Bryan Lubeck, Welcome Winter Review
Bryan Lubeck’s Welcome Winter: Embracing the Season with Strings of Nostalgia
by Jeff Becker
Bryan Lubeck’s latest album, Welcome Winter, released on November 3, 2023, under VMP Vineyard Music Productions, is another outstanding project showing his remarkable ability to blend genres and evoke emotional landscapes through music. With a career that has consistently pushed the boundaries of instrumental music, Lubeck’s new album is a sublime fusion of jazz, adult contemporary, and instrumental music, all anchored by his signature Spanish guitar.
Welcome Winter is an acoustic assemblage of holiday classics enriched by Lubeck’s distinctive romantic acoustic guitar sound. The album features eight songs that reinterpret seasonal favorites like “God Rest Ye Gentlemen” and “The Christmas Song” with a fresh, contemporary twist. Lubeck’s vision for the album was to create an auditory journey evocative of winter’s crispness and the warmth of holiday gatherings. This intent is beautifully realized through the intricate layering of violins, cellos, dulcimer, melodica, percussion, vibraphones, and unique acoustic instruments, which blend seamlessly with Lubeck’s Spanish guitar.
The collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist and flutist Nick Bisesi on tracks “Deck the Halls” and “Carol of the Bells” adds a rich, multi-textural feel to the album. Bisesi’s flute interplays with Lubeck’s guitar, creating a sonorous, engaging, and profoundly moving dialogue. This partnership elevates the album, showcasing the versatility and depth of both artists.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a standout track that exemplifies Lubeck’s skillful blend of contemporary sensibilities with classic melodies. His rendition of this timeless carol is innovative and respectful of its origins. Lubeck’s relaxed playing style, characterized by expressive bends, single notes, and flowing arpeggios, adds a rich texture to the melody, enhancing its familiarity with a fresh touch. The accompanying strings contribute to the track’s richness, creating a layered and immersive listening experience that is comforting and invigorating.
The title track, “Welcome Winter,” opens with a catchy strumming guitar figure, showcasing Lubeck’s mastery of setting a mood with his acoustic guitar. The melody he weaves is evocative of nostalgia and cheer, perfectly capturing the essence of the winter season. As the composition progresses, the added strings build upon the emotion and ensemble sound, creating a music story that is both complex and accessible. This track is particularly effective in transporting the listener to a place of seasonal warmth and reflection.
“The Christmas Song” offers a unique interpretation with its Spanish guitar-influenced strumming by Lubeck and the haunting melody performed by Eric Salzar on clarinet. This arrangement is a romantic exploration of the classic tune, with the wind instrument and nylon-strung guitar creating an intimate and personal atmosphere. Lubeck’s solo is a highlight, maintaining the clarity of the melody while embellishing it with lush guitar chords and agile fills. This track stands out for its ability to blend the familiar with the innovative, offering a fresh yet respectful take on a beloved holiday standard.
The album’s cover, a photo by Richard Hellyer of a lone oak tree in a snow-covered vineyard, not only inspired the title track but also encapsulates the album’s overall mood. This imagery is a visual metaphor for the music within – solitary yet encompassing, serene yet evocative.
Lubeck’s history of collaborating with legends in the industry and his accolades, including his work on We Three Strings and the success of his Amazon #1 Best Selling album Midnight Sun, have culminated in Welcome Winter. This album is a collection of songs and a carefully crafted experience that resonates with listeners’ emotions and memories associated with the winter season.
The production quality of Welcome Winter deserves special mention. Under the careful guidance of producer Ryan Herma and the expert mix and mastering by Marc Nelson, each track resonates with exceptional clarity and balance. The production team’s meticulous attention to detail ensures that every instrument shines, contributing to a harmonious and immersive listening experience. This technical excellence elevates the album, allowing Lubeck’s compositions and the ensemble’s performances to be appreciated in their full depth and richness. The distinction in production complements Lubeck’s artistic vision and reinforces the album’s standing as a high-quality addition to the genre.
In summary, Welcome Winter is a brilliant addition to Bryan Lubeck’s discography. It stays true to his unique blend of Spanish guitar and urban grooves while introducing a novel interpretation of holiday music. The album is a must-listen for fans of instrumental music and anyone looking to experience the winter season through a new, melodious lens.