It's not often that a composer gets it into her head to write a pile of new holiday songs, given the huge number of classics readily available. Nonetheless, pianist Pamela Hines put together nine new ones in 2008, recording with a series of Boston-area vocalists and an occasional straight-up trio piece. The compositions themselves are fine works, giving the vocalists chances to shine in their unique styles, all worthwhile. The star of the album, though, as always with Hines, is the piano. Hines has a strong sensibility to her playing, giving a full sound to the proceedings, arpeggiating through her solos with ease, accentuating the emotions that the composition calls for. Her playing alternately drives the music and sparkles before it. It can rush powerfully in a solo or twinkle delicately in an introductory section. Hines not only plays with incredible skill, but she writes to her own strengths, not just to fit within constraints, but to showcase just how far she can take a musical concept instrumentally before placing it back in the lap of the vocalists. Her theme-free (that is, non-holiday) albums may be a better starting point for those who haven't heard Hines yet, but for her existing fans (and possibly a few neophytes as well), this Christmas album will do quite well as an addition to the collection.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg