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  • Jonathan Widran


Like the fresh, glistening grace of the long awaited initial flurries of the year, renowned classical and jazz pianist Robert Prester and traditional and Brazilian jazz vocal stylist Adriana Samargia’s adventurous and dashingly eclectic debut dual album First Snow tingles and dazzles our senses at just in the nick (pun intended) of time.

Most artists release their holiday fare earlier in the fall for maximum airplay and commercial exposure, but this transcendent duo waited till mid-December, right in the middle of those seasonal music burnout “blahs” You know the feeling – Christmas is still a few weeks away, but you’ve had it up to here with the same tired versions of the same old songs and earworms you can sing by heart but wish you couldn’t.

Kudos to Prester and Samargia for not doing the same ol’ same ol’, for engaging us with a dreamy, colorful jazz twist on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” that elevates to ultra-creative realms the song so many love to hate after a quarter century of non-stop airplay. And for the bright-spirited fusion of Adriana’s multi-textured choral vocal harmony arrangement (with guests Joseph Samargia and Jacob Samargia of the Parson Brown Singers) with Prester’s plucky ivories and David Schanzer’s hypnotic Latin percussion on the well-traveled “Joy to the World.”

Not to mention a sparse, rhythmically varied piano/synth bells and vocal arrangement of “Away in a Manger” which comes across as what might happen if a delicate angel popped mid-song into a rousing gospel church jam. We could mention spunky re-imaginings of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and the delightful a capella closing twist on “Blue Christmas” which makes even greater use of the combined vocal genius of all three Samargias.

Let’s thank Santa also for the lone Prester original, the solo piano title track which showcases Prester’s perfect blend of classical flow and jazz invention. Beyond those delights, what stands out is Prester and Samargia’s choice of off the beaten path material that many of us probably have rarely if ever heard – from hymns like “Comfort Comfort O My People” to “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” to “Manger Song of Mary,” the latter which features the operatic range of Samargia’s voice. Bravo and thanks for a truly Merry musical Christmas!


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