Listening to this seasonal mélange by saxophonist Bruce Abbott and the North Star Jazz Ensemble (supported by the Hawthorne String Quartet), the word “pleasant” springs to mind. The liner notes portray the album as a “collection of beloved holiday chestnuts” that is “richly romantic, slightly nostalgic and entirely engaging,” and I can’t think of a more appropriate description. Everything is taken at a leisurely pace (even such normally upbeat themes as “Deck the Halls” and “Let It Snow”), and Abbott’s saxophone is the leading voice (he plays tenor on five selections, alto on four, soprano on three). Everyone plays beautifully, quarterbacked by Abbott and pianist Ron Fournier, and the string quartet blends seamlessly with the Jazz ensemble (whose other members are bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Paul Mason). The die is cast on the opening number, Mel Tormé / Bob Wells’ classic “Christmas Song,” on which Abbott’s warm, full–bodied tenor establishes a dreamy environment wherein everyone breathes quite easily. Much of the album conforms to that pattern with Abbott shaping the melody, strings and ensemble providing the rhythmic thrust and melodic counterpoint, and Abbott and Fournier handling the lion’s share of improvisational duty. Mistletoe Sax
is intended, or so it seems, as charming company during the holidays, reminding the listener of the season’s many musical treasures while adding a touch of Jazz, and as such is ideal as well for radio airplay. Whatever the motive, it is artistically planned, intelligently arranged and handsomely performed.
Contact: North Star Records, 22 London St., East Greenwich, RI 02818.
Web site: www.northstarmusic.com .
Personnel: Bruce Abbott, tenor, alto, soprano saxophone; Ron Fournier, keyboards;
Marty Ballou, bass; Paul Mason, drums, with the Hawthorne String Quartet