As the end of the year Holidays draw near, it is difficult to avoid a certain cynicism about seasonal music. Take Christmas albums. Some artists have multiple efforts. It is a virtual guarantee that someone at randomsay Ferlin Huskyhas a Christmas album. A risk-taker could probably safely win a blind wager, because, well, everyone has one.
It would take far too much space and patience to provide a sample. Besides, this is about Dave Brubeck. Honestly, some listeners were not aware that Brubeck had a Christmas album until this gorgeous vinyl of an original Telarc (1996), A Dave Brubeck Christmas was released. Imagine that. It is said that Brubeck initiallyresisted is too strong a wordbut then agreed to do a solo album based on the parlor pianos of his youth. And all are the beneficiaries. This is a beautiful, varied, surprising and sometimes unexpected treat.
Many have commented Brubeck Christmas is a sort of perfectly meditative recording, a perfect accompaniment to Brubeck's remarkable liner notes, in which he summons his own angels of Christmas past. It is that indeed. One mentally conjures up some cinematic winter scene by which to spin the records. Be assured it will soothe, because even Brubeck's wryly stride versions of the music are not raucous A blindfold test on a snowy afternoon with a comfortingly warmed beverage is, unfortunately, not possible, but certainly, a listener can imagine one and peacefully drift off.
Yet just as that mood sets in, the real kick of enjoying an accomplished jazz pianist happens. Suddenly, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is "Blue Monk," with the appropriate stride notes of Thelonious Monk in the background. Whether Brubeck intended this as an inside joke only he can say; but perhaps he did. Yet his liner notes are deadly serious in places. Brubeck was in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, which is what "O Tannenbaum" conjured up for him. That was no joke to anyone who survived it. Indeed, only an artist with a remarkable inner life could have written the liner notes to his life this way and accompanied them with music as clearly personal and evocative.
So, even if someone comes from a different religious tradition, is not a believer of any sort, or stubbornly insists that no one needs another Christmas album when Bing Crosby probably had five, stop. Brubeck's efforts on "Silent Night" are both creative enough to be arresting, and traditional enough to evoke the brass choir that normally introduces "Joy to the World." Or listen to Brubeck do "Cantos Para Pedir Las Posadas," which he apparently did yearly in his travels at Christmas. Brubeck and Iola, his wife, were obviously remarkable people to have conceived of a role in this lovely ritual. So put aside the popular notions of "Dude has heavy hands" or worse "Would not know how to swing." Here one has holiday music for everyone because love is inclusive. And for Brubeck, this recording was nothing if not a labor of love.
Homecoming Jingle Bells; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Joy to the World; Away in a Manger;
Winter Wonderland; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Greensleves; To Us Is Given; O Tannenbaum;
Silent Night; Cantos Para Pedal Las Posadas; Run, Run, Run to Bethlehem; Farewell Jinglebells;
The Christmas Song.
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