It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
My year is not complete until the Holiday Season. I am not particularly egalitarian about it. Our American Culture, for good or bad, is pretty firmly based on Judeo-Christian principals. This is fortunate in the respect that it has provided us with 2000 years of the most inspired music, composed around the birth and life of Emmanuelle. Enough of this evangelical neuter A-Ring-A-Ding- Ding...Let it Snow!
No holiday season is complete without a Chanticleer offering. Released last year, the DVD Christmas with ChanticleerAn Orchestra of Voices captures the ensemble live in concert at New York's Metropolitan Museum of ArtMedieval Sculpture Section, where the sonics are warmly beautiful. The sound and spectacle of the concert are superb and offer the finest possible setting for the recording. The repertoire is all over the map and accurately represents the group's previous Christmas releases, detailed in Christmas with Chanticleer . Now, the listening public can have a look at America's premiere a cappella vocal ensemble in their traditional tie and tails. Their song list can be roughly divided into plainchant, Renaissance, Baroque, Spanish Baroque, Eastern Orthodox Modern, American Spiritual, and Jazz. The only thing missing from this most beautiful recital is Michael Praetorius's setting of "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen," but that is more than made up for with the group's brilliant treatment of the same's "In Dulci Jubilo." Alpha est et O?.
Tracks: Of the Father's Love Begotten Plainsong, 13th century, In Dulci Jubilo Praetorius, O magnum mysterium Victoria, S'qui turo zente pleta Anonymous (Portugal, 17th century), Rosa das Rosas Alfonso X de Castille, R' R'ch'ascribed to Mateo Flecha the elder, A Christmas Round John Tavener, Today the Virgin John Tavener, Village Wedding John Tavener, The Holly and the Ivy Traditional, A Virgin Unspotted William Billings Ave Maria Star of Wonder Terre Roche, We Three Kings John Henry Hopkins, Jr., The First Nowell English, In the Bleak Mid-Winter Gustav Holst , A Medley of Christmas Spirituals: Rise Up Shepherd and Follow/Behold that Star/Oh, What A Pretty Little Baby/Oh Jerusalem in the Morning Traditional, Christmas Time Is Here Vince Guaraldi.
A perfectly acceptable contemporary jazz holiday outing as assembled only the way that Hiroshima could. The arrangements are inventive and engaging, perfectly accessible and wonderful as background music for those holiday gatherings. Spirit of the Season is a beautifully light- weight Holiday fare sporting a big-band Bossa "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is a soto voce funk fest. The Japanese instrument, the koto, looms largely on this recording, providing the disc's novelty, but never elevating the performances above simply interesting.
Tracks: Spirit Of The Season; Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer; Little Drummer Boy; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Listen (To The Falling Snow); White Christmas; I'll Be Home For Christmas; Peace On Earth; Winter Wonderland; Thousand Cranes; Silent Night
While not my cup of tea, The Yellowjackets submit a much better than average Holiday disc in Peace Round. For those frightened that this may be simply another anemic smooth jazz Christmas disc never fear, bassist Jimmy Haslip solos throughout, effectively lifting this disc way above the fray. Keys player Russell Ferrante is able to span a dozen genera in a single song as he does in the opening "Little Drummer Boy." The entire band executes arrangement duties, with reeds specialist Bob Mintzer taking the lion's share of the work (Mintzer being most compelling in his arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Haslip's "Little town of Bethlehem sparkles hard like diamonds. Fashioned as a mood piece, the carol is mostly insinuated rather than presented outright, except by the bassist. Understated and beautifully constructed, "Bethlehem" stands a window into a really superb holiday treat.
Tracks: Little Drummer Boy; Silent Night; Deck The Halls; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Peace Round; First Noel, The - (with Jean Baylor); God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem; Winter Wonderland; In A Silent Night