Geri Allen’s mostly-solo, mostly-jazz-piano album A Child Is Born flows through traditional Christmas songs and hymns with much facility, some invention, and a couple of surprises. Combining all three is “Angels We Have Heard On High”, that most contrapuntal of carols, which in Allen’s hands resembles a Bach three-part invention, albeit one with Keith Jarrett’s harmonic language. The ostinato-driven “We Three Kings” and “Little Drummer Boy” also feel exciting and open, both chordally and emotionally. They highlight an album over-reliant on hymn readings that play it straight, or even drone (“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”). Still, Allen’s brief, original transitional songs sparkle, as does her occasional use of organ and celeste. Pleasant enough when it pops up in a holiday playlist shuffle, this album raises money for Newark’s YWCA and Bethany Baptist Church.
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