This year marks the 20th anniversary of pianist George Winston's best-selling holiday album December. It was so popular that Winston's label Windham Hill Records released a series of Christmas albums called A Winter's Solstice, featuring original compositions, hymns and classical pieces. A new Windham Hill collection is made up of traditional and contemporary Christmas carols by label veterans and recent recruits.
It's not the first time George Winston has honored the late jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, composer of the music for countless episodes of the animated Peanuts television specials. In 1996, he dedicated his album Linus And Lucy to Guaraldi. Winston's newly-recorded solo Christmas Is Coming first appeared on Guaraldi's 1965 soundtrack A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Pianist Liz Story, performing a waltz-inspired version of Deck The Halls, was another member of the original Windham Hill roster. Story is no stranger to holiday music, having released a 14-song set of Christmas instrumentals titled The Gift in 1994.
Guitarists are well-represented on A Windham Hill Christmas, including label founder Will Ackerman and fingerstyle expert Alex de Grassi, as well as newcomers W.G. "Snuffy" Walden, David Cullen and Steve Erquiaga.
Steve Erquiaga plays a nylon-string guitar on Angels We Have Heard On High. Two years ago, Erquiaga contributed a solo rendition of Greensleeves to Windham Hill's 25th anniversary release of A Winter's Solstice.
Paul McCandless plays oboe, English horn and keyboards on O Come, O Come Emmanuel on A Windham Hill Christmas.
Continuing its tradition of Celtic Christmas music, Windham Hill included three Celtic folk tunes on its new release: In Dulci Jubilo by Barbara Higbie; The Holly And The Ivy by Nightnoise; and Sussex Carol featuring Jeff Johnson on keyboards, Brian Dunning on whistles and accordian, and John Fitzpatrick on violin.