is the most intriguing release of the 2002 holiday season. It encompasses a broad horizon of musical styles and moods. "Silent Night" (a daring choice to begin a disc) as a quiet piano trio ballad, showing off pianist and leader Alex Leonard’s soft and thoughtful touch. As a microcosm of the rest of the record "Silent Night" illustrates a trio empathy reminiscent of Bill Evan’s famous 1961 trio recordings. This empathy permeates the entire recording as this fine rhythm section transports the listener through an engaging set of holiday standards. "Carol of the Bells" resembles Dave Brubeck’s "Blue Rondo a la Turk" in its modulation between the original time signature and a 4/4 jazz groove.
Mr. Leonard also sings in a careful, swinging manner, highlighting "God Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Here comes Santa Claus," and "Let it Snow," among others. His voice is a bit of an acquired taste, but is no bad. His piano playing is top-drawer, betraying thoughts of Bill Evans, Erroll Garner, and Hank Jones. Edward Brown adds some provocative lute and guitar to "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella," "What Child is This," and "The Holly and The Ivy," giving these pieces an ancient feel before Mr. Leonard strikes up the band. Merry Cool Christmas is the most fully realized and creative of all of the Holiday offerings I have heard this year.
Track Listing: Silent Night; God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman; Carol Of The Bells; Bring A
Torch; Here Comes Santa Claus; Deck The Hall; What Child Is This; O
Little Town Of Bethlehem; Little Drummer Boy; Let It Snow; The Holy And
The Ivy; It Came Upon A Midnight Clear; Away In A Manger; Under A Blue
Christmas Tree; Auld Lang Syne. (Total Time: 60:00).