3

Nils Landgren: Christmas With My Friends III

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
The test of a great Christmas album is simple: will it sound good in August? Christmas With My Friends III should ace that particular test. Even those who derive most festive fun from repeatedly grunting "Bah, Humbug" at passing kindergarten children will be drawn into the spell of this music. Beautifully performed by some of the European jazz scene's finest singers and musicians, the gentle grace of the music comes to the fore and serves as a reminder of Christmas' spiritual quality.

This is the third Christmas album from prolific Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren, and features the same lineup of musical friends as Christmas With My Friends II (ACT, 2008). Recorded at two December 2011 concerts in Storkyrkan, Stockholm's largest church, Christmas With My Friends III boasts exceptional sound, thanks to engineer Lars Nilsson. This audio quality ensures that every nuance comes across clearly, transmitting the atmosphere of the live performances from those cold December nights.

The song list includes traditional songs and carols ("Dagen är Kommen," "Away In A Manger"), songs from the classical canon (Jean Sibelius and Zachris Topelius' "Giv Mig ej Glans," Peter Warnock's "Bethlehem Down") and popular greats such as Stevie Wonder's "Someday At Christmas."

The performances are, without exception, exquisite and the highlights are many. On the traditional gospel song "Somebody Talkin,'" [em] bassist Eva Kruse—usually holding down the rhythm with perfectly judged, understated, playing—sets up a tough, funky, groove over which Sharon Dyall's bluesy vocal soars. The a cappella "Bethlehem Down," sung by the entire ensemble, is delightful, as is the pretty duet between Landgren and guitarist Johan Norberg on their original, "Christmas Is Here."

Two songs seem, at first, to be a little at odds with the Christmas spirit. With its references to no possessions, no Heaven and no religion, John Lennon's "Imagine" pretty much takes care of the religious and commercial approaches to Christmas. Joni Mitchell's "River" may be set during the festive season, but the protagonist seems to want to get away from it as fast as she can, hoping for a river "I could skate away on." However, Landgren's fragile, sincere vocal and Norberg's delicate acoustic guitar combine so beautifully on "Imagine" that it seems perfectly in place here. Ida Sand's heartfelt performance of "River," with its brief but lovely instrumental interpolations from trombonist Landgren and soprano saxophonist Jonas Knutsson , emphasizes the tension between the singer's need to escape and her desire to remain. Not in the spirit of celebration, but a performance of such emotional power that, once again, it fully deserves to be here.

The album's sleeve design is a striking mix of gold and white, in keeping with the ACT Music house style, yet is also evocative of the Christmas season. The performances are golden too: Christmas With My Friends III is sparkling, shining and eternally beautiful.

Track Listing: Christmas Is Here; Dagen är Kommen; Ett Barn ar Fött; Imagine; Someday At Christmas; Somebody Talkin'; Giv Mig ej Glans; Ich Steh' an Deiner Krippen Hier; Away In A Manger; Gläd Dig, Du Kristi Brud; River; Nativity Carol; Bethlehem Down; Tochter Zion; Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.

Personnel: Nils Landgren: trombone, vocals; Jonas Knutsson: saxophones; Johan Norberg: guitar; Eva Kruse: bass; Sharon Dyall: vocals; Jeanette Köhn: vocals; Jessica Pilnäs: vocals; Ida Sand, vocals, piano.

Title: Christmas With My Friends III | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ACT Music

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

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

The Moon, The Stars And You

The Moon, The Stars And You

Nils Landgren
The Moon, The Stars and You

Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Sep22Sun
Nils Landgren
Kunsthaus Weiz
Weiz, Austria

Related Articles

Read Along for the Ride Album Reviews
Along for the Ride
By Jack Bowers
June 20, 2019
Read Ancestral Recall Album Reviews
Ancestral Recall
By Karl Ackermann
June 20, 2019
Read Eternal Youth Album Reviews
Eternal Youth
By Don Phipps
June 20, 2019
Read Curiouser and Curiouser Album Reviews
Curiouser and Curiouser
By Mike Jurkovic
June 20, 2019
Read Getz At The Gate Album Reviews
Getz At The Gate
By Chris May
June 19, 2019
Read Keep Talkin' Album Reviews
Keep Talkin'
By Dan McClenaghan
June 19, 2019
Read Night Owl Album Reviews
Night Owl
By Dan Bilawsky
June 19, 2019