Thursday, November 21, 2019

Album Review: Santa Plays the Stick by Michael Kollwitz

Having listened to and reviewed prior albums in his impeccably soothing Serenity trilogy, lifelong Chapman Stick player Michael Kollwitz dons more festive attire and gets into the Christmas spirit on his latest album, Santa Plays the Stick. An innovative stringed instrument created by Emmet Chapman, The Chapman Stick closely resembles the neck of a guitar, except that it’s played more like a piano.

Currently living in Sedona, Arizona, Kollwitz formerly resided in Hawaii for a time, and prior to that, in Sacramento, California. Naturally, the many breathtaking natural vistas, which encompass everything from the red rocks to the blue Pacific, are frequently conveyed through Kollwitz’ music, while his instrument often emits a warm and woodsy sound of which particularly on this album, seemingly evokes the warmth of a cozy fireplace, or a forest cabin in the winter.

Spanning approximately 50 minutes long, Santa Plays the Stick is comprised of 15 pacifying arrangements on solo Chapman Stick, with gentle layers and additional effects created via his instrument. He also lends playful improvised elements and a bit of leisurely twang throughout.

Opening with the peaceful lullaby, “Away In A Manger”, the album also includes several lovely renditions of other traditional carols such as “The First Noel”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, and the tender finale, “Silent Night”. He also covers contemporary favorites like “Deck the Halls”, “The Twelves Days of Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

Additionally, Kollwitz produced four compositions on this album that effectively capture the atmosphere of the winter season. The first of these, “Pile of Presents”, is aptly ornamented by an icy and sparkling effect throughout. He also impresses us with other originals like “Snow Ride”, “December Wedding” and “Basket Full of Joy”.

Finally, I appreciate how the album’s title and artwork conveys a sense of humor on the part of the artist, although make no mistake about it, Michael Kollwitz’ musical ingenuity and talent are not to be taken lightly.

Like finding a hot spring in the middle of an ice lake, Santa Plays the Stick is the perfect seasonal album to add warmth, joy and relaxation to your holiday listening experience! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunes and other retail & streaming platforms.