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BWW CD Review: With BEACON: HOLIDAY IMPROVISATIONS William TN Hall Embodies Every Emotion

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William TN Hall's Debut CD may be a holiday album but leave it out all year round.

BWW CD Review: With BEACON: HOLIDAY IMPROVISATIONS William TN Hall Embodies Every Emotion

Do you remember your first grown up Christmas record? That album that you bought your Freshman year of college, to play when you had friends to your first holiday party in your first apartment? You had outgrown your "Nat King Cole Toys For Tots" album, and the soundtrack to "Scrooge" just wasn't going to cut it - you needed something grown up, something cool to play for the holidays. You were just finding out who the adult you was going to be, and that purchase would be remembered as a defining moment in the creation of, the unveiling of, that wonderful person. Mine was George Winston DECEMBER. I thought it was sophisticated and profound, elegant and intelligent; it wasn't really a Christmas album, but it was laced with traces of the holiday season, suitable for any occasion. I still listen to it every December, along with the Vince Guaraldi CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS soundtrack, arguably the coolest Christmas record of all time. It's music for more than just Santa Claus and eggnog and stockings - it's music for reflection about the season of hope, it's music for communing with people whose hearts live within your heart, it's music for every day of the year, not just Christmas Day.

William TN Hall's new holiday album BEACON is music for every day of the year.

Beacon has a subtitle - Holiday Improvisations - that might be more appropriately "Holiday Inspirations" because what Hall has created in this ninety minute symphony for one instrument is an album so original, so personal, so complete in its beauty and replete in its artistry that there are times when it doesn't feel quite like a holiday album - though you will definitely recognize the songs. You will also recognize the influences of different genres of music on Mr. Hall, like jazz, musical theater, and motion picture scoring - it's a feast for the ears, and no mistake. A man who has lived his life between London and New York, Mr. Hall has lavished the album with influences from the cultures and Christmases of both cities and the countries where they flourish. The holiday music that is popular in the United Kingdom is as different from that in the US as are the traditions. There are even occasions when a famed and beloved Christmas carol has a different melody, depending on the land in which the song is being sung. If you are up on your holiday traditions in each country, you will spot it when it happens on this CD - though you may be too caught up in the mastery and originality of Hall's arrangements to even care. Your mood this holiday season may be better suited to just sitting by the fire with your loved one, listening to this music so hopeful, poignant, and uplifting.

For his debut CD William TN Hall also delves into the fact that he represents, in his life, both the Christian and Jewish faiths, making musical choices that are informed by all of the facets of his spirituality - not just the spirituality of religion, for William is spiritually connected to the city of New York ("Oh N.Y.C. Christmas Tree") and to the music and musicians of the world ("God Rest Ye Merry Bootleggers"). Beacon: Holiday Improvisations is simultaneously intricate and relaxed, intellectual and emotional, providing listeners with a journey so generous of spirit and experience that everyone will find something to which they, especially, can relate. The straightforward jazz expression of Hall's "First Noel'' is ideal cocktail party fare, while the tranquility of "Once in Royal David's City" evokes every time you ever sat in a window watching the snow fall. For especially effective moments in your listening journey, note how "Jingle Glass Bells" feels like the rise and fall of your breathing as it guides you through a river of mental and emotional experiences, or how simply "Lullaoly" instills in you a steadily growing sense of strength and optimism; but be sure to have a tissue on hand for "Christmas Eve 2019" which caused in this writer and music lover a tidal wave of sentiments.

During a holiday season when much of the world will be socially distancing, avoiding parties and cities, perhaps even friends and family, the aforementioned "Bootleggers" captures, perfectly, the essence of Rockefeller Plaza, Piccadilly Circus, lights, tourists, sounds, buskers, decorations and those sidewalk vendors selling hot chestnuts. With each track on the CD, Hall turns a new corner onto a different part of the holiday experience we all have, or have had, in our lives, whatever our religious affiliations or beliefs. This isn't an album about Christmas or Chanukah, it isn't an album about being Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim - oh, sure, you will recognize the influences but they are incidental to the bigger musical picture; you will experience the depth of emotion designed for daily life. William TN Hall's debut CD is an album that represents the need for living and living in the present, for hope and human connection, and though it was created during a time of despair and uncertainty, this BEACON of hope will raise spirits and inspire kindness, humanity, perseverance and the will to experience life, for holidays and for years to come.

And isn't that what art and music are meant to do?

William TN Hall BEACON: HOLIDAY IMPROVISATIONS is a 2020 release on the William TN Hall label that became available on all streaming platforms on November 15th.

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From This Author Stephen Mosher