Holiday Cheer For The Ears

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LAURENCE HOBGOOD: ‘CHRISTMAS’ For the last 20 years, Laurence Hobgood has been known in jazz circles by the company he keeps, as the pianist and musical director for the singer Kurt Elling. The two recently parted ways, which means, for one thing, that Mr. Elling’s focused, bittersweet performances here — on “Song of the Christmas Bells” and Joni Mitchell’s “River” — could be seen as a kind of curtain call. Of course it also means that Mr. Hobgood will increasingly be judged on his own merits, for things like the wintry sparkle of his arpeggios on “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and the rakishness of his digressions on “Twelve Days of Christmas.” For most of this beautifully recorded album, he’s alone at the piano, unspooling solemn reveries after the example of his north star, Keith Jarrett. (Circumstantial, $15.) NATE CHINEN

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