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Tim Warfield: Tim Warfield's Jazzy Christmas (2012)

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Tim Warfield: Tim Warfield's Jazzy Christmas How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Veteran saxophonist Tim Warfield delivers one of the finest modern Christmas jazz albums around on Jazzy Christmas. Performing a selection of familiar songs with a heavy contemporary flavor, the music is so straight-ahead in nature that such seasonal tunes like "Let It Snow," "Joy To The World," and "Silent Night," are almost unrecognizable as Christmas music and could easily be part of any playlist throughout the year. The arrangements take advantage of Warfield's star-studded cast, including trumpeter Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
, pianist Cyrus Chestnut
Cyrus Chestnut
Cyrus Chestnut
b.1963
piano
and vibraphonist Stefon Harris
Stefon Harris
Stefon Harris
b.1973
vibraphone
.

Assuring its uniqueness as a holiday album, Warfield's renditions of some of these Christmas classics are, as he states, "deliberately varied in length...allowing them to develop"—all with a measure of sophisticated improvisation sufficient enough to disguise some of the familiar melodies under a veil of terrific harmonies. The result is a lively, hard-driving showcase of sensational solos presented with boppish flair, begging for repeated spins. The traditional "Santa Clause Is Coming to Town" begins the session in a most untraditional fashion, with Warfields's earthy tenor leading a barrage of terrific solos, as Stafford and Harris join in on the fun.

Vocalist Joanna Pascale appears on three tracks, introducing the Sammy Cahn favorite "Let It Snow" before yielding to Harris, who infuses his interpretation with a slight touch of Latin rhythms on this nine-minute burner. Percussionist Daniel Sadownick
Daniel Sadownick
Daniel Sadownick

percussion
provides the sounds of the sleigh bells, while pianist Neil Podgurski runs the keys on the leader's soprano version of "Joy To The World." Drummer Clarence Penn
Clarence Penn
Clarence Penn
b.1968
drums
's crashing cymbal accents seem all that appropriate on "Little Drummer Boy," another piece in which Warfield provides more torrid time on the soprano.

One of the album's standouts is a traditional rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," where Warfield is at his sensational best, wielding his tenor aggressively and assertively. Other bright moments include a special rendition of "Oh Christmas Tree," featuring the great baritone vocalist Jamie Davis
Jamie Davis
Jamie Davis

vocalist
, as well as a new arrangement of "Silent Night" and Claude Thornhill
Claude Thornhill
Claude Thornhill
1909 - 1965
vocalist
's "Snowfall."

Though a Christmas project at its core, the album also includes a bonus track in celebration of Hanukkah ("The Dreidal Song). With Jazzy Christmas , Warfield takes a selection of well-known traditional Christmas songs and morphs them into a session of hard-improvised jazz, distinguishing it from other jazz holiday albums.

Track Listing: Santa Clause is Coming to Town; Let it Snow; Joy to the World; Little Drummer Boy; Caroling Caroling; Oh Christmas Tree; Silent Night; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Snowfall; The Dreidel Song.

Personnel: Tim Warfield: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Terell Stafford: trumpet; Stefon Harris: vibes; Cyrus Chestnut: piano; Rodney Whitaker: bass; Clarence Penn: drums; Daniel Sadownick: percussion; Neil Podgurski: piano (1, 3, 8, 10); Joanna Pascale: vocals (2, 5, 7); Jamie Davis: vocals (6).

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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