Format: CD

Musical Performance ****
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Chris BauerI’d never heard a program of holiday tunes featuring the harmonica, and had never heard of Chris Bauer, and both introductions proved most enjoyable and appealing. Bauer, exclusively playing Seydel harmonicas, produces a warm, vibrant sound that never degenerates into caricature, as solos for his instrument often can. He has a great feeling for the melodic line, and can make you listen to favorites like "Winter Wonderland" and "Let It Snow" without missing the words. The other members of his quintet -- guitarist Chris Ziemer, pianist Glenn McClelland, bassist Matt Parrish, and drummer Dave Mohn -- are all solid players who add color and swing to these arrangements of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "We Three Kings," "Frosty the Snowman," and "My Favorite Things." The only doubtful cuts are the last two: "Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town," where the vocal by producer Rob Paparozzi seems out of place; and "Ave Maria," where the right channel distorts uncomfortably. The sound on the rest of the disc is close and warm, musicians and microphones hitting exactly the right groove.