In the 80’s and 90’s my favorite part of the Windham Hill Winter Solstice recordings was the Philip Aaberg touch – that pure melodic inspiration. His thoughtful reflective music of the west specifically the Montana landscape has an understated delicacy which has always helped me gain insight on the big picture. Thought primarily as a New Age pianist it seems unfair to move him into any particular genre considering his country leanings, touches of Blues and Classical.
Aaberg also spent his early years touring with Peter Gabriel, Elvin Bishop and John Hiatt plus stints with Boston Pops Orchestra. Christmas released on his own Sweetgrass label sound just like a Winter Solstice album only it’s far superior by the very fact that it’s all Philip Aaberg – there’s no filler.
The warm detailed ‘I Saw Three Ships’ opens the album and from the first few seconds the listener understands that this is no cookie-cutter cover – Aaberg almost extends the feeling, the journey of the song. ‘Shepherds Rocking Carol’ enters softly like a winter’s snowflake – kind and memorable. ‘Earth Abides’ a quite ode to mother earth sounds like it was handpicked for his 1985 treasure High Plains on Windham Hill. Its slow contemplative melody doesn’t bring me to Christmas but it does give me an appreciation – a certain clarity on what the seasons about. ‘The Gift’ originally recorded for A Winter Solstice Volume two is one of my favorite solo piano songs of all time and this new version is slowed down just a little. Its subtlety is well appreciated. Aaberg adds simple, sentimental nuances to ‘Away in a Manger’ again slowing down the pace. The warm introspective ‘Charity’ again brings the listener to a quiet inspiring space.
Christmas is treated with delicate dedicated hand on this album. A wonderful groundbreaking CD for the holidays. – By JohnBeaudin