Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

594

Spyro Gyra: A Night Before Christmas

Woodrow Wilkins By

Sign in to view read count
'Twas A Night Before Christmas, and all through the land, everyone was listening ... to a world-famous band. With apologies to Clement Moore, the title of Spyro Gyra's first all-out holiday release delivers on its promise of good cheer.

Founded in the mid-'70s by Jay Beckenstein and Jeremy Wall, Spyro Gyra has consistently remained among the most popular and forward-thinking instrumental groups. Its music has crossed the boundaries of fusion, pop, Latin, Brazilian, African and various shades of jazz. Though there have been many personnel changes, saxophonist Beckenstein and keyboardist Tom Schuman have been together since their self-titled debut album. Guitarist Julio Fernandez joined in 1984 and, except for a brief hiatus, has been a fixture since. Bassist Scott Ambush came on board in 1992, while drummer/vocalist Bonny B is the new kid in town.

While Spyro Gyra has recorded several songs over the years ("J Squared," "Birks Law," "The Unwritten Letter," etc.) that delve into straight-ahead jazz, the group has never recorded an entire album in this style—until now.

"O Tannenbaum" gets the holiday started. Beckenstein is in top form on soprano, Schuman offers an exceptionally elegant piano solo, Fernandez contributes a guitar solo, and Bonny B is crisp on the hi-hat. Christine Ebersole, a Broadway actress and singer who won a Tony for her part in 42nd Street, is the voice for "It Won't Feel Like Christmas." Written by Beckenstein with Terry Cox, the song is a lament for those who have to spend the holiday away from loved ones. Beckenstein on tenor and Schuman perform a swing duet during the instrumental break.

Former band mate Dave Samuels, who founded the Caribbean Jazz Project as well as producing a few solo albums, brings his vibraphone magic to "Winter Wonderland" and "Carol of the Bells." Fernandez's solo and Ambush's accompaniment are among the former's highlights. The latter is a clever arrangement, borrowing phrases from "What Child Is This?" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things."

Ambush's bass comes through a little more to help underscore Beckenstein's soprano lead on "Christmas Time Is Here," with Fernandez adding a soulful guitar solo. Janis Siegel, a founding member of The Manhattan Transfer, joins Bonny B for a vocal duet on the sassy "Baby It's Cold Outside." Siegel has performed live with Spyro Gyra before, but this is her first appearance on an album by the group. The connection is long overdue.

Other songs include a delightfully bluesy rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The First Noel," "Silent Night," a somewhat subdued "This Christmas," and "The Christmas Song," which again features Bonny B on vocal. Throughout, the group sticks to a predominantly acoustic sound. Ebersole and Siegel's contributions are proof that instrumental jazz bands can have guest vocalists without sounding like a dime-a-dozen pop or R&B act. It is A Night Before Christmas, so Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good listen.

Track Listing: O Tannenbaum; It Won't Feel Like Christmas; Winter Wonderland; Christmas Time Is Here; Baby It's Cold Outside; Carol of the Bells; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; First Noel; Silent Night; This Christmas; Christmas Song.

Personnel: Jay Beckenstein: saxophones; Julio Fernandez: guitars; Tom Schuman: keyboards; Scott Ambush: bass; Bonny B: drums, vocals (5, 11); Christine Ebersole: vocal (2); Janis Siegel: vocal (5); Dave Samuels: vibraphone (3, 6).

Title: A Night Before Christmas | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Heads Up International

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Album Reviews
Read more articles
Down The Wire

Down The Wire

Heads Up International
2009

buy
A Night Before Christmas

A Night Before...

Heads Up International
2008

buy
Good To Go-Go

Good To Go-Go

Heads Up International
2007

buy
Wrapped In A Dream

Wrapped In A Dream

Heads Up International
2006

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Mar1Fri
Spyro Gyra
Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club
Bethesda, MD
Mar5Tue
SPYRO GYRA
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$30.00
Mar5Tue
SPYRO GYRA
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$30.00
Mar6Wed
SPYRO GYRA
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$30.00
Mar6Wed
SPYRO GYRA
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$30.00
Mar7Thu
SPYRO GYRA
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$30.00
Mar7Thu
SPYRO GYRA
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$30.00

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII Album Reviews
Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII
By Karl Ackermann
February 15, 2019
Read Free Fall Album Reviews
Free Fall
By Peter Hoetjes
February 15, 2019
Read Diversity Album Reviews
Diversity
By Mark Corroto
February 15, 2019
Read After Us Album Reviews
After Us
By Paul Rauch
February 15, 2019
Read Etcetera Album Reviews
Etcetera
By Patrick Burnette
February 15, 2019
Read Groove City Album Reviews
Groove City
By Dan Bilawsky
February 14, 2019
Read I Always Knew Album Reviews
I Always Knew
By Jack Bowers
February 14, 2019