Eddie Higgins Trio: Christmas Songs (2004)
First, this is the kind of music that you can play at family gatherings when your relatives are allergic to jazz (as in, "why do they keep messing up the melody?"). For one thing, Eddie Higgins is the gentlest of sparkling pianists, and the tunes are served straight up with only brief improvised choruses, offering a friendly invitation to any shower singers in the room (mirror dancers will also enjoy "White Christmas"). For another, Higgins's comrades are also world-class: Jay Leonhart is justly renowned for his pitch, melody and wit, while Joe Ascione is famed for his imagination, versatility and taste. Together they produce consistently swinging and delightful music, with no need to lunge for the "skip" button at any time.
Happily, there are stealth surprises in here for the jazz fan, like the intriguing arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," where Ascione double-times his brushes over Leonhart's stately bowing; "Little Town...", which gets due reverence in the opening piano solo, then glides into a slow bossa; and "Sleigh Ride," with its tongue-in-cheek quote from Prokofiev and Higgins really stretching out. The longest track, at 6:11, is "Winter Wonderland," but even Aunt Gertrude will be bobbing her head to Ascione's tasty solos, especially after a few trips to the punch bowl.
These Christmas Songs are warm, beautifully-executed, and, well, merry.
Track Listing: Let it Snow, The Christmas Song, I'll Be Home for Christmas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Christmas Waltz, White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, Sleigh Ride
Personnel: Eddie Higgins (piano), Jay Leonhart (bass), Joe Ascione (drums)
Record Label: Venus Records