At the end of various August 2000 and January 2001 recording sessions, Mack Avenue Records president and producer Stix Hooper asked artists to record their favorite Christmas songs. The result is Jazz Yule Love
, twelve tracks by some of jazz's greatest names.
By far the most cheery is Terry Gibbs' "White Christmas," where Gibbs is a Christmas elf on the vibes and Larry Koonse's guitar strumming provides more good humor. Eugene Maslov too has fun on "Angels We Have Heard On High," with an up-tempo cocktail lounge piano trio interpretation.
George Shearing takes it easy on "SleighRide." Pete Jolly provides an "O Tannenbaum" very reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi's version; Jolly is heard twice more on "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and a swinging "Winter Wonderland" with Conte Condoli, Pete Christlieb, Jim DeJulio and Lawrence Marable. Les McCann offers his own composition "Christmas Heart," a playful soul trifle.
Much of the remainder of the album is somewhat somber. No one track is unduly so, but the overall mood is not one of holiday cheer. The late Teddy Edward mournfully plays "Silent Night" without accompaniment. Kenny Burrell gently delivers Thad Jones' "A Child is Born." Eugene Maslov plays solo piano on a soft and slow "O Come All Ye Faithful." Cedar Walton's Eastern Rebellion contributes the most modern jazz on the album with "We Three Kings" and "Joy to the World"; Walton returns to his sixties Blue Note experience for the atmosphere of both.
The performances on Jazz Yule Love are uniformly good, but choose carefully, because the record's often melancholy mood makes it an inappropriate choice for someone looking for one album to brighten up the holidays.
Personnel: Eastern Rebellion featuring Cedar Walton;
Terry Gibbs Quartet;
Pillars of West Coast Jazz;
Pete Jolly Trio;
Les McCann Trio;
Eugene Maslov Trio;
Kenny Burrell Quartet.