Bill Perry's playing is note perfect, his tone full and measured, his pace stately, but there's at first a lack of passion detracting from the stature he should be able to immediately obtain by such a dint of unquestionable mastery. The opening tune, one of his own, is undecided, perhaps as such things should be, while his take on Irving Berlin's White Christmas has jazz flavors but exhibits no snap. Then, with Joy to the World, all that begins to change as Perry imbues the tune with flair, clever declensions, flourishes, and emphases. Leontovich's Carol of the Bells carries a Pachelbelian flavor crossed with Yepes, beautifully executed, leading into the guitarist's own For God Alone the Glory, revealing a DeGrassi-esque personal voice, as does Josylvia Winter, another original.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing doesn't really hold up, much too uptempo'ed, rushing the guitarist's deliberations, substituting speed for feeling. The medley closing the CD, though, is an all-Perry quintet clocking in at 11 minutes, detailing the visitation of the dead Jacob Marley and three successor spirits to Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, for which the CD was named. Knowing this detail adds much to the segmented idyll, yielding an unusual tenderness and élan to Marley where sturm und drang is the norm...though the interplay of the spirits is a bit confusing when alternating between lively measures and contemplative asides.
In all, Perry's game plan needs re-thinking. He's expending a lot of talent on recitals that are half wooden, half intriguing, ending up with a collection impressive for its plain virtues but a bit too unengaging on a personal level. It must be suspected that his real spark hasn't lit yet, though he's been playing for over two decades. Sometimes, things are just that way. Perhaps ensemble playing is the answer? Certainly, though, this is a overly mindful of those iced-out Narada Music solo releases that ultimately went nowhere.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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