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Every year, music listeners are inundated with "new releases of Christmas music. Invariably, these celebrations include a collection of songs everyone has heard scores of times. So what sets one version of "Silent Night apart from another? The arrangement.
Enter Tobias Gebb, drummer, arranger, producer and composer. Gebb, a native of the west side of Manhattan, is the leader of Trio West. His companions are Eldad Zvulun on piano and Neal Miner on bass. Trio West plays extensively on the New York jazz scene. Its members have shared the stage or studio with a wide range of artists, including Cab Calloway, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Lovano and Larry Goldings.
Joined on selected tracks by bassist Miles Brown, Trio West delivers some fresh arrangements of eleven Christmas classics on Trio West Plays Holiday Songs. Gebb sets the tone early with his pacing on "O Tannenbaum. Zvulun's lead is both delightful and different.
Gebb spices up "Silent Night with subtle rim shots and deft work on the cymbals. The cover of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here is a bit lackluster, if only because it being a trio with the piano carrying the melody, it's too similar to the original. There are differences, but not enough to make this track stand out.
After a somewhat traditional approach to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, the trio picks up by working in a Latin rhythm. Zvulun takes off on an exploration solo while Gebb accents his own play with some well-timed cowbell work. Later in the song, he stretches out on the snare, cymbals and toms, making this one of the more impressive tracks on this outing.
The trio has a little improvisational fun with "O Little Town of Bethlehem. The melody is upbeat, and Zvulun's solo is first-rate. Miner, mostly in the background, is more involved with "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? Zvulun still carries the lead, but Miner's bass line stands out more here than elsewhere. The trio also does an exceptional job on "The Christmas Song., one of three tracks that feature Brown on bass.
Late in the year, Christmas music is everywhere: on radio, in commercials, background on TV shows. Unless you're a collector of holiday tunes, it may be difficult to be interested in another recording of this music. Trio West Plays Holiday Songs has enough originality in the arrangements to separate it from the pack.
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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