In a world crowded with holiday music, pianist and composer Pamela Hines gives us something new. Make that nine new original songs for the Christmas season. It’s a nice change from the usual rehashing of "Silver Bells" or "Silent Night." Instead of those usual Christmas standards, Hines has assembled three of Boston’s top jazz vocalists, April Hall, Monica Hatch and Patrice Williamson, to interpret a set of her own holiday compositions. They take turns singing on seven of the tracks backed by Hines on piano, Dave Landoni on bass and Miki Matsuki on drums. New Christmas also features two instrumentals.
Hines’ assured, elegant playing weaves its way through all the numbers, providing the thread that ties the set of ballads and mid-tempo tunes together. It’s important to note that Hines’ compositions have holiday-related lyrics, but they are jazz tunes and can be listened to throughout the year. The music has the feel of old standards. She wisely avoids the usual bells or chimes that often distinguish Christmas music.
The jazz foundation is obvious from the opening track, "Custom Santa," which is warmed by Williamson’s deep, rich voice. The singer offers an extended scat on top of the trio’s easy playing. Williamson sings on two other numbers. Hall, who has appeared on three of Hines’ earlier CDs, sings on the ballad "What Chance Have I?" Hatch, who is at home on both the jazz and classical stage, is featured on three songs, "Starlights," "Christmas Joy" and "Ellen on Christmas."
Again, this is not your typical holiday album filled with traditional Christmas songs. Listeners looking for something off-the-beaten track should try New Christmas.