How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Straight-ahead jazz for Christmas. Three veteran Los Angeles-based piano trios and two other, rather unique, ensembles interpret traditional holiday music tastefully. ‘Tis the season. Each ensemble performs two carols. Patrice Rushen, Stanley Clarke and Ngudu Chancler bring an exotic flavor to “We Three Kings." The pianist’s art leaves classic tinges of dissonance in several places for effect. David Benoit, Brian Bromberg and Gregg Bissonette bring a little joy through “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Light and festive, their straight-ahead format stands firm, familiar and comfortable. Pete Christlieb and Slyde Hyde combine their tenor timbres with hard bop at hand. Hyde’s euphonium fits the formula much the same as a trombone would. His flexible instrument provides harmony, as the quintet works out in group mode. Solos around the room fill Christmas stockings, as Christlieb turns up the heat. His tenor antics have thrilled L.A. audiences for several decades. Hyde applies a beautiful euphonium feature to “The Christmas Song.” Readers may have forgotten that the instrument has such a lovely tone. Paul Smith, Jim DeJulio and Joe LaBarbera couch their Christmas greetings in straight-ahead terms, while Federico Ramos, Alphonso Johnson, Bob Conti and Tom Walsh express classical guitar jubilation. Their bossa nova arrangement of “Let It Snow” swings gently without regard to the climate. It’s the season for traditional holiday music. What better way is there, than by settling down with great straight-ahead jazz?
Track Listing: Santa Claus is Coming to Town; O' Tannenbaum; Christmas Time is Here; We Three Kings; White Christmas; The Christmas Song; Jingle Bells; Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas; Little Drummer Boy; Let it Snow.
Personnel: David Benoit, Patrice Rushen, Tom Ranier, Paul Smith- piano; Brian Bromberg, Stanley Clarke, Jim De Julio, Jim Hughart, Alphonso Johnson- bass; Gregg Bissonette, Charles Harris, Joe LaBarbera, Ngudu Chancler, Tom Walsh- drums; Bob Conti- percussion; Federico Ramos- acoustic guitar; Pete Christlieb- tenor saxophone; Slyde Hyde- euphonium.