It isn't every new release that provides nostalgia without even playing it. Trio West's record label, Yummy House, is an exact look-alike of Columbia vinyl releases circa 1960. Without having the actual Columbia logo, this album has the same distinctive red, white and black label with the Columbia "stereo arrow" displayed. I felt like I was back in 1960 watching the platters spin and listening to The Kirby Stone Four or Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Although the group has been performing in New York since 1995, this is its premier releas0,e and the subject is strictly a holiday tunes motif. The group is named by the fact that they all reside on the West Side of Manhattan.
What is most impressive about this effort is that the group doesn't play in the reverential manner usually reserved for these carols and holiday-related songs. The album begins with a great bouncy version of "O Tannenbaum, not something that you'd ordinarily hear. The loping version of "Silent Night" begins with an effective piano statement and solo, but concludes with a drum-featured finale that is anything but silent.
The trio is much more comfortable with a jazz tune; Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here," taken from the A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965) songbook, is performed low-key in ballad format. While "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" commences with a melodic piano statement, once that is finished, keyboardist Eldad Zvulun breaks into a Latin montuno and, together with drummer Tobias T. Gebb, provides some pretty hot mambo music (just short of two minutes). The tempo then slows down for the melody restatement; finally concluding with continued Latin jazz for another two minutes.
A rendition of the traditional "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is taken as a mid-tempo swing, and the trio gets into a fine groove here. A song that can be interpreted as a holiday (or not) composition is Frank Loesser's "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," and the trio comes closest to a well-rendered jazz ballad here. The Mel Tormé "Christmas Song" is given a rather up-tempo treatment, and the holiday pop ballad, "I'll Be Home For Christmas," is given the fastest pace on the album, sounding much like the trio couldn't wait to get finished with it. There are two versions of "Little Drummer Boy": the traditional arrangement featuring the drummer playing the tattoo; and an alternative and very accelerated arrangement, with Gebb playing brushes, matched by Zvulun and guest bassist Miles Brown, who also takes a solo.
Throughout the album, Zvulun maintains a swinging vocabulary and injects most of these tunes with his bebop background. Neal Miner gets to solo on several tracks including "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" and the first version of "Little Drummer Boy, while drummer Tobias Gebb is a man afire, and keeps everything afloat.
O Tannenbaum; Silent Night; Christmas Time is Here; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; What Child is This; Winter Wonderland; Little Drummer Boy; O Little Town of Bethlehem; What Are You Doing New Year
Tobias T. Gebb: drums; Eldad Zvulun: piano; Neal Miner: double-bass; Miles Brown: double-bass (1, 10, 12).
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