Still” (“Still, Still, Still”) has become an instrumental favorite over the years and is usually presented in a similar style to “Silent Night.” Not this one! Bouncy and upbeat, Isadar’s version all but dances out of the player - a really fun arrangement! “O Come Little Children” overflows with energy and joy. Hearing Liz Story’s interpretation of “Greensleeves” on the radio quite a few years ago marked a major turning point in Isadar’s music career, and he has updated his homage to that piece with “Greensleeves 2012.” Sparkling yet graceful, it’s a wonderful addition to this collection. “Masters In This Hall” is another favorite. With an intriguing rhythm in the deep bass and a lively melody dancing around the piano keyboard, this is a “big” piece that is really effective with the volume cranked up! “Merry Christmas...And A Happy New Year,” an unusual interpretation of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” closes the album. Lively, but more subdued than buoyant and a bit on the dark side, it’s a very unusual and interesting interpretation!
"O Christmas" is available from www.isadar.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out if you are looking for some something a little different! Recommended!