The wistful mood of Doug Hammer's Noël is what hooks me into it. Contemporary piano often seems relegated to piano bars and cavernous mall food courts, perhaps because those are the two places where people are at their most wistful themselves, but it seems a shame to leave such evocative and imaginative music to languish at the mall.
Hammer's arrangements are alternately excruciatingly sad or inexplicably joyous. His style seems to draw every ounce of emotion from every note and bathe the listener in wave after wave of nostalgia and delight. His play is never hurried. Instead, his arrangement are full of pregnant pauses and languid riffs. There is no sense of urgency when listening to this CD, which has the added benefit of being somewhat non-Christmassy but merely holidayesque.
Completely instrumental and consisting solely of two hands wringing emotion from a piano, Doug Hammer's Noël packs a delicious wallup. I foresee continuing with this music long past the reviewin'.