Natalia Paruz

Hark! An Angel Sings

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There are those who have been lucky enough to hear Natalia Paruz playing her instrument, the musical saw -- think of it as the acoustic Theremin -- either in concert (which she has done with several distinguished orchestras), or her more impromptu recitals, which have included performances in some of the biggest subway stations in New York City. And then there are those who haven't -- and they probably don't know what they've been missing, but they should. Paruz gets the musical saw to sing in tones that are at once eerie yet strangely soothing, but never, ever dull, especially not in the varied musical settings of this album, ranging from full orchestral to solo piano accompaniment. She does add a little extra variety with pitched handbells (which are stunning) and pitched cowbells (ditto), but mostly it's the saw that does the singing, and beautifully so on "Ave Maria," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and a surprisingly bouncy and effective, almost jazzy new age version of "We Three Kings." The sound is superb, the vibe is engaging and downright hypnotic, and the effect is stunning -- indeed, this is one of a handful of Christmas albums that this reviewer finds himself returning to more than once a season for his own pleasure.

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