Carri Coltrane sings Christmas songs in a clear alto voice with careful polite articulation. Her accompaniment is traditional piano music with brief soprano saxophone interludes. Pianist Ted Brancato stays with the tried and true approaches to harmony and rhythm, appropriately leaving embellishment for the singer.
On "Away in a Manger" the trio allows melody to flow from one artist to the other. Langley works with strong piano support, while Coltrane prefers to step out on her own. The singer’s lovely voice remains at center stage with the true meaning of Christmas in mind. Verses from the traditional religious hymn "Emmanuel" are offered a cappella with Coltrane’s overdubbed voice constituting a church choir, which echoes from the high ceiling. With overlapping tones, "Silent Night" begins with delicate piano strokes and turns itself toward the traditional nature of its origin. Vocalist and saxophonist alternate in delivery of a naked melody, paying their respects to the true religious nature of Christmas.
Infusing a jazz sensibility on only one track, pianist, vocalist, and saxophonist let loose on "What Child is This" with creative improvised fire. The trio swings out and provides a searing dramatic message. Their original improvised verses are testimony of the power one can draw from familiar pieces. The freedom they allow themselves places the traditional tune in an otherworldly light with forceful vocal phrases, powerful piano note clusters, and an intricately woven saxophone blanket.
Singer and pianist collaborated to compose "Child Inside my Heart," a song about memories we carry with us throughout our lives, about growing up and entering society’s adult world, about the vital parts of our being that stem from happy childhood memories. "Angels Dwell" is adapted from a prelude by Frederic Chopin. Coltrane sings of love and happiness and freedom from fears; her voice reassures us that angels look out for us every day of the year. Gene McDaniels joins Carri Coltrane on "You Believe," as the two vocalists trade choruses with sincere devotion to the spirit of the holiday season. Coltrane’s album is a joyous celebration of the year-end holidays with thoughts about how fortunate we are to have everything we want – in music and in life.
Personnel: Carri Coltrane- vocals; Ted Brancato- piano, Irish Bodhran drum; Matt Langley- soprano saxophone, Gene McDaniels- additional vocal on "You Believe."