509

Jimmy Smith: Christmas Cookin'

By

Sign in to view read count
Jimmy Smith: Christmas Cookin' On the cover of Jimmy Smith's 1964 Christmas album, the organist is decked out in a Santa suit behind the wheel of a red sports car with a tree and presents in tow. The irreverent and fun photograph is a good primer to the contents inside, for this is no hackneyed rundown of a group of well-worn holiday favourites. Instead, Smith puts a soulful and exciting stamp on each track, along with the help of arrangers Billy Byers and Al Cohn.

As was usual practice for many of Smith's Verve albums, he is joined on five numbers by a large brass orchestra. For the album's remaining three songs, he uses his working band of guitarist Quentin Warren and drummer Billy Hart.

Christmas Cookin' is divided evenly between secular Christmas songs and traditional carols. On "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town" with his trio, Smith establishes lightly swinging grooves and resists the temptation to indulge his virtuosity. Arranger Billy Byers creates a Count Basie-feel for "The Christmas Song," and casts Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" as a bossa nova. Both feature brief solos by Smith, but the tracks mainly mine the melodies of two of the most enduring standards of the holiday season.

Surprisingly, it is when Smith tackles the religious songs of Christmas that he really lets loose. The album's opener, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," is as far removed from serious church music as can be imagined. Billy Byers has the brass band first play the tune in a classical style which leads into an explosive entrance for Smith. The band repeats the melody, but this time as if it was intended to be used as background for a television crime drama. Then, Smith plays a greasy three-chorus solo with increasingly intense and forceful punctuations by the orchestra, who then carries the tune to a sparse conclusion, ending with only one trumpet. It is, without a doubt, the highlight of the album. Smith's trio tackles the number as well and their interpretation pales in comparison.

"We Three Kings (of Orient Are)" and "Silent Night" are also both unexpected twists on the usual holiday carol. Both feature very solemn introductions by the orchestra before Smith takes over and injects a jazz swagger to each. It is hard to believe that "Silent Night" could ever swing as much as it does here.

In addition, the 1992 CD reissue adds two other holiday-themed tracks from Smith's years at Verve: "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Wes Montgomery and "Greensleeves" from the album Organ Grinder Swing.


Track Listing: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Jingle Bells; We Three Kings (or Orient Are); The Christmas Song; White Christmas; Santa Claus is Comin' to Town; Silent Night; God Rest Ye Marry Gentlemen; Baby, It's Cold Outside; Greensleeves

Personnel: Jimmy Smith -organ; Ernie Royal, Bernie Glow, Danny Stiles, Joe Wilder - trumpets; Jimmy Cleveland, Chauncey Welsh -trombones; Paul Faulise, Tommy Mitchell -bass trombones; Earl Chapin, Don Corrado, Morris Secon, Jimmy Buffington -french horns; Kenny Burrell, Quentin Jackson, Wes Montgomery -guitars; Art Davis -bass; Grady Tate, Billy Hart -drums; George Devans, Ray Barretto -percussion; Margaret Ross -harp; Billy Byers, Al Cohn -arrangers

Year Released: 1964 | Record Label: Verve Music Group | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Oblique Mirrors" CD/LP/Track Review Oblique Mirrors
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 9, 2016
Read "Buoyancy" CD/LP/Track Review Buoyancy
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 14, 2016
Read "Mundo" CD/LP/Track Review Mundo
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 30, 2016
Read "How to Build a City" CD/LP/Track Review How to Build a City
by Jim Olin
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Piano Song" CD/LP/Track Review Piano Song
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Tyrant Lizard" CD/LP/Track Review Tyrant Lizard
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 2, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!