"Winter Rose: Music Inspired by the Holidays"

Spiral Subwave

Guitarist Ottmar Liebert's signature "nouveau flamenco" style has more to do with contemporary pop trends than with Andalusian folk traditions, which is why his music turns up on the radio as often as it does. It also explains why you're as likely to find his albums filed under "New Age" or "Smooth Jazz" as anywhere else in the CD racks.

"Winter Rose," however, isn't as trendy as most of Liebert's recordings. Subtitled "Music Inspired by the Holidays," the album is a consistently tuneful and rather low-key affair, with the German-born guitarist performing classical pieces and seasonal favorites, along with original tunes that generally sustain a reflective mood. Faure's "Pavane," for example, finds Liebert quietly imbuing the theme, played over a strutting bass pulse, with a Spanish tinge. On "O Holy Night" and "Away in the Manger," the melodies unfold quietly, though the latter spills over into the palmas-accented "Fiesta 05." Liebert's "The Longest Night" offers shades of flamenco noir, while Faure's "Les Roses D'Isphahan" strikes a purely romantic note, albeit a subdued one, by emphasizing Spanish guitar lyricism and resonating bass lines.

The guitarist and his three session mates take some liberties here and there, as when "O Little Town of Bethlehem" segues into the Liebert-penned excursion "City of Tijuana" -- a side trip that turns out to be more than a little Santana-esque.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Monday at the Birchmere and Wednesday at the Rams Head Tavern.