Bryan Lubeck | Welcome Winter Review
by Tom Faddis
This holiday season has brought many fantastic contemporary instrumental holiday albums, and Bryan Lubeck’s Welcome Winter emerges as a jewel, showcasing his mastery in fusing romantic Spanish guitar with urban grooves. Released under VMP Vineyard Music Productions on November 3, 2023, the album is a sequel to his renowned We Three Strings. The new album presents eight songs that flow from emarginated holiday classics to original compositions, all colored with Lubeck’s distinct acoustic vision.
At its core, Welcome Winter is an acoustic odyssey that blends Lubeck’s iconic Spanish guitar with an eclectic mix of violins, cellos, dulcimer, melodica, percussion, and vibraphones. The album reinvigorates traditional holiday melodies with a modern twist, offering a fresh perspective on favorites such as “God Rest Ye Gentlemen” and “The Christmas Song.” The collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist Nick Bisesi is particularly noteworthy, as his flute contributions on “Deck the Halls” and “Carol of the Bells” add a new dimension of auditory richness.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” finds Lubeck blending contemporary rhythms with traditional melodies, creating a layered sound that is both nostalgic and forward-looking. “Jingle Bells” is reimagined with a relaxed, contemporary jazz meets rock feel, echoing the season’s essence with a distinct Lubeck flair.
“What Child Is This” is another standout track, beginning with a mesmerizing solo guitar introduction. As the melody progresses, adding percussion and multiple guitar layers transforms the classic carol into a lush, multidimensional piece. The careful balance between innovation and respect for the original composition is commendable.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the album is “Carol of the Bells.” Lubeck’s arrangement shines here, seamlessly marrying contemporary jazz and folk influences with traditional holiday music. The track is further elevated by the ethereal combination of mellow strings and Lubeck’s Spanish guitar-inspired jazz solo.
The album’s cover, a captivating photograph by Richard Hellyer, perfectly mirrors the music’s ethos. It features a solitary oak amidst a snow-laden vineyard, visually echoing the auditory journey that Lubeck creates – one that guides the listener through a serene winter landscape brimming with festive warmth.
In Welcome Winter, Lubeck transcends the typical boundaries of a holiday album. He invites listeners on a sonorous journey that interweaves various musical traditions, capturing the essence of the holiday season with warmth and nostalgia. Each track, imbued with Lubeck’s signature style, creates a familiar yet innovative musical experience. Bryan Lubeck’s Welcome Winter is a fine collection of contemporary instrumental holiday songs.
Release Date: November 3, 2023
Label: VMP Vineyard Music Productions