Skafish: Tidings of Comfort and Joy (2006)
Jim Skafish first appeared in 1976 with his eponymous band as part of the New Wave/punk movement. Their self-titled debut album was well received, and they appeared in the movie Urgh! A Music War (1981) with the Police, Wall of Voodoo and the Dead Kennedys, among others.
But things were soon to change. Their record label scrapped the music on their second release and got them to record new songs with a dance flavour. That was the beginning of the end for Skafish. The group disbanded and Jim Skafish began a solo stint as a pianist, which included playing at Christmas parties. It should be no surprise, then, that he has a new CD of Christmas songsone that stands up strong and is well worth noticing.
There are several Christmas records on the market, many of which show a lack of imagination or perform a painful twist on the music. Happily, this one comes off on the positive side. Skafish's trio with bassist Lawrence Kohut and drummer Tom Hipskind keeps the mood intact and knows how to swing.
Skafish lends "Joy to the World a sprightly air. He gives his improvisation on the melody a limber flex, abetted by Hipskind's supple drumming. His playing on "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is thoughtful and emotional; he dwells on the melody, and when he switches to the blues, he adds a perfect dimension. He certainly is a pianist with a depth of feel and imagination.
For something completely different, there's "We Three Kings Fusion, which kicks in on the thunder of hard-hitting piano chords and churning drums and bass. The piece has a constant change of ebb and flow, but the main environment is the kind of heated intensity where a constant throb of ideas holds sway. Skafish ends this very entertaining recording on an appropriately festive note, riding a high wave of elation on "Jingle Bells."
Track Listing: Joy to the World; Deck the Halls; The First Noel; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; Silent Night; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; O Come O Come Emmanuel; What Child is This?; Angles We Have Heard on High; Away in a Manger; We Three Kings Fusion; God Rest Ye Merry Gents; Jingle Bells.
Personnel: Skafish: piano; Lawrence Kohut: bass; Tom Hipskind: drums, percussion.
Record Label: La Befana Records