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The artwork on both covers of Scott Hamilton's Christmas album with strings offers the very same message that the music does. The front cover contains the image of a Christmas tree ornament in front of an evergreen tree, and the glass sphere contains the reflection of two full champagne glasses. The back cover depicts an urban night scene with street lamp and a neon sign pointing to a door stating "Jazz Tonight." On the one hand, the session is one that includes classic Christmas music with the chamber orchestra adding a formal touch. But on the other hand, each piece also features Hamilton's sultry tenor saxophone with his trademark velvet touch and his acoustic trio in support.
The title track, "Christmas Love Song," is a slow ballad by Johnny Mandel that features Alan Broadbent's piano expertise as well as Hamilton's saxophone. The highlight of the session is "Bell Carol Blues," with its contrast between orchestra and saxophone soloist, as well as significant tempo and meter changes for amplification: At a moderate waltz tempo, the augmented orchestra, including flautist Jane Pickles, oboist Dick Morgan, clarinetist Dave Fuest, and bassoonist John Orford, weaves a simple Yuletide melody with a deep double bass effect at the bottom. Then, abruptly, the rhythm shifts to an up-tempo jaunt with Hamilton dishing it out in front of the walking bass and the drumsticks tapping on cymbals. The mood shifts like that throughout, and even features a solitary French horn solo by Michael Thompson to contrast with all of the leader's hot tenor work.
The remainder of the album is not as exciting, but does contain Scott Hamilton's rendering of familiar Yuletide melodies that have grown to become a part of our annual year's end.
The Christmas Song; I'll Be Home for Christmas; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Little Drummer Boy; Christmas Waltz; Winter Wonderland; Greensleeves (What Child is This?); Santa Claus is Coming to Town; White Christmas; Bell Carol Blues; Christmas Love Song.