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Review: Jim Brickman brings holiday magic to Bass Hall

Posted 3:44pm on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

There was magic in the air on Tuesday evening when Jim Brickman brought his Christmas show to Bass Hall, presented by Performing Arts Fort Worth.

Brickman is a pianist and songwriter with a huge following and six gold and platinum recordings to his credit. His is laid back, attractive and accessible. The audience, many devoted fans, loved every minute.

Even though he bills himself as “America’s Piano Sensation,” Brickman doesn’t take himself all that seriously, which added much to the enjoyment of the concert. He is humorous in a Bob Newhart way, and his wry observations are aimed at himself. For example, the show is called “The Magic of Christmas,” and every time he said the word “magic” (which he did all evening), he ran his hand down a bar chime, which added a tinkling sparkle.

Brickman’s musical style is best described as a stew of “Adult Contemporary” and “New Age,” with some gospel and pop added like salt and pepper. His was joined by Anne Cochran, his vocalist ever since they formed a band in high school. She is a fine singer, reminiscent of Karen Carpenter.

Canadian Luke McMaster is a young and dynamic singer/songwriter/guitarist who was also on the program. His influences run from jazz to The Beatles.

Another guest, violinist Tracy Silverman, is hard to describe. When required, he fits in with Brickman’s soporific soup, but his wild electric violin solo sessions ranged from Mendelssohn to Lead Zeppelin. His instrument is half violin and half electric guitar. It boasts six strings (a regular violin has four), which gives him an additional lower octave. He uses the electric guitarist’s bag of tricks, running the sound through the distortion amp that gives hard rock and metal bands their distinctive ear-popping sounds.

The music on the program was mostly Brickman’s, including his arrangements of familiar Christmas hits. Because of Brickman’s beautiful consistency, those not familiar with his music may have trouble telling one song from another. One reason is that his piano style is always busy, and he creates rhythmic interest by constantly noodling with the chords.

This is typical of many pop pianists who work without a drummer, leaving harmony, melody and rhythm to a single musician.

When singers taking the melody, Brickman’s songs are more successful.

Unfortunately, all the music was over-amplified for the concert hall.

Nonetheless, the performance was a seasonal treat for almost everyone.

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